Midweek Reflections #5: Youth Cultural Practitioners (Part 1)

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“Midweek Reflections” is a space for team members and cultural practitioners of The Tuyang Initiative to share their thoughts, fears and dreams. For feedback, please email hello@thetuyang.com.

Brenda Bulan
22 Years Old
Bintulu (currently holding up in Kuala Lumpur)

Hey everyone, this is something really new to me but I’ll try my best to share my little story here. 

Before the Movement Control Order (MCO), I arrived in KL for a performance at SJK Wangsa Maju for a church activity on the 14th of March. I decided to stay over for a few days, because I bought my ticket back to Bintulu on the 19th. So, since then I have been staying with my brother as he’s working here. 

I have spent most of the lockdown doing work, assignments and exams. Work from home is a little bit tricky since I didn’t bring my laptop with me and I had to borrow from my friend. Other than that, I have also been doing things that I wouldn’t think that I would have if I wasn’t stuck here, so I started to bake biscuits! Then when I am done with filling the house with fragrant smell from the oven, I’d grab my sape’ and learn new tunes by ear from Youtube and some recordings on my phone, tunes played by my master. On some other days, I would join in the makeup challenge that has been going around, but why not right? Haha. This has basically been my routine.

I have also been thinking about what will come in the future for my performing career. Since we’re going against a viral virus we won’t be able to gather in groups anymore. But in light of that, I was happy to see a video of me going out on social media, sharing the inspiration as a female sape’ player. 

Early in February, I was really excited when I was engaged by The Tuyang Initiative. We had a fun idea to share the beauty of our cultural tradition, especially through the narrative of a female sape’ player, but seeing how things are now, we had to put that plan to rest for now. But I do hope that we would still be able to do other work maybe virtually, as I think like the said video, reached out to a lot of people. I felt somehow I was still able to inspire others although we can’t move around anymore. 

I guess that’s all from me. Hope everyone is safe! 

Tiga Tawai!


Glady Bato’
19 years old
Uma Juman Sg. Koyan Asap, Belaga

Sometime in the middle of March, I was excited about going back to my hometown for the midterm school holiday. Before I left, our teacher gave us some homeworks and assignments. Needless to say, I was sure that my holiday was going to be the same as my super busy school days. 

Fast forward then, just before the school break was finished, our prime minister announced the Movement Control Order (MCO) and that the school break was going to be extended due to the pandemic. I knew then I would not be able to go back to Bintulu, but I was quite happy because I get to spend more time with my family. 

As days went by, I had very little things left to do. Because prior to the MCO I had sent my sape’ to a tukang sape to be fixed. I was a little sad that I could not spend all this free time practicing my sape’ skills, so instead I just played and heard some tunes on my phone. 

It has been over 5 years since I started to play the sape’. Quite a story, as a young boy, I did not pay much attention to the instrument, until one day sometime in 2013, I had a vivid dream. I recall that I was playing the sape’ like the masters I knew. I kept wondering what that dream meant, so when I had the chance, I asked my grandfather, Ukong Mering, a well-known sape’ player. He told me that the instrument has called upon me. Since then, I’ve picked up his skills and other practitioners around my hometown. 

However, I filled my free time with some beneficial activities instead, I started to learn farming! I learnt a lot of things that my peers would not really know about it. Of course with the contemporary lifestyle, it’s not really one of the best choices one would go with. Other than that, lucky enough for me, my assignment was based on cultural history. So I am right now as you read, around many knowledgeable people about the history of our community. As I collect data for my assignment I get to learn about my roots as well. It’s really something I need somehow to find a way to share with the rest of my peers and others.

That’s why I look forward to working with my friend, Adrian from The Tuyang Initiative who had interviewed me in February to be a part of the pool of community practitioners. I hope I get to work with them after the MCO and come up with something everyone can hopefully enjoy and learn from.


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