A symphony of melodies and creativity unfolded at the Sape Camp 2023: Unity Without Borders.
As the camp progressed, the third day marked a pivotal moment: the Sape-making demonstration. Lan E Tuyang, a sanctuary of heritage located in Bau, some 45 minutes’ drive from Kuching, served as the perfect backdrop for this transformative session. It is both the residence and the location of the Sape-making workshop of Mathew Ngau Jau. With unparalleled expertise and a dedication to preserving the cultural legacy of Sarawak, Mathew stood as the torchbearer of a centuries-old tradition.
The demonstration began with a melodic welcome from Mathew, who serenaded the eager participants with a soul-stirring Sape music. The enchanting notes echoed through the air, establishing a connection between the young enthusiasts and the age-old musical heritage they were about to witness.
Expressing his delight, Mathew embarked on a journey to reveal the intricate process of Sape making. Typically spanning months, the creation of a single Sape requires meticulous attention to detail and a profound understanding of the instrument’s essence. However, for this special demonstration, Mathew had prepared five Sapes in advance, expertly carved and ready for the participants to add on their personal touch.
As the young participants gathered around the master craftsman, their eyes widened in anticipation. Mathew explained each step with passion and clarity, unravelling the secrets behind shaping the Sape’s frame, buffing its surface, designing unique patterns, and adding vibrant colours. Each stroke of the sandpaper and every stroke of the paintbrush were a testament to the profound bond between the artist and the instrument.
The atmosphere buzzed with creative energy as the participants eagerly transformed the Sapes under Mathew’s watchful guidance. They carefully affixed strings, an essential element that would breathe life into their creations. Each string resonated with a purpose, regenerating the legacy of Sarawak’s musical heritage.
Through this immersive experience, the participants not only acquired traditional aged-long skills but also absorbed a deep appreciation for the cultural significance of the Sape. Beyond the physical act of crafting an instrument, they witnessed the power of unity, collaboration, and shared creativity. The Sape became a symbol of harmony, transcending borders and generations and forging connections that went beyond the workshop’s confines.
As the Sape takes its final shape, the room gradually filled with a profound sense of achievement and satisfaction. At that moment, the young participants had not only crafted an indigenous musical instrument but also embodied the spirit of unity and the desire for cultural preservation. Through their shared experiences, they had formed those lasting connections and instinctively became custodians of Sarawak’s cultural heritage.
The Sape making demonstration at Lan E Tuyang served as a testament to the power of arts and music in fostering unity and transcending boundaries. Mathew’s unwavering commitment to sharing his expertise and passion for the Sape left an indelible mark on the young participants. Their journey had just begun, but their hearts and minds were forever transformed by the enchanting melodies and the magical craft of Sape making.
As the sun set over Lan E Tuyang, the legacy of Sarawak’s musical heritage burned brighter than ever, carried forward by the hands and hearts of a new generation, united in their love for the Sape.
Hosted by Yayasan Perpaduan Sarawak, this unique camp aimed to foster cultural exchange and inspire the next generation of Sape enthusiasts interested in adding the Sape to their repertoire of musical instruments.
The theme “Unity without Borders” reflects the camp’s unique strategic intention of using the Sape to bring youths together from all over Malaysia with diverse backgrounds, fostering a sense of unity and collaboration. YPS believes that Sape, as a musical instruments, can unite people, and through the camp, it will empower the efforts with its motto “Sape is an iconic vehicle that takes us along the road to a destination we called unity. A place where we can be happily together.”
The Sape camp, which spanned four days, offered an enriching experience that included lectures, practical sessions, stage performances, and a Sape-making demonstration. The camp had invited respected figures in the Sape music industry, including Living National Heritage, Mathew Ngau Jau, renowned Sape legend Jerry Kamit, composer and Sarawak’s cultural heritage expert Narawi Rashidi, and UNIMAS Senior Lecturer from the Faculty of Applied and Creative Arts, Dr. Connie Lim Keh Nie.
Sape Camp 2023: Unity Without Borders successfully celebrated Sarawak’s rich musical legacy, promoting intercultural understanding and unity. Mathew’s Sape-making demonstration served as a testament to the power of tradition, craftsmanship, and the transformative nature of cultural exchange. Using the Sape as the main tool in the camp serves as a common ground to bring together participants from diverse backgrounds who share a love for music and culture. The camp promotes cultural diversity and appreciation and encourages collaboration and dialogue among participants by breaking down barriers and cultivating a sense of belonging and friendship, reinforcing the idea that music and culture can transcend borders and bring people together. The Sape serves as a powerful vehicle to promote unity by celebrating the shared heritage and fostering connections among individuals from various cultural backgrounds, ultimately promoting a sense of harmony, understanding, and mutual respect.
The camp’s closing ceremony on the last day marked the participants’ graduation from the camp, as they became “YPS Sape Ambassadors,” committed to pursuing the Sape as their instrument of choice and incorporating Sape music into their repertoire in their music career. These ambassadors will proudly share their musical journey, even if the Sape is not their native instrument.