This was first written for Ramadhan '07 and posted on Sept 30, 2007 in my now defunct 360 blog. Reposted to commemorate Ramadhan '10. Enjoy.
Menunggu Bedok Berbunyi
Nowadays we are all dictated by our watches and the telly.
I remember those days when our lives were determined instead by the sound of the kentong, or bedok or tabuh or perhaps the sound of the siren from the Bomba. Do you still remember that? I am of course referring to how we decide the time to break our fast. Here in KL it is so easy. The azan is televised through out the nation, so you can't miss it at all. It is everywhere
But not so in remote towns; each district would have their different time for breaking of fast, I guess, depending on the longitude and terrain, so they can't rely on the telly for their azan. Or the radio for that matter. I remember buka puasa in Lenggong. Our house then was just beside Masjid Jamek Lenggong, so it was easy. We would get to hear the azan first from the mosque, earlier than most houses. When we were in Kampung Sira, I guess, we had to rely on the siren from Fire Brigade to ascertain the time. Typically we would have to be reasonably quiet to hear the faint siren sound as we were not anywhere near the Bomba.
In Kuala Kangsar, it is definitely the siren, as the house is just 5 mins from town centre. But we don't get to hear that no more! In Aulong, on the other hand, while the small surau did have a kentong - much smaller than the one in this picture, it wasn't loud enough to reach our home. So we had to rely on the watch for us. We would synchronize the clock by the news on the hour on the radio.
Two kentong and double the decibels. The one in Aulong was perhaps half the length and diamater (Ki, do you still remember?). It has a vertical slit in the middle, I guess for better sound propagation.
I remember that kentong well. I had never hit one, even though I had the opportunity to do my first azan there one time when I was in primary school (there was just the imam then, and I was the only other person, so he asked me to perform the call for prayer). There is a certain technique to hit the kentong and it follows a certain beat. It starts slowly - a single knock at a time, and then it gets faster and faster, and louder and louder as you hit it furiously, until it peaks out and then slows down again to fade.
There is a big difference between the kentong and the bedok, not just physically, but the sound they produced.
Caption: Arif preparing to beat the kentong for the buka puasa. Not! Picture was taken at Kraton Jogjakarta in Feb 2009.
Kentong is typically made from solid wood, so the sound is from beating of the wood, which would be a solid sound and higher pitch. It is typically vertical and hangs on a thread and would swing everytime it is hit.
Bedok on the other hand would be made from hollow wood drum with a cow's or buffalo's skin at the end, methinks and normally is seated horizontally. You hit the leather skin for its sound.
Caption: Bedok at Kraton Jogjakarta.
The sounds of the bedok hence is more round and full of bases. It is perhaps like a sub-woofer. I believe it follows the same beat as the kentong.
The big mosque nowadays no longer keep the kentong or bedok, or tabuh. With the advent of technology and the proliferation of loud speaker, it is no longer necessary to have these drums. It is a pity - it should be made at least as a symbol of mosque in Malaysia.
These drums play a pivotal role in the olden days, not only as a mean for the call for prayer, but as a mean of warning or notification in an emergency such as death in the kampung or robbery. Much like the native Americans who would use smoke as a form of communication. You could find such acts in P Ramlee's movies.
I would love to buy a kentong or even a bedok as a collection and hang it on my balcony. I know it would look great.
Do you remember the old P Ramlee's song Suara Takbir?
Dengar bedok berbunyi
Sayup bergema disubuh sunyi
Memanggil kepada muslimin
Segera berbakti kepada Illahi
Suara azan menyahut
Terdengar sayup memecah sunyi
Memohon restu dengan bakti
Kepada Illahi Tuhan Maha Suci
It is nostalgic, isn't it?
You don't hear that no more. Not in Hussein Onn, anyway; not in KL, I guess. It's a pity.
The title of this entry, on the other hand, is taken from a novel containing three short stories written by the late Hamka, Menunggu Bedok Berbunyi being one of the stories. Bapak bought it in the 1965, so it is more than 45 years old - hence the state of the book. It is however safe in my library for now.
Then it cost him 2.20 ringgit. A treasure from the past as far as I am concerned.