VISIT MALAYSIA: KUCHING, SARAWAK (PART 7) – Animism and Master Sape Player, Matthew Ngau Jau

When I was in high school, I still remember my history teacher taught me that apart from the main religions, some people in Sarawak also practice animism. Animism means the believe in the power of nature and the ancestors. Believe in spirits and such. That is why it is important for them to perform certain rituals although some have embraced Islam or converted to Christianity.

Our journey from the homestay stopped at a large land clearings in a jungle. We were informed by the locals that new development will be done at the spot and a sacrifice must be done to calm the spirit and to ensure that everything will go well.

Raw eggs, rice and tuak – a fragmented rice wine, were prepared on a banana leaf. Prayers were chanted and the sacrifice was put on the ground. Few minutes later, a chicken was brought forward and again, prayers were chanted before it was slaughtered as a sacrifice too.

After the sacrifice, we were all called for a simple lunch and alcohol was served for toast. Since I do not drink, I was asked to raise the bamboo-made cup filled with alcohol  before giving it to one of the locals who attended the ceremony.

Suddenly, a soothing music was heard and a guy donning traditional garb started dancing. I looked around and saw a man playing with a native guitar known as sape. The sound produced by the sape was amazing and felt out of this world. The scorching afternoon sun was compensated with a mesmerizing tune played by the sape player.

Little did I know that the sape player, Matthew Ngau Jau, is a big name. He had played in many places including the world-famous Rainforest World Music Festival. To meet him and see him play in person was truly an honoured. He is truly a master of the sape.

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I would like to personally thank the Sarawak Tourism Board and Tune Hotels for making this trip possible and to Planet Borneo for the hospitality throughout the trip. This trip was held in conjunction with the International Bornean Frog Race 2014.

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