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23 April 2009

KEEPING TIME TO THE KOMPANG

THE traditional Malay hand drum, or kompang, is a must for many performances.

 ‘Kayu leban’ from the forests in Pagoh and Lenga are used to make the kompang. — Pictures by Sim Bak Heng
‘Kayu leban’ from the forests in Pagoh and Lenga are used to make the kompang. — Pictures by Sim Bak Heng
Pieces of goat skins are moulded into the desired shape.
Pieces of goat skins are moulded into the desired shape.

Goat skins  are stretched and left to dry under the hot sun.
Goat skins are stretched and left to dry under the hot sun.

Fresh local goat skins need to be trimmed of all fat and fur before they are dried.
Fresh local goat skins need to be trimmed of all fat and fur before they are dried.

As the musical instrument is able to produce a loud sound of varying bass levels, it is the perfect mood setter. A kompang team is usually part of the welcoming committee and their performance part of the launch of many events.

They are there to welcome the arrival of VIPs, brides and grooms, among others.

While it takes practice to master the kompang -- bare hand are used to produce the desired beat and volume -- it also takes considerable skills to make a good kompang.

The main materials for kompang are goat skin and wood. The process is tedious, with many rules to be observed to ensure high quality beat.

For instance, no work is allowed during the rainy season as it will affect the quality of the goat skins. Finished kompang are also not stored in air-conditioned rooms or any places with high humidity as this promotes fungal growth.

Hapsah Jaafar, 42, operates a kompang-making cottage industry with her husband, Rosdin Baki, 43, at their house in Jalan Mahmood at Kampung Parit Jawa in Muar.

She said her husband inherited the family business started by his grandfather more than 40 years ago.

"All these years, we use a type of wood called 'kayu leban,' which is the best wood for making kompang. It is easily available in forests in Pagoh and Lenga in Muar," she said.

The wood is obtained from suppliers and comes in huge square chunks.

They are sawn into the desired round shape before being polished and painted with shellac.

The preparation of the goat skins is not easy either. The skins, which are trimmed of all fur and fat, are soaked in water before they are fitted into a round metal structure and cut along the line of the circumference.

The skins are left to dry and stains are polished away before they are nailed to the ready pieces of wood.

A strip of red linen is glued to the edge of the kompang to enhance it aesthetically.

Hapsah uses about 400 pieces of goat skins per month, of which 300 are imported from Indonesia in dry form. The local supply is fresh and the skins have to be trimmed of their fat and fur before they are stretched and dried under the sun.

There are three sizes of kompang, which differ in diameter. The biggest is 38.1cm, followed by 30.46cm and 15.24cm.

They are priced at RM95, RM70 and RM35, respectively.

Hapsah hires 15 workers and produces 30 kompang a day for her customers inSingapore, Brunei and East Malaysia.

SOURCE: NST, JOHOR BUZZ, 23 APRIL 2009

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