The Kaili people, natives of Palu valley, Donggala, Parigi, and Sigi, has many musical instruments—pipes, strings, and percussion. A Kaili percussion instrument is the gimba drum. Its smaller form is called the ganda-ganda.

Gimba is a drum made from a hollowed log, whose ends are covered with a natural membrane, such as animal skin. There is no clear reference about the origin of the name gimba, just like another Kaili instrument the bamboo pare’e, whose name is believed to originate from its vibrating sound.

The main difference of the gimba from other Indonesian drums are its materials. The wood is vonje or kayu uru (Elmerelia sp.). Other Indonesian drums usually use cow or buffalo skin for its membrane; the gimba uses the skin of Sulawesi’s own native bovine, the anoa.

The skin covering the gimba’s holes is fastened by weaved rattan. Rattan and bamboo are two common materials for Kaili musical instruments such as pare’e, lalove, doku-doku, and santu.

Making a gimba itself involves rituals: chanting gane (mantra) before cutting down the tree that supplies the wood for gimba. The ritual is necessary because gimba is not just a musical instrument for entertainment. It is also used in sacred healing rites such as the Balia rite.

In the rites, gimba provides rhythm accompanying the trance of the Sando, the healing rite leader. The gimba is beaten with the palm or fingertips, known as the Kancara Dendem Paku or Sarandayo beat, during the Balia rite. Also played in the rite is the lalove, Kaili native flute.

The gimba is also used as an early warning system during danger. It is beaten with a wooden stick as a means of communication.

Text by: Neni Muhidin (librarian at Perpustakaan Mini Nemu Buku, Palu)

Sources: Wumbu, Indra B. et al. 1988. Peralatan Hiburan dan Kesenian Tradisional Daerah Sulawesi Tengah, Departemen Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan, Palu. Cowdery, James R. 1996. Ethnomusicology, Journal of the Society for Ethnomusicology, Volume 40. Miller, Hugh M. 2001. Pengantar Apresiasi Musik (Introduction to Music: a Guide to Good Listening). Perpustakaan ISI Yogyakarta.