Amelodious sound broke the evening silence in the Sangihe island group. The resonating tones came from a music troupe that was training in a church in North Tambukan district, North Sulawesi.
What would be surprising to those watching the band for the first time was that all the musical instruments such as the flutes, clarinets, saxophones, trombones and trumpets were made of bamboo.
The band, with its members ranging from junior high school students to senior citizens, is a bamboo music troupe under the leadership of Agustinus Sasundu, 57, who is the initiator of the music.
“This group once performed at a Christmas program attended by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. Sangihe has 20 bamboo music bands. It’s Sangihe’s signature bamboo music,” Sam Barahama from the Sampiri Coastal Resources Conservation Agency said.
Agustinus, who lives in Likuang village, Sangihe, has been engaged in the creation and arrangement of bamboo music as well as acting as a conductor for 48 years. In 2016, he was granted the title of traditional art maestro by the Education and Culture Ministry, after receiving the Kehati Award from the Indonesian Biodiversity Foundation (Kehati) in 2015.
“This bamboo music should be preserved and developed. Our ancestors in Sanger [another name for Sangihe] played bamboo music in other forms. Today we’re developing it to conform to current trends,” Agustinus said.
The bamboo orchestra is seen as fostering unity. The Sangihe people, with their mixed Catholic, Christian, Islamic and local faith backgrounds, is symbolically unified in an orchestra of life. In the atmosphere of diversity, Sangihe people’s harmony and tolerance is also reflected in the tuneful sounds of the bamboo music ensembles.