TSS KK Talk: Tues, 26th June 2018 – The Kadazan Dusun Sompoton as an embodiment of traditional knowledge

Venue: Sabah Society Secretariat (Above Kopi Ping), Damai, Luyang

Date and Time: 26 June 2018, 8.00 pm

Summary of Talk:
Traditional knowledge, or local knowledge, encompasses complex systems of learning acquired over generations by communities in relation to their environment and worldview. This knowledge forms part of the intangible cultural heritage of a people, and can be utilized in solving broader academic questions. The sompoton mouthorgan and its music are part of the intangible cultural heritage the indigenous Kadazan Dusun of Sabah, Malaysia’s most northern state on Borneo. Originating from Kampung Tikolod in the inland, upland Tambunan District, the sompoton has been traded throughout the whole Kadazan Dusun area and into other Dusunic, Murutic and Paitanic cultures. To outsiders, the instrument resembles a double-layered raft of bamboo pipes inserted into a gourd wind chamber. Many are unaware of the finely tuned internal polod palm reeds (sodi) that are inserted into most of the pipes to produce sounds when air is sucked and blown through the gourd. This paper looks at the structure, construction and performance techniques of the sompoton from the perspective of the people of Kampung Tikolod who make and play the instrument. It examines the processes of sourcing and preparing materials from the local environment and discusses the acoustical logic in making the instrument. The paper also touches on connections between the structure of sodi in sompoton pipes and the palm skin bungkau jew’s harp, and how this indigenous knowledge can be used to clarify the organological classification of jew’s harps throughout the world as free aerophones.

Speaker Biodata:
Professor Dr. Jacqueline Pugh-Kitingan is Professor of Ethnomusicology, and a Fellow of the
Borneo Heritage Research Unit in the Faculty of humanities, Arts and Heritage, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, where she formerly held the Kadazandusun Chair. She graduated B.A. Honours (1 st Class) from Monash University (1976), and PhD from the University of Queensland (1982) with research on the music of the Huli of Papua New Guinea. Married to Laurentius Kitingan, a member of Sabah’s Kadazan Dusun community, she first came to Sabah in 1977. Prior to joining UMS in 2000, she headed the Cultural Research Section of the Sabah Cultural Board. Before that, she was Music Director cum Cultural Research Officer in Sabah’s Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, and was a research affiliate of the Sabah Museum. Her research areas include the intangible cultural heritage of the peoples of Sabah and Papua New Guinea, with interests in music and language, music, dance and ritual systems, ethnographic mapping, and sociolinguistics. Winner of two PEREKA 2011 Gold Medals, she has produced many academic publications. She is Regional Vice President for Sabah of the Borneo Research Council, a member of the ICTM Study Group on the Performing Arts of Southeast Asia, a life member of the Malaysian Social Sciences Association, sits on Jabatan Warisan Negara’s Jawatankuasa Pakar Warisan (Adat) and Jawatankuasa Pakar Seni Persembahan, and was Adjunct Research Fellow of Anthropology in the School of Political and Social Enquiry, Monash University, Australia (2009-2010).

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