Sasando: The Values of Being Cultural and Indonesian

Oktober 02, 2020

Oleh: Talitha Djulia Claresta

(Mahasiswi Sastra Inggris Universitas Sanata Dharma)

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Art symbolizes the civilization of a culture which makes a society become cultural, whether it is dancing, music, painting, and literature works. People have freedom to express and do beauty appreciation to adore any forms of art, nonetheless music. According to Oxford Dictionary, music is “sounds that are arranged in a way that is pleasant or exciting to listen to. People sing music or play it on instruments.” As a one of the essentials of music, music instrument has its own characteristic in every kind of culture because it is directly connected to the capability of delivering values of messages from the ancestor to their next generations, through the melody and philosophy delightfully implicit. Besides being cultural, art will represent the values principle of a country and make it different from others' civilization. Pancasila is the identity of Indonesia’s principle, it becomes the reflection of values which Indonesian try to hold out from Indonesia’s society, it started from the first to fifth principles of Pancasila.

The cultural and Indonesian value aspect in art can be found in Sasando, as one of traditional string music instruments from Rote Island, East Nusa Tenggara, it represents those aspects. Sasando has the values of being cultural shows by the philosophy behind the using of the Palm leaves as one of the materials in Sasando, and the strings of Sasando to create the sound have its own meaning related to the local values in Rote Island. Thus, Sasando conveys Pancasila’s principal values as well, in the third principle, The Unity of Indonesia, which represented in the strings philosophy, and fifth principle, Social Justice for All the Indonesian People, when everyone can play and express themselves through the music instrument, without limitation of social status. 

Sasando is a traditional music which comes from Rote Island, East Nusa Tenggara. The Sasando name itself comes from the words Sandu or Sanu which means vibrate because when the strings are picked, it will create vibration. The native of Rote Island often called this traditional music instrument as Sasandu. There are many origin stories of Sasando, but the most famous one is, there was a guy named Sangguana who fell in love with the king’s daughter, before the king agreed to the marriage between them, he asked for one condition to make a special music instrument. In Sangguana’s dream he played a beautiful music instrument in melodious sound and when he woke up from his sleep, Sangguana made the music instrument from his dream for the king and he blessed Sangguana and his daughter marriage.

Originally, Sasando only had 7 to 10 strings and the material of the strings came from nature. It had many developments of the natural strings' materials for instance, leaf stick, palm leaf spun, and bamboo strings, but none of the materials were durable because it easily broke when people repeatedly plucked the strings. However, Sasando’s materials are advancing through time. When Portuguese came to Indonesia in the 18th century, they introduced the wire strings to the local people, and the material was more durable than before. Later, the number of the strings also gained from 32 to 48 strings, and it also produced a more diverse melody.

Sasando is a string music instrument, the main material of Sasando is bamboo shaped as a long tube, many Sasando craftsmen who add carving and varnishing the tube to make it look fancier. In the middle of a bamboo tube surrounded by a buffer from the top to the bottom of the tube, which is called Senda used as the strings are placed, surrounds the bamboo tube. Senda will give different tones and Sasando’s resonance. Thus, for the Sasando’s outer, it will be assembled with palm leaves which have been formed into half a circle and dried for 4 days. There are two main types of Sasando, the first type is Sasando Gong which have become the origin of other types of Sasando, it has 7 to 12 strings with pentatonic sound and it is usually used to play traditional music from Rote Island and East Nusa Tenggara. The second type is Sasando Biola, it is a type of Sasando which has 30 to 48 strings, because this Sasando has a diatonic scale, it has advantage to play more various music, including modern genres music.

This musical instrument is often played on formal occasions, like traditional ceremonies as accompaniment music for Rote’s traditional dance and poems, along with informal occasions as well. Besides being appreciated by Indonesian, Sasando also gets a lot of recognition internationally because of the melodious sound and the aesthetic values which Sasando offered, it was registered to UNESCO to receive a cultural conservation award.

Sasando represents Rote’s local values and philosophy of life from generation to generation, it holds norms, ideas, and rules. It shows on one of the materials from Sasando, it is the palm leaf. Palm trees or the local people called it as Tuak, can be found easily across Rote Island, it becomes the first commodity for people around there, even they called the palm tree as the tree of life. The Palm tree trunk can be created as pillars of a house, the leaves of palm tree can be created to make house roof and to contain liquid which is produced by the palm tree, and the tree fronds can be created as house fence. Besides the tree parts, liquid which comes from the palm tree can be created as palm sugar and East Nusa Tenggara’s traditional drink, Sopi, and the palm fruit can be eaten. The numerous benefits from the palm tree represent the value of how people should be helpful to others. Indonesian have the principle of mutual help in the society, we live side by side and as a social human being we need consciousness to help others, especially people who have inadequacy in running their life. People realise if they cannot live without help from someone and to create the mutualism in the society, they also expected to do the same thing, no matter how small the help we offer or what we can do to our society, it matters in the sustainability of a society.


Thus, each string of Sasando has its own different sounds because it purposed to create more various sounds to play any kind of songs, despite the difference of each sound from the strings, the sound from string complements one another and creates a melodious sound. Though they have different sounds, but each string in Sasando has their own part to keep the sounds harmonious. The strings of Sasando represents the value of unity. Human runs out their own role in the society, they have their own belief in how to live, and regardless of the difference we still need to respect other people's choices of life to become a pleasant society. The differences are not being a reason to embark discordance, but it should be uplifted our pride because we live alongside with people who different from us, regardless of our identity as a heterogeneous country. 

The aspect of being Indonesian means the capability of delivering messages values from certain regions. Sasando as the traditional music instrument from Indonesia also implicitly reflected Pancasila's values because Pancasila is the national principle of Indonesia which embraced all values and norms in the Indonesia society from Sabang to Marauke. In the insight values of strings, apprise the values of third principle in Pancasila, The Unity of Indonesia. Each string in Sasando has their own sounds, despite the difference when the strings get picked, with a right rhythm and tone, it will create a euphonious sound to whoever heard it. Equivalently, Indonesia has multicultural people’s background, each region and etnic groups in Indonesia have their own culture, beliefs, and life’s principle. Therefore, there is no reason for Indonesia to despise each one though they live under diversity to respect and show the third Pancasila’s value. Indonesian can live peacefully in a country regardless of the differences.

Furthermore, Sasando is one of the national pride of Indonesia’s music instrument who has already been recognized by its people and internationally, it is not only performed by Rote Island people, but all human from various social status, religions, and races can play Sasando on both of formal and informal occasions. The freedom of expressing themselves through the melodious sound of Sasando belongs to the fifth principle of Pancasila, Social Justice for All the Indonesian People. There is no limitation or requirement to play Sasando, every single person has the right to express their artistic style in the form of melody which is produced by Sasando.

In conclusion, Sasando represents the values of being cultural and Indonesian. This traditional music instrument not only has the complexity of the materials feature, art aspect in its melody, and the aesthetic, but the philosophical values implied in the parts and use of Sasando become the allurement for people wanting to know more about the Rote’s traditional music instrument. The cultural message of Sasando to become a helpful person to others in society which represent in the Palm leaves, the strings of Sasando which hold both of cultural and third principle of Indonesia to represent of live peacefully by respecting people’s choices of life, and how Sasando can be performed by everyone represents the fifth values of Indonesia. Lastly, Sasando perfectly becomes a perfect image of Indonesia’s art fineness because it contains the traditional local beauty of Rote Island and values embedded in the motherland, embracing all races, religions, and tribes.



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Jaskier. (2020, Mei 27). Alat Musik Sasando. Retrieved from (accessed on 7 May 2020)

Mengenal Sasando, Alat Musik Tradisional asal Nusa Tenggara Timur. (2018, Maret 6). Retrieved from (accessed on 9 May 2020)

Kompas Cyber Media. (2012, May 9). Sasando Diusulkan Dapat Penghargaan UNESCO. Retrieved from (accessed on 10 May 2020)

Setianingsih, AS Dwi . (2018, November 27). Getaran Sawai Kehidupan Sasando. Retrieved from (accessed on 12 May 2020)


Talitha Djulia Claresta, mahasiswi kelahiran tahun 2000. Di usianya yang hampir genap 20 tahun, kini Talitha menempuh pendidikan di salah satu Universitas ternama di kota pelajar Jogjakarta.

Talitha telah aktif bahkan sejak dari bangku sekolah dasar hingga sekarang menempuh pendidikan di jurusan sastra Inggris, dan sedang berkutat dengan tugas-tugas di semester 5. Di tengah kesibukannya dengan tugas-tugas kuliah, Talitha tetap dikenal sebagai mahasiswa yang aktif mengikuti kegiatan-kegiatan non perkuliahan di lingkungan kampus, baik di fakultas dan prodi, hingga dipercaya sebagai ketua divisi ilustrasi di organisasi milik program studi tanpa mengabaikan tugas-tugas dan kewajiban perkuliahannya.

Meski sekarang harus menjalani perkuliahan daring diakibatkan pandemi, tidak menghalangi Talitha untuk tetap produktif. Di sela kesibukannya dengan tugas kuliah dan membantu pekerjaan rumah, Talitha tetap menyalurkan kemampuannya di bidang kepenulisan, sudah banyak essai serta artikel-artikel berbau sastra dan linguistik yang ia selesaikan selama masa pandemi. Selain itu, Talitha ternyata juga memiliki bakat terpendam di bidang seni rupa. Mulai dari melukis di atas kanvas konvensional, hingga berkreasi dengan digital painting.

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