January 27, 2010

The Unique Lady Sape Player - Jennifer Santa Liman

Jennifer Santa Liman a Sarawak born Iban lady lawyer is famous for her accoustic sape playing. And for the record (Guiness or otherwise) she is the only female Sape player from Sarawak of good repute. Sape players from Sarawak for centuries have been men only. For that she deserves a pat on her back.

If she is in China she would be considered a national treasure and would be receiving a national pension every month.

Recently at the 2010 Legal Year Opening Gala Dinner in Sibu she staged a remarkable performance probably never seen before by most of the learned audience. Her talented and nimble fingers flew across the sape and produced some ethereal music bringing the sape to a wider world audience.

Jennifer is a friendly and soft spoken young lady from Kuching and has been playing the sape for more than five years.

She is self taught and plays by ear. But not having formal music education does not mean that she cannot play classical numbers. Her "Amazing Grace" number was most impressive.

This sape was hand made specifically for her from a single tree from the Baram.

The sape is a traditional lute of many of the Orang Ulu or "upriver people"of Sarawak and Central Borneo. Sapes are carved from a single bole of wood, with many modern instruments reaching over a metre in length. Here in the photo you can see that her sape is more than a metre long.

Initially the sape was a fairly limited instrument with two strings and only three frets. Its use was restricted to a form of ritualistic music to induce trance. In the last century, the sape gradually became a social instrument to accompany dances or as a form of entertainment.

Jennifer's sape is a four string instrument and is therefore very versatile.

You can also find her on Youtube.

ref: http://www.asza.com


Ann said...

Hi CY,

Did you crash gate the party or were you invited by your old school mate David Teng or William Lau?

David Chin said...

We must stop meeting like this on Chang Yi's blog. We have Yearn Fern alright!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Ann
Nope Happy Wong my cousin's daughter could not attend the dinner so I got her ticket...hubby also performed on behalf of Miri AA. Datuk (now) William was there to so were a number of my other cousins and nieces and nephews...Datuk Seri David Teng did not attend (tooVVIP?) but there were a few others we know e.g. Dr. Chew Peng Hui and his son Adrian Chew. Augustine Liom?

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hahahaha DAvid Chin (Chan) you and Ann definitely have Yearn Fern....Do visit once in a while....Cheers.

Ah Ngao said...

i love sape music - very enchanting .especially the kayan maidens holding those hornbill feathers and gyrates slow slow....siok man !

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ho Ho Ho

ah Ngao...you do have a good eye for beautiful maidens....to me all dancers male or female are amazingly graceful especially if they are well trained. I am looking forward to watching the CCTV Spring Gala....using your term...siok man.

Superman said...

Nowadays not many people play traditional instrument. Too bad.

William said...

Hi CY: nice post! I haven't heard much of this music but I know that they are very graceful.

wenn said...

that's interesting!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Superman
Thanks...It is true not many play traditional instruments. One of my favourite traditional instruments is the Angklung. Beautiful orchestral music....from simple bamboo insturments... You should try listening to this music. Cheers.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

I think it is time for the sape to be used to play church music...and then from Sarawak our indigenous brethrens can perform overseas....

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Wenn
Jennifer is indeed very unique!

Anonymous said...

I really think schools should encourage students to take up sape playing.

I remember TDTH Bujang had a gamelan band which was quite famous ...that was good for us.


Anonymous said...

hope she will be famous one day


Sarawakiana@2 said...

Yes indeed I think schools with good music teachers should be a good ground for the encouragement of musical talents. I believe when I was in school many of the best vocalists and musicians were trained by our music teachers like Miss Thompson and Miss Mamora. Later we had Mrs. Catherine Chiew. Several of the musical plays also prepared the way for the younger musicians.
What a waste if teachers do not grasp this opportunity today!!

Sarawakiana@2 said...


Yes I hope she is on her way to becoming famous. Thanks.

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