The Music of West Papua: 10 Euphonically Traditional Musical Instruments

West Papua

Music is something fascinating because it can touch anyone, whether young, old, western, eastern, men, or women for it speaks a universal language. Some traditional musical instruments can even deliver miraculous sounds. In Indonesia, one of the provinces that treasure local culture is West Papua.

Get ready to be captivated by this province’s traditional musical instruments with their unique shapes and sounds.

  • Guoto

West Papua

Guoto has a cylinder shape. People of West Papua create Guoto from wood, string, and animal skins, mostly cattle. To play this unique instrument, you have to pick the string. If you have a plan to visit this province, never miss a chance to enjoy this traditional piece. You will never see Guoto in other parts of the world.

  • Pikon

West Papua

Pikon is a musical instrument made of bamboo. Locals believe that Pikon is taken after “pikonane”, which in Baliem language means the sound. In West Papua, Pikon is usually played by men in Dani tribes, mostly during their leisure time in their traditional house called Hanoi after working all day. That is why, compared to other Papua’s traditional instruments, Pikon sounds a little discordant.

  • Yi

West Papua

Besides Pikon, this province also owns another musical piece from bamboo, called Yi. Yi is commonly made of bamboo and wood. This ancient instrument is used to call out friends and relatives in the same tribe or to accompany traditional dances. Even with its simple shape, Yi can produce quite a unique voice. Yi is classified as a fairly rare instrument. 

  • Fuu

West Papua

Like most of West Papua’s musical instruments, Fuu is also made of wood and bamboo. The Asmat tribe use Fuu to call the inhabitants of a particular tribe or accompany their traditional dances. The shape of Fuu is chunky and perforated at the ends. You can say that Fuu is a combination of suling and tube. This musical instrument is now rarely seen too; that is why this unique instrument must be preserved.

  • Krombi/Kerombi

West Papua

Krombi—also known as Kerombi—is a Papuan musical instrument from the Tehit tribe. Kerombi is made of bamboo and used to escort several dances in traditional ceremonies performed by their community. To play Kerombi, you will need a small wood. This musical instrument is played by being hit to create the desired sound and rhythm.

  • Triton

West Papua

Unlike the instruments we’ve mentioned above, Triton is made of seashells. Some say that compared to the scenery in Raja Ampat, Triton is more beautiful. This instrument is played by blown using mouth. 

Most coastal areas in West Papua own the same pieces; the areas include Biak, Waropean, Wondama, Raja Ampat, Nabire, and Yapen. In ancient times, most tribes use this instrument to call or to communicate with each other in the forest. 

  • Butshake

West Papua

Another local culture inherited by Papuan tribes is Butshake. Butshake is created from bamboo and walnuts taken from Muyu, Merauke Regency. In the past, West Papuan played Butshake as they held a party and performed traditional dances. These musical pieces are played by swinging or shaking them with hands. They produce gurgling sounds because of the collision between the walnuts on the bamboo.

  • Paar and Kee

West Papua

To create Paar and Kee, Papuans collect pumpkin and cassowary bones. Paar and Kee hold their special meanings. Paar implies covering the genital part of men, while Kee means belt. As the meaning of each part of the words, these two musical instruments are the cover for the male private part and musical instrument to merry traditional events. 

As they dance wearing Paar and Kee, the dancers jump around and create rhythmic sounds. Paar and Kee is local culture from Waris tribe who live in Keerom District.

  • Eme

West Papua

This traditional musical instrument from West Papua plays a significant part in the local culture of Kamoro tribe. Besides being used as an entertaining object, Eme also makes its appearance in most traditional practices. As the adhesive of this instrument, the tribe use chalk from bia and human blood. Next, they smear the adhesive at the end of this musical item and apply lizard skin.

People of Kamoro believe that using chalk from bia and human blood will create a better sound. However, the use of human blood is no longer practiced. Instead, they use the sap of mangi-mangi tree or taura tree (ote) which has a red color.

  • Tifa

West Papua

Tifa is a traditional Papuan musical instrument that is played by beating or hitting it. Tifa almost has a similar shape as a musical instrument in Maluku. However, this instrument from West Papua is longer and has a handle on one part of it. 

Tifa is usually used in welcoming events to entertain the guests. Tribes used this instrument to raise the spirit of an ancient soldier when they were about to go to war. The sound coming out of Tifa depends on the size of the instrument.

Local culture in West Papua never fails to amuse and fascinate anyone who sees it. That is why it is important to preserve those traditional musical instruments. It will be awesome when young generations can introduce these traditional legacies to the world.