Kadazan Traditional Music
and Dances

Small gongs (kulintangan)

Kadazan traditional music and dances refer primarily to the sounds produced by way of "Magagung" (gong beating), "Bungkau", "Sompoton" and "Suling" (Seruling) (Flute), and to the Kadazan dance of "Sumazau" for merry-making and the warrior dance of "Batibas" or variations of these.

Kadazan traditional music and dances had been in existence for centuries.

The way the gongs are beaten vary from place to place producing sounds and rhythms with some difference.

The same is true of the dances where the variations are due to the influence from the dances of other racial groups living in nearby villages.

Kadazan Traditional Music and Musical Instruments
Local musical sounds are produced by way of:

  • Gong beating or "Magagung."
  • Gongs, usually made from brass or iron, are beaten using wooden sticks sometimes with rubber covering at one end. Depending on the location of the Kadazan village, the number of gongs used varies. In Penampang, six gongs are used whereas only five gongs are used by the Kadazans of Papar.

    The six gongs vary in size. The smallest is beaten first followed by the other five goings, one after another. The sixth and biggest gong produces a "bass" sound.

    People perform the "sumazau" dance making physical movements in accordance to the sounds of the gongs beaten in harmony.

  • Togunggu or Togunggak
  • These are gong-sound producing musical instruments made from dried bamboo.

    A Togunggu set is made from thin bamboos while the Togunggak set is made from thick bamboo stems.

  • "Bungkau"
  • The "Bungkau" is made from the skin of the branch of a certain palm tree the Kadazans call "Pohod."

    The sound is produced by using the right thumb to gently bend the instrument back and forth while holding it in front of the mouth. The music is produced by changing the size of the mouth.

  • "Sompoton"
  • The "Sompoton" is a made from a dried gourd to which eight bamboo tubes of varying length are inserted through a rectangular-size aperture.

    Bees' Wax called "sopinut" is used to fix the bamboo tubes firmly to the dried gourd and to prevent air from escaping through the gap when the musical gourd is played.

    The bamboo used belongs to a particular species called "Humbising" in Kadazan. The musical sound is produced by blowing through the narrow end of the gourd while the fingers are used to open or close the holes made in the bamboo.

  • "Suling"
  • The "Suling" or Kadazan flute is made from bamboo belonging to the "Vuhu" bamboo family.

  • "Tongkungon"
  • A fat stem of the "Poing" bamboo species is used to make the "Tongkungon."

  • "Sundatang"
  • The "Sundatang" is a Kadazan guitar with two(?) strings.

    It is somewhat similar to a sitar.

  • "Kulintangan"
  • The "Kulintangan" is a set of small brass gongs that vary in size. These gongs are arranged on top of two thick parallel strings fixed to a rectangular wooden structure.

    Only one person is needed to play the gongs using two sticks. The set is sometimes played in unison with the beating of the set of six bigger gongs.

Dance to Kadazan Traditional Music

Kadazan native music is closely connected with the development of Kadazan traditional dances. These dances include the following.

  • The "Sumazau"
  • The "Sumazau" is the most common of all the Kadazan dances. People perform "Sumazau" during weddings, harvest festival celebrations, anniversaries, and even during engagements.
  • "Batibas"
    The "Batibas" is the warrior dance of the Kadazan people. It is understood that Kadazan warriors performed this dance after every battle, bringing back with them the severed heads of their foes.
  • The "Bobohizan" Dance
  • The "Bobohizan" (priests/priestesses) dance is the dance performed by Kadazan priests and priestesses while chanting during animistic rituals such as the Magavau.

There is no Kadazan traditional music specific to this bobohizan dance but the sound of gongs being beaten as usual.

Opportunities to Listen to Kadazan Music and Participate in Sumazau
There are opportunities to listen, and even play, Kadazan musical instruments and participate in the sumazau dance.

You will have the opportunity if you can find the time to attend Kadazan harvest festivals or get invited to a Kadazan wedding.

Native Musical Sounds Blend With Modern Music
Some Kadazan artists had blended the sound of the "Tagung" or gong, "Bungkau" or "Suling" to some of their songs.

Kadazan Music and Dances as Evidence of Their Identity
Kadazan identity includes demonstrating some ability in playing one or two Kadazan musical instruments and / or ability to perform the sumazau dance.

If you cannot play any Kadazan traditional musical instruments or do the sumazau, you can at least support activities that promote Kadazan music and dances. You can do this by attending events organized by Kadazan communities.

Click HERE for information on the Kadazan in the Kadazan Language

Click HERE for Kadazan Custom and Tradition<br><br>

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