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Home » Padang » Saluang: The soothing Bamboo Flute of Minangkabau

Saluang: The soothing Bamboo Flute of Minangkabau

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From various captivating traditional dances such as Tari Piring (the plate dance) and Tari Pasambahan to the fascinating art of Randai, the Minangkabau ethnic group of West Sumatra has truly some of the most attractive cultural performances of the country. The Minangkabau also have their own distinct musical melodies that perfectly portray their dynamic daily life: the vibrant ensemble of the Talempong, and the soothing sounds of the Saluang.


Related to the suling in other parts of the Indonesian archipelago, Saluang is a traditional wind musical instrument made from bamboo or "talang" (Schizostachyum brachycladum Kurz) and resembles the flute. Unlike an ordinary flute that has a reed or a special part at one edge that can produce sound, Saluang does not have this. It is merely a bamboo tube, about 3 cm in diameter and 90 cm long with an addition of 4 holes that determine the notes. The musicians produce the sound by blowing at one edge from a specific angle so that the wind produced by the musician's mouth will resonate on the other side of the bamboo tube.


The Saluang produces soothing low pitched notes with a musical scale that is similar to a diatonic system. The unique harmony of the Saluang and the heart-warming ambience of the Saluang can be compared to the Sundanese art of Cianjuran in West Java. Its repetitive harmonic melodies are mostly used to accompany a sung poetry performance called Bagurau.


Each ‘nagari’ or regency or sub-ethnic group of the Minangkabau has its own distinct style in playing the Saluang. This includes the Singgalang, Pariaman, Solok Salayo, Koto Tuo, Suayan and Pauah. The Singgalang style is known to be the most difficult to perform, while the most heart breakingly dramatic harmonies are the Ratok Solok from the regency of Solok.


The special feature of the Saluang performance is that the player can both draw and blow out breath as he plays the instrument, so that the Saluang can be played non-stop from the beginning to the end of a song. This particular technique is widely known as “Circular Breathing”, but for the Minangkabau it is called manyisiahan angok or preserving the breath.

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Saluang:  The soothing Bamboo Flute of Minangkabau

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