The sompoton (also spelled sumpoton, sompotan, etc.) is found in Northeastern Borneo, where it it is played by the Dusun/Kandazan and Murut peoples. It consists of a gourd windchest, into which are inserted eight bamboo pipes, in two rows of four, sealed into place with a type of beeswax called sopinit. Unlike the hulusheng, these pipes do not protrude from the base of the gourd. Seven of the pipes have a free reed of palm bark set near the base of the pipe:
Notes are selected using the left hand fingers and thumb to close holes in the side of the pipes and the right hand fingers to stop the ends of the shorter pipes which lack finger holes. The pipe with the lowest pitch sounds continously as a drone. The tuning is a simple pentatonic scale, this particular specimen is in A and gives the notes (low to high) E, F#, A, B, C#, E, F#:
Although their use had gone into serious decline, the instruments have recently become something of a cultural emblem in much the same way as the Laotian khaen or the Hmong qeej, with a small industry producing cheap, almost unplayable instruments to sell to tourists.
Information about the making of the sompoton.
"Frequency Characteristics Of Sound From Sompoton Musical Instrument", an article in .pdf format by Ong Chen Wei & Jedol Dayou.
"Analysis Of Vibrator For Sompoton Using Cantilever Beam Model", another .pdf on the acoustics of the sompoton.
"A Clamped Bar Model for the Sompoton Vibrator", yet another .pdf on the acoustics of the sompoton.
A YouTube playlist devoted to the sompoton.
A Brief History of Mouth Blown Free Reed Instruments
What Is A Free Reed?
Origins Of The Free Reed
Eastern Free Reed Instruments
A Selective Discography Of Asian Free Reed Instruments
Western Free Reed Instruments
Return to Main Index