Multiracial ensemble plays the angklung

(From left) Fun Wei Yang, Tan Yu Xuan, Samia Afrin and Al Ezra Mohamed Al Johan are part of Ping Yi Secondary School's angklung ensemble, which plays Malay folk tunes as well as Chinese songs.
(From left) Fun Wei Yang, Tan Yu Xuan, Samia Afrin and Al Ezra Mohamed Al Johan are part of Ping Yi Secondary School's angklung ensemble, which plays Malay folk tunes as well as Chinese songs.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Many of the students in Ping Yi Secondary School's angklung ensemble had not even heard of the instrument before they joined the school. And some thought it was a Malay instrument.

Secondary 2 student Fun Wei Yang said: "I read that the angklung is usually for Malay people but actually anyone can play it. It's not exclusive to people of a certain race."

The angklung is a bamboo musical instrument with origins in Indonesia.

Students said they chose to learn the instrument because of its soothing effect. "It produces a different kind of music. It's calming and helps to relieve stress," said Wei Yang, 14.

Secondary 3 student Samia Afrin, 15, said: "I was interested in music but felt that the band was too loud."

The ensemble's repertoire ranges from traditional Malay and Indonesian folk songs to contemporary music by American singer Bruno Mars and Chinese songs.

Ms Tengku Nurhudah, teacher-in-charge of angklung ensemble, said it helps that their coach introduces songs from other genres, not just Indonesian and Malay songs.

"We started off with more Malays in 2009 but slowly we're getting more interest from students from the other races," she said.

The ensemble has 38 players - 17 of whom are Malays, 14 are Chinese, five are Indians and two are international students.

"The students are drawn to the instrument for its novelty and expression of music rather than its origin," said Ms Tengku. "Over the years, there's also been more exposure to angklung as it has been featured in the media."

Amelia Teng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2017, with the headline 'Multiracial ensemble plays the angklung'. Print Edition | Subscribe