Midweek Reflections #11: Salomon Gau

Hello, my name is Salomon Gau and I am a traditional dancer, sampe’ and jatung utang maker and player from Long Ikang, Baram, a Kenyah community. I also design traditional kelembit shields. Even at my age now I still am learning more of our cultural practices such as the bamboo flute and exploring the musical instrument called the Lutong, as well as learning how to sing  the traditional songs known as belian badi.

I spent most of the MCO period in Kampong Long Moh and I feel that I need to share this experience with everyone as I think it is something that could shed light and bring about everyone’s attention to our culture and traditions far upriver.

I must say it was a great blessing and golden opportunity as I felt I was there at the time. As I’ve always dreamed of staying and spending the time in Long Moh, the very place my late grandfather was from. We were free to move around the normal days, that I can say is one good thing about the village being in a safe and remote location.

One of the few activities that I did when I was there was with the few remaining elders and youngsters in the village. I took shots and records of us dancing and singing together on the verandah, songs that have meaningful lyrics as much as they’re beautiful to listen to.

For me the lyrics of those songs can affect us to become humble, gentle and considerate,it sort of brought up positive effects.  The reason why I took the recordings were because I felt this classical and ancient poetic language needs to be documented and be constantly practiced.

Other than that, I had also managed to experience and  capture a custom known by the community as Adet Mamat or Lepa Ajau. It is a special celebration after the paddy harvesting season of the Bungan Malan religious belief. As of now there are only five families that still practice this belief as the rest of the community has converted to modern religion. It was a 3 day event. After the festival it is considered then they have started a new year.

On other days I went out to collect some forest produce such as Arowood for sape’, bamboo for nose flute, and rattan for beluko ulat as I knew there were makers of these beluko around that I could learn from.

The community was quite happy with my intention to visit them which was only to record audio and videos of their customs and cultural traditions. So now I am editing what I had and giving it all back to the community.

My outtake and observation from this experience I personally feel after learning to sing our Kenyah traditional song like belian badi and kentau with the community, I began to understand the metaphors or lyrics on a deeper level. They express humility, compassion and the spirit of togetherness. The lyrics of these songs can affect our thoughts and emotions as they are sung with beautiful harmonies and melodies. For example when we feel sad we often listen to sad songs be it western of any kinds of genres.

The only difference is these songs have been sung since the time of ancient war times, but my point is I believe no one wants war but it was just one of the last solutions to solve problems but then again wars were everywhere around the world. So that is my notion and thoughts from learning about songs that sings of peace and humility.

To wrap this all up, my hope is to let our elders in the villages practise these cultural traditions again, to let us the younger generation experience it ourselves in the form of a new way. There are commercial potentials such as a part of a homestay event or packages and bringing back the so called tourism center back to our villages instead of the gimmicky cultural village.

Of course this will be a communal effort in order for us to pull through. I remember that is how I was brought up since my primary and secondary school time graduated from our villages. But in town, we need to readjust, re-choreograph to the needs of our surroundings.

In other words, we need to bring back these humble and noble cultures to our communities so that future generations can continue on our cultural traditions based on communal value instead of individual or personal glory.

Tiga tawai for reading,
Salomon Gau

(“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.)

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