Maker: Sea Dayaks (Iban)

Date: 19th century

Geography: Sarawak (northern Borneo), Malaysia

Culture: Iban people

Medium: Coconut, wood, skin, rattan

Dimensions: Height: 39 9/16 in. (100.5 cm)
Depth: 3 15/16 in. (10 cm)
Diameter (Of body): 5 7/8 in. (15 cm)

Classification: Chordophone-Lute-bowed-unfretted

Credit Line: The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments, 1889

Accession Number: 89.4.2365


The Iban people of northern Borneo formerly made the enserunai, a distinctive stringed instrument that was played with a small bow and had a resonating chamber made from a coconut shell or gourd. When playing, the performer sat on the ground and held the stem in the left hand with the resonator either resting against the calf of the leg or with the lower tip of the stem grasped in the toes. To get the proper sound, the string was moistened with saliva and the musician played it with the bow pressing down on the string at various points on the stem to vary the pitch as with a Western violin. Little is known about the contexts in which the instrument was used or its musical repertoire although its sound was quite soft. Enserunai were reportedly used to play the tunes of dirges sung for deaths or burials although whether the instrument was employed only when rehearsing or at the actual ceremonies is uncertain.