Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Kulintang is a traditional instrument from the Sulawesi Island in Indonesia. It is made from many types of wood. In Indonesian language, the name of some types of food are Telur, Kakinik. The kulintang is named after the sounds it generates; 'tong', 'ting', and 'tang'. In Indonesia, a phrase said, ' Mangamokulintang', means 'let's play kulintang'.

The structure of a kulintang is like an enlarged xylophone, hence it is also known as 'the wooden xylophone'. There are four types of kulintang, namely Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass. The Soprano kulintang plays the melody tune, while the other three types of kulintang play accompanying tunes, complementing the Soprano kulintang.

To operate a kulintang, one has to use a specific pair of beaters to tap the kulintang, like playing a xylophone, to generate the music. There are four different types of beaters, each being specific to operate each type of kulintang. The four different types of beaters differ in length and size.

A kulintang performance can be conducted for ceremonies. Indonesian folks play the kulintang as a pastime activity as well. For a complete performance, there are at least four players, with each type of kulintang being played by at least one player individually. Sometimes, another musical instrument, such as Angklung, is bought in to make up for the lack of certain type(s) of music in the kulintang performance. This is to acheive playing a complete set of music in the performance.

The Soprano kulintang, with its specific pair of beaters

The Alto kulintang, with its specific pair of beaters

The Tenor kulintang, with its specific pair of beaters

The Bass kulintang, with its specific pair of beaters

The girls practising, with Ibu Susanna guiding

Upon interviewing the girls, namely Fong Yee, Jee Theng, Geraldine, and Xue Ni, I realise that in order to come up with an impressive kulintang performance, there is more than just hitting the kulintang with a a beater. The girls shared with me that, as it was their first time playing a kulintang, it was by no means easy for them. As the performance on 20th March requires precise coordination of all four types of music, it took them a major effort during their practice sessions to get it right. They also shared that the practice sessions improved their general sense of timing in music, which aided in constantly improving their competence in playing the kulintang. Although much work was involved during their practice sessions in preparing for their kulintang performance on 20th March, the girls enjoyed the process, and at the same time, bonded well with each other. All the best to them on 20th March:)

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