Saturday, September 27, 2008

Romancing The Gendang, Hamid's Way Of Keeping Traditions Alive

"I feel something is amiss if I go through the day without once playing the gendang (drum) - just like a forlorn person pining for his missing loved one," quipped a cheerful-looking Hamid Abdullah, to the rapturous guffaws from all those within earshot.

The affable 48-year-old Hamid, whom residents of Kampung Kuala Lanjut affectionately call Pak Tih Mid, was all smiles as he related his experience at playing the gendang silat (traditional Melayu drum which usually accompany a silat demonstration) to journalists, at his home here.

Grabbing the 53.3 cm-long drum that hung on the wall of his house, Hamid placed the musical instrument on his lap, his fingers caressing the skin as he strike forcefully onto the drum face, letting out a staccato of thumping beat.

Occasionally adjusting his headgear, Hamid related his gendang-playing legacy.

Among the 15 siblings, Hamid is the fifth and only child who took up the cudgel from his father and is carrying on with the musical tradition, which has been in the family's patriarchal lineage for the past three generations.

"I started playing the drum at the age of 14 and have never stopped to this day," claimed Hamid, who still keeps the first drum that he made some 30 years ago. He also keeps the drum his father made some 70 years ago.

Earning a living playing the gendang
Hamid, who formed his own musical ensemble called Gendang Budaya Warisan Pak Tih (Hamid's Cultural Drum Heritage) 20 years ago, said playing the gendang silat has enabled him to support his family.

Besides playing at silat demonstrations, he also gets invited to perform at wedding receptions as well being a regular act at government functions like the Merdeka celebrations and VIP receptions.

Hamid charges from RM600 to RM2,000 depending on the location, time, the nature of the function and whether other traditional instruments would be required.

Hamid demonstrated his musical prowess by playing five drums simultaneously.

"The thinner the leather used, the better and sharper would the sound of the beat be," said Hamid.

He said the quality of the beats produced by a drum depends on the tautness of the leather used for the drums surfaces.

Usually, cowhide leather is used to form the bam or inferior surface of the gendang that emits low-pitch beats while sheepskin leather is used for the superior surface or cang that emits high-pitch beats.

"Rattan is used to reinforce the tautness of the bam," said Hamid who keeps 10 pairs of various Melayu drums used for silat and joget routines.

For Hamid, even though the task to create a gendang is really meticulous, the interest in keeping his father's legacy alive keeps him going on.

"A good gendang is that made from either the jackfruit, coconut or cempedak wood. I would usually seek out the wood from the jungle", said Hamid who also teaches the art of self defence, Silat Gayung Melayu.

He said the ideal length of a gendang is around 55cm as it would not strain the arms and can be comfortably held.

Such gendang may cost up to RM800 and making one, takes about one month, he said.

Assistance from Kraftangan
Hamid felt as if he was over the moon when the Kedah-branch of Kraftangan Malaysia offered him RM5,000 assistance.

Hence, from the money, Hamid built a workshop next to his home in an effort to conserve the Melayu drums heritage.

Apart from the gendang-making work, the workshop also doubles up as a kind of a showroom for those who wish to view the finished products.

Kraftangan Malaysia also channeled RM20,000 worth of cowhide leather and machine for Hamid's gendang-making effort.

Fifth generation
Now Hamid is a relieved man as three of his children have shown that they are keen to follow his interest.

Hamid's sons Mohd Sabri, 25, Mohd Shabi, 17 and Mohd Faizal, 16, frequently follow their father and his Gendang Warisan Pusaka troupe to their performances.

According to Mohd Sabri, ever since he first started to hear the performance of the gendang when he was a child, his interest in the tradition has built up.

"I started to play the gendang when I was in standard three, and now I work fulltime to make them. If not my brothers and I, who else would continue this legacy, furthermore performing with the gendang is able to give us a good income.

"Sometimes, we have our hands full in meeting the invitations to perform", he said.

Mohd Sabri is also learning how to perform with the serunai like his father who is adept at performing the traditional tunes like Mak Inang Lama, Layang Mas and Didikku.

This was proven when Hamid charmed the journalists when he performed the Ayam Didik tune with the serunai.

Written by Nurul Halawati Azhari
Sourced from


Azrul September 29, 2008 at 12:39 PM  

selamat hari raya...maaf zahir dan batin

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