Lute (Hasapi)

Date: late 19th–early 20th century

Geography: Indonesia, Sumatra

Culture: Toba Batak people

Medium: Wood, brass, silver(?)

Dimensions: H. 30 1/2 x W. 3 1/2 in. (77.5 x 8.9 cm)

Classification: Wood-Musical Instruments

Credit Line: Bequest of John B. Elliott, 1997

Accession Number: 1999.47.44

Description

The Toba Batak people of northern Sumatra create elegant two-stringed lutes known as hasapi. In contrast to more public instruments, such as gong orchestras, which are played for large outdoor events, hasapi are used in more intimate indoor settings. Today, hasapi are generally played as part of musical ensembles. The composition of hasapi ensembles varies but typically includes a lead hasapi that plays the melody and a second hasapi playing an accompaniment, as well as a flute, small drum, xylophone, and other instruments. In the past, most Batak music was sacred and, among other contexts, the hasapi was played as part of a love magic ritual designed to win a woman's affections. However, virtually all Toba Batak are now Christians and hasapi music is intended as secular entertainment. Contemporary musicians in some parts of the Batak region have even created electric versions of the lute, which give far greater amplification to its normally subtle tones.

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