Sasando a Traditional Music Instrument from Rote – Indonesian Heritage Series

Sasando a Traditional Music Instrument from Rote – East Nusa Tenggara  (NTT)  Indonesian Heritage Series

Rote island map

Rote Island, East Nusa Tenggara. Indonesia

What is Sasando ?

Sasando is a stringed musical instrument or cordophone type musical instrument. It comes from the island of Rote, East Nusa Tenggara Indonesia. The most southern island in Indonesia archipelago.
Sasando word comes from Rote word sasandu. It means vibrant instrument

Sasando form is similar to other stringed instruments such as guitar, violin and harp.

A man wearing Tiilangga (traditional hat) with Sasando

A man wearing Tiilangga (traditional hat) with Sasando


The main part of the long tubular Sasando commonly made from bamboo. Then in the middle, circling from top to bottom is placed some lumps in which the strings that stretched across the tube, from top to bottom resting. The wedge gives different tone  to each passage of the string. Then this Sasando tube placed in a container made from a kind of woven palm leaves (Lontar leaves ) like a fan made. This container is the place of Sasando resonance


The composition of the notation is irregular and you can not see it because it is wrapped.  Sasando is played with both hands from the opposite direction. From left to right and left to right. Left hand plays the melody and bass, while right hand plays the accord. That makes Sasando unique because somebody could play the melody, bass, and accord at once. And the harmony is awesome.

Sasando’s sound is very unique. Compare to guitar, Sasando’s sound is more various. Sasando has 28 strings and it hard to play. Sasando player should have the ability to combine and make the right rythm and feeling from the whole strings.

The History of Sasando


Ana Sanggu created the early shape of Sasando in the 15th century on a small island near the island of Rote, the Dana Island , which then controlled by the Taka La’a King. Sanggu is citizen on the island of Nusa Ti’i Southwest Rote. He was arrested by the King  when stranded on the island while searching for fish with his friend, Mankoa. In addition to a fisherman, Sanggu also an artist.

The King at that time had a daughter. Princess in love with Sanggu. To Sanggu, the Princess requests for a new instrument created by Sanggu that could entertain people. Princess likes to entertain  people when the moon is full.

Sanggu then created the Sari Sando, an instrument that is vibrating when picked. As with seven ropes made from wooden roots. The Princess relationship with Sanggu was discovered by King . The King Taka La’a was furious and executed Sanggu.

Sanggu mate who could run away, Mankoa, reported it to the Nusa Ti’i. Sanggu’s son in Ti’i, Nale Sanggu, angry at his father died. Nale revenge with 25 knights Ti’i. He destroyed the whole Dana island, only the children and musical instruments Sasando inherited from his father who rescued to Ti’i.

In  Ti’i, Sasando was modified, the string added to nine. “The music only consist of five notes mi, sol, la, do, re. Si and fa did not exist.

In the Dutch period, 18th century, the number of strings added to 10 strings. After independence again amended by adding a string to 11 string. In the 19th century, Sasando (Sasando haik)  was modified into a violin by Ti’i son named Kornelis Frans. Called Sasando violin because when it created the tone is adjusted like the violin tone. Number of ropes become 39 pieces and the main tone become 7 notes.

Type of Sasando

Sasando Engkel : Sasando that has 28 strings
Sasando Dobel  :  Sasando that has 56 strings, some type has 84 strings.
Sasando Gong (Sasando Haik)
Sasando Biola (Violin Sasando)

Sasando With Tehyan played Amazing Grace

The Sasando Artists

Mr. Yusuf Nggebu

1. Mr Yusuf Nggebu ( 82 years old), he is a famous Sasando artist and maker in Rote. He is a maestro in Sasando. Because of age, he is no longer play the Sasando. For him, Sasando is not just a music instrument, Sasando is a Rote’s identity. He could play the Sasando Haik or Sasando Biola (Violin Sasando) perfectly. Now, in Rote the Sasando maker is rare. This makes me sad. It hard to play Sasando and Sasando Biola is the hardest one. Only Mr. Yusuf Nggebu could play the instrument.

2. Mr. Jeremias Ougust Pah (70 years old)

He is another famous of Sasando artist. An Indonesian maestro that really cares of Sasando. The Indonesian Culture and Tourism Minister, Mr. Jero Wacik (2007) gives him an award for caring and developing the Sasando as a traditional music instrument.

He lives in Timor Raya Km 22 Street, in Oebelo, Central Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara. “I want that young people in Timor will always love and learn about Sasando.” said Jeremias. Why ? Because the young people tend to leave the Sasando and love western rock music more than its own culture.  He said that Australian and Japanese tourists have more interested in Sasando than his own youngsters. He was surprised by the visiting of one Japanese man named Masamu Takashi that is specially visit him to learn how to play the Sasando.

Jeremias Ougust has been played the Sasando in front of Japanese people in Yokohama and got high appreciation. The appreciation made him proud but a little sad. “If foreign people could appreciate my culture, the Timor people should love it more.”

Beside Sasando, Jeremias Ougust also developing the Rote traditional woven cloth.

3. Mr. Arnoldus Edon, deceased
Mr. Arnoldus is the inventor of Electric Sasando. He modified Sasando and combined it with modern music instruments like guitar, drum, organ, and many more. Then, Sasando could be played like an orchestra. He got the patent rights in June 14, 2009.

Korbafo chief with warriors, 1900.


3 thoughts on “Sasando a Traditional Music Instrument from Rote – Indonesian Heritage Series

  1. Most impressed with the Sasando instrument. The central column is very similar in construction to the Madagascar ‘guitar’ but is distinguished by that beautiful resonance hood.


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