Name: Sape.

Type: Boat Lute > Chordophone.

Region: Borneo > South East Asia.

Specimens: Scale Length (first sape cm), scale length (second sape    cm) in collection.

Acquisition Date:

Acquisition Source: First specimen is from Randy Raine-Reusch, second specimen is from Ian MacKenzie.

Description: The sape is a member of the plucked cordophone family, the sape is a boat shaped lute that has a short neck. The Sape is found amongst the Dayak, Orang Olu and Penan peoples. Melodies for the sape are inspired from dreams there are 35 melodies in the core repertoire. There are two specific modes in which the dances are performed in "the men's long house dance" and "the woman's long house dance".

Repertoire: The sape was played originally for ritual music as a means to induce the performers into a trance, nowadays the sape is played in social occasions. When playing the sape the player sits down in which the sape is supported by the player's legs the sape is held close to the chest. The player mainly plucks the the lowest tuned or the bottom string and the rest of the strings are plucked as drones.

Tunings of my specimens: Generally in tuning the sape there is no standard tuning, however they are tuned a fifth and an octave apart. This is achieved by placing a thumb tack on the fourth string thus achieving the octave pitch. The first playing string and the second string (first drone) are tuned in unison. The third string is tuned a fifth apart.

My first specimen is tuned tuned to G G D d. There are a total of 13 frets arranged in a pentatonic scale C / D / E / G / A. This example is quite common on most sapes. On my second specimen the frets are placed in something resembling a diatonic scale (not a scale traditional to this part of the world), D / E / F# / G / A. My second sape is tuned D D A a. There is a new style of sape that is of a smaller size, having six single strings tuned a fifth apart having fixed frets that correspond to a diatonic scale also these new type are affixed with electric pickups.

Construction: The body of the sape is carved often from a single piece of wood. An indigenous species of wood is preferred for making the sape called "Tebuloh". This species of wood is bitter and is avoided by insects. Many other types of wood can be used to make the sape. Traditional sapes have from 3 to four strings. On the top string a thumb tack is added to raise the string to an octave, according to the tuning this creates a chord when played with a melodic string. Originally the sapes had only two strings, three moveable frets, later three and four strings were added. The frets are affixed with a sticky substance mixed in with gutta percha. Sapes having 5 or 8 strings are quite rare. The sape has a pleasant and bright sound.