Friday, July 9, 2010

Culture & Arts Menado

Les Paradisiers. Menado, Celebes. By Paul Jacoulet, 1937. 
"Les Paradisiers. Menado, Celebes" by Paul Jacoulet, 1937

The Indonesian constitution allows freedom of religion in a predominantly Muslim country and the state's "Unity in Diversity" motto is a symbol of the co-existence of the many cultures unified in on nation. These diverse cultures have given Indonesia a rich heritage of traditions and art resulting in festivities throughout the year in different parts of the country.


In the Minahasa area alone there are 8 indigenous languages spoken: Tonsea, Tondano, Tombulu, Tontemboan and Tonsawang, Bantik, Ratahan and Ponosakan. The first five languages form a genetic group called proto-Minahasan. They are more closely related to each other and cover the greater part of Minahasa. It is therefore reasonable to assume that they all derive from a common parent language which was itself spoken in Minahasa.
The other three languages have their closest links with languages spoken outside Minahasa. Ponosakan is closely related to Mangondow, spoken in the Bolaang Mangondow Regency. Ratahan, also referred as Bentenan, and Bantik have their closest links with Sangir, spoken on the islands of the Sangihe Talaud Archipelago and in the north of Minahasa District.
The use of these languages, however, is decreasing as many people are more and more switching to Manadonese, also known among the local people as Malayu Pasar or Manado Malay. It is Malay, mixed with words derived from the Spanish, Portugish, English, Dutch and local languages.


People of North Sulawesi love music, and they are famed throughout the country for their vocal skills, displayed to best advantage during their rituals, celebrations and gatherings.

Kolintang The Kolintang music instrument originated from Minahasa. It is similar to a wooden xylophone and is popular nationwide. One version of local folklore states that the name Kolintang came from its sounds: TING (high pitch note), TANG (moderate pitch note) and TONG (low pitch note). In the local language, the invitation "Let us do some TING TANG TONG" is: "mangemo kumolintang", hence the name of the instrument, Kolintang.
In its early days, Kolintang originally consisted of only a series of wooden bars placed side by side in a row on the legs of the players who would sit on the floor with both of their legs stretched out in front of them. Later on, the function of the legs was replaced either by two poles of banana trunk or by a rope which hung them up to a wooden plank. Story says that resonance box was beginning to be attached to this instrument after Diponegoro, a prince from Java who was exiled to Minahasa, brought along the Javanese instrument Gamelan with its resonance box, Gambang.
Kolintang had a close relationship with the traditional belief of Minahasan natives. It was usually played in ancestor worshipping rituals. That might explain the reason why Kolintang was nearly totally left behind when Christianity came to North Sulawesi. It was so rarely played that it was nearly extinct for about a 100 year since then. It only reappeared after the World War II, pioneered by the blind musician Nelwan Katuuk, who reconstructed it according to universal musical scales. Initially, there was only one kind of Kolintang instrument which was a 2 octave diatonical melody instrument. It was usually played with other string instruments such as guitar, ukulele or string bass as accompaniment.

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