The many variations of Gambus

Gambus that we know of in Malaysia was originally a musical instrument derived from Arabian Peninsula in particular, Yemen and it is also known in Arabic as Qanbus; a replacement for Arabian oud.

Gambus, which has a shape of sliced pear, found its way to this part of the world-South East Asian nations: Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei through Arab traders in 15th Century. It has nine or twelve strings and produces sounds similar like guitar, when plucked with plastic plectrum.

In Africa, gambus is called in many different names such as, gabusi, gabbus, kabusa, and many other names.

The well-known Malaysian musician who popularized gambus is Farid Ali from Muar, Johor, a trained guitarist from Institute of Technology of California.

Farid has been exploring many facades of gambus; among others he combined it with the Latin America music.

In Western part of Borneo, it’s the Malay communities of Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei that play gambus.

In those days, gambus is a must in any celebrations like wedding, circumcision and any occasions, which is related to the Malays in general. It is also played in the music for zapin, joget and ronggeng.

There are several types of gambus in this region namely: gambus ghazal, gambus Johor, and gambus Brunei.

In Sabah, gambus can be seen in many shapes too. The strings range only from six or eight, and each pair of strings represents one tune.The Gambus  is also known Lute among the Sabahans.

Gambus players in Sabah are found in Sipitang, Lingkungan, Weston, Papar, Bongawan, Kimanis, and Membakut, where people of Brunei, Kadayan, and Bisaya (Sabah Bisaya) ethnics are predominant.

Musicians like Fauziah Suhaili from Bongawan of Sabah, who after only two years picking up gambus managed to produce a showcase and record debut on gambus.