What is the Karinding?

Various types of karinding (photo by Ilham Nurwansah)

By Ilham Nurwansah

Karinding is a sound tool in the Sundanese karawitan (musical art). It can be made of very thin palm midrib or bamboo outer skin (epidermis), hit by finger to play it with mouth as resonator. In Cianjur, Banten, and Sumedang the karinding player uses a tubular resonator made of bamboo beside mouth that controls air volumes and resulting different pitches.

Several old karinding makers and players in West Java believe that karinding is one of the oldest Sundanese musical instruments before the kacapi (Sundanese zither) exist. If they believe that kacapi has existed more than 500 years, karinding even older! it has been existed more than 600 years (est.). This assumption based on comparison between kacapi and karinding basic material.

There are two kinds of karinding based on the material. They are related to the gender. First, the karinding that made of bamboo, this kind has a long and slim shaped (some has sharper shape at the handle part) most with only one needle at the center to produce sound. Made of special local bamboo called awi gombong (Gigantochloa pseudoarundinacea) or can be made of another Sundanese local bamboo such as awi haur, awi tali, awi wulung, and many more. Because the shape is long enough at the handle part, this karinding can be used as a hairpin and usually played by women (beside men) so that some karinding artists called it as karinding wadon or bikang (female).

The second is palm karinding. This kind made of special midrib of rare palm material called kawung saéran from Arenga pinnata or Arenga saccharifera species. Several trees of these species have very rare “male” tree that cannot produce fruit but only produce flower. This “male” palm is the best material to make karinding, so that karinding that made of this material is more valuable than the bamboo one. It has shorter length and (mostly) two needles to make sound (some other said there tongued). The handle part of this kind is short, so it needs more effort to handle it well. Shorter shape of this kind of karinding makes it more portable, so it can be put into small traditional cigarette/tobacco box. All of these relative things tell us that this palm karinding has more “male” characteristic, so that most of karinding artists called it as karinding lanang or jalu (male).

There are several places that still has productive karinding maker of these two of type. Bamboo karinding maker place: Limbangan, Cililin, Sumedang, Lembang, Cimahi, Batu Jajar, Parakanmuncang, Ujung Berung, Bandung. Palm karinding maker place: Citamiang, Pasir Mukti, Cineam-Tasikmalaya, Cirama Girang-Cianjur, Garut, Baduy (Banten).

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