Sasando, When Melody-Bass-Rhythm Collide in Harmony

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 dreamt 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. ^_^

Posted in culture | Tagged | 6 Replies

About Rie Yanti

Has a bachelor degree from Padjadjaran University in French Literature Studies. She has been writing since her childhood and has produced both short stories and poetry. Rie loves writing about animals and small things that happen in her life. She has published three books, Satin Merah (GagasMedia 2010), Bukan Manusia (Lulu 2011), game Precious Time (Nusa Project 2017), et cetera.

6 Replies to “Sasando, When Melody-Bass-Rhythm Collide in Harmony”

  1. Brahmanto Anindito

    Dibanding angklung yg hrs dimainkan berjamaah, sasando memang lbh fleksibel (meski nggak seportabel biola :P). Menurutku sih cocoknya buat pertunjukan recital, aura magisnya jd lbh kelihatan. Buat band? Nggak tahu, tp kayaknya keren jg sih. Coba aja, Rie, kamu pelopori, hehehe.

  2. Rie

    No, no, no, no, no. Aku nggak mau main musik lagi. Cukup jadi pendengar saja. Silakan kalo ada yang mau pake sasando buat bandnya. Atau solo? Aku mendukung. ^_^
    .-= Rie´s last blog ..Rinai =-.

  3. pasha

    Saya berdoa semoga kepentok batu bata terus berubah jadi jenius kaya August Rush, supaya saya bisa mainin sasandu (atau sasando? Mana yang benar sih?) dengan memukul-mukulnya sampe ancur eh, bunyi. Jreng! 😀

    Soalnya, saya ga bisa mainin alat musik kecuali harmonika dan ga ada satu band pun yang mau menerima anggota yang hanya bisa maini harmonika 🙁

    Sekarang saya serius. Selain sasando, masih banyak alat musik yang juga kurang populer seperti Gendo’-gendo’ dari Sulawesi Selatan. Sayang ga punya fotonya, tapi saya dengar kelompok musik Debu pernah memakainya.

  4. Rie

    Aku cuma bisa main recorder. Itu pun sering fals gara2 napasnya skrg nggak kuat. Padahal jaman SMA suka mainin lagu2 The Corrs sama temen2 pake recorder.

    Nah, gimana kalo kita duet aja? Kamu main harmonika, aku main recorder. Cuma masalahnya, siapa yg jd vokalis?

    Wah, baru denger tuh Gendo’-gendo’ (nulisnya emang kayak gini ya?). Itu dimaininnya kayak gimana?
    .-= Rie´s last blog ..Minyak vs Daging Ayam =-.


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