The sape' (sampek, sambe', sapek) is a traditional lute of the Kenyah and Kayan community who live in the longhouses that line the rivers of East Kalimantan and North Kalimantan, Indonesia and Northern part of Sarawak, Malaysia. Sape' are carved from a single bole of wood, with many modern instruments reaching over a metre in length.[3]

Sape front side back.jpg
Front, side and back views of a Sape.
String instrument
Classification String instrument
Hornbostel–Sachs classification
(Composite chordophone)
DevelopedIndonesia (East Kalimantan) [1][2]
Related instruments
A man is playing Sapeh (middle), The 8th century bas-relief of Borobudur Temple, Central Java, Indonesia.

Initially the sape was a fairly limited instrument with two strings and only three frets. Its use was restricted to a form of ritualistic music to induce trance. In the last century, the sape gradually became a social instrument to accompany dances or as a form of entertainment. Today, three, four or five-string instruments are used, with a range of more than three octaves.

Technically, the sape is a relatively simple instrument, with one string carrying the melody and the accompanying strings as rhythmic drones. In practice, the music is quite complex, with many ornamentations and thematic variations. There are two common modes, one for the men's longhouse dance and the other for the woman's longhouse dance. There also is a third rarely used mode. Sape music is usually inspired by dreams and there are over 35 traditional pieces with many variations. The overall repertoire is slowly increasing.

Sape' are still being made in Borneo, and modern innovations like electric sape' are common.[4]

Image galleryEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Sape'". (Indonesian)
  2. ^ "Alat Musik Tradisional Sapek". (Indonesian)
  3. ^ "Dentingan Sape' Meremukkan Tulang Belulang". (Indonesian)
  4. ^ "Festival Crossborder Ikut Perkenalkan Sape, Alat Musik Tradisional Kalimantan". (Indonesian)

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