Sasando Rote


Once upon a time, there was a boy named Sangguana who lived in Rote Island. One day, he tended to savannah. Felt tired and asleep, he slept under a palmyra tree. That’s when the dream came. Sangguana dream that he played beautiful music with a unique instrument. The sound, the melody, was so enchanting.
Then he woke up. Surprisingly, Sangguana still remembered the tones he played in the dream. But he wanted to hear it one more time. So he tried to sleep again. And yes, he dreamt the same song and same instrument. Sangguana was enjoying his dream. However, he had to wake up. Didn’t want to lose those beautiful sounds, Sangguana in no time created a music instrument from palmyra with the strings in the middle, based on his memory from the dream. Et voilà! A very unique music instrument!

A few weeks ago, I myself saw that instrument, and listened the sound Sangguana had heard in his dream. A talented local boy played the instrument in Indonesia Mencari Bakat, one of TransTV shows. It sounds like a harp, but it’s not. We simply named it sasando. In Rote language, “sasandu” means vibrating or sounded instrument. Yes, sasando comes from Rote Island, East Lesser Sunda province. It has 28 or 56 strings. The sasando with 28 strings called sasando engkel, and with 56 strings called double strings.

The shape of sasando alone is distinctive. The principal part is a long cylinder made of bamboo. The central is circle from the top to the bottom and there are some wedges where the strings are stretched, from the top to the bottom. These wedges give different tones to each picked string. Then, this sasando tube is placed in a place made of a kind of plaited palmyra leaves. This is where the resonance of sasando comes from.

Sasando is played with two hands from different direction, from left to right and from right to left. The left hand plays melody and bass, while the right hand plays accord. So this is instrument where the melody, bass and rhythm collide in harmony. So it’s not easy to play, of course.

Perhaps due to that difficulty, the number of sasando player has decreasing. Many of the old generation have died when the young is not interesting to even recognize this. Maybe that is why the government through the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Jero Wacik, at December 28th, 2007 gave an award to Jeremias Ougust Pah for having conserved and developed the traditional art using sasando.

It makes me think, hey, is there any band (even Indonesian band) that uses sasando as one of the instrument? Why not? Trust me, it will be exceptionally awesome.

NOTE: Actually, there are some version of sasando’s creating history. Beside Sangguana version, there are Lumbilang-Balialang version, and few others. Unless you are writing a thesis about it, you better leave those versions alone.