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Musician spends lifetime promoting sasando

When he was child, sasando player and maker Jeremias Pah would never have thought that the traditional instrument from East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) would bring him opportunities to travel around the globe.

Today, the 76-year-old is an iconic figure in the preservation of the sasando, after spending almost six decades producing the stringed instrument and play it in front of audiences in more than 40 countries.

“I am proud that I can introduce the sasando, a legacy of our ancestors, to the world,” Jeremias told The Jakarta Post recently, while making the instrument at his house in Oebelo subdistrict, Central Kupang district, Kupang regency.

Supported by his wife Dorce Pah-Ndun, Jeremias carefully painted a bamboo stem that he would use as a base onto which to attach the strings for the instrument. The base is then combined with a round structure made of lontar (palm) leaves.

Jeremias, who was born in Rote, an island located some 40 kilometers southwest of the NTT provincial capital of Kupang, said he had learned to play the sasando from his grandfather, Pah Ndolu.

The young Jeremias would join his grandfather to church every Sunday to play the sasando during the service.

“I started by playing traditional songs with my sasando. But later, people asked me to perform at wedding receptions and other traditional events. It appears I became quite good at playing the instrument,” said the father of 10.

Jeremias became fully engrossed with playing and producing the sasando when he moved to Kupang in 1958 to make a living.

Currently, he mainly produces two types of sasando: The pentatonic sasando gong with 12 strings and the diatonic electric Sasando with 24-54 strings, along with sasando replicas as souvenirs.

Playing the sasando requires a high level of skill, because it is a difficult instrument, according to Jeremias.

“Not everyone can play it. Only those with artistic spirit in their blood and perseverance will be able to master it,” he said.

Of his 10 children, Jeremias said, six were sasando players and some of them alternately accompanied him when performing overseas.

One of his children, Berto, was among the finalists of a talent scouting program on national television.

Many foreign tourists have also visited Jermias’ house to enjoy his performances. Jeremias, also offers a short course for those who want to learn to play the instrument.

“I have had students from Japan, China and Australia who spent up to a month here until they were able to play the sasando,” Jeremias said.

Dorce said her husband had dedicated his life to preserving and promoting the sasando.

“My husband loves the sasando very much. He spends most of his time every day to either make or play the instrument. My children have also fallen in love with the sasando, just like him,” she said.

Jeremias’ youngest child, Rino, said he had been inspired to learn to play the sasando after seeing his father and elder brothers regularly go overseas to perform.

The seventh grader, however, said he wanted to complete his studies before becoming a professional sasando player.

“I want to be like my elder brothers who have visited many countries to perform. For now, I only perform in front of a local audience,” he said

Source : www.thejakartapost.com, Friday 13 November 2015