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Airdate: Dec 22, 2000
Scientist: Zainduin Pangaduan Lubis

Ramadan - Gordang Sambilan

Ramadan - Gordang Sambilan
This week marks the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. In Sumatra, they're celebrating with the music of sacred drums.

Transcript:

This week, Muslims around the world will celebrate the end of Ramadan, a month during which the faithful observe a fast during the daylight hours. In the Indonesian state of Sumatra, the final days of Ramadan are celebrated with the joyous sound of a sacred traditional ensemble called the Gordang Sambilan. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont.

The Gordan Sambilan is a traditional ensemble of mostly percussive instruments, long held sacred by the Mandailing people of Sumatra. "Sambilan" means nine in their language, and the Gordang Sambilan is made up of nine drums of varying sizes, along with gongs, cymbals, and a flute, all played by a small ensemble of people.

In the past, the Gordang Sambilan could only be played on certain occasions -- to celebrate a noble marriage, the funeral of a raja, or king, or the death of a tiger, the animal considered to be the king of the jungle.

In the 19th century, many of the Mandailing people converted to Islam, and they began to play the Gordang Sambilan in ceremonies marking the end of Ramadan. In recent years, there's been renewed interest in the Mandailing's unique cultural heritage, and they now play the Gordang Sambilan in musical performances and competitions, finding artistic expression in what was once a purely sacred ritual. Our thanks to anthropologist Zainudin Pangaduan Lubis. Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.