Penan Music

As a nomadic tribe living independently in the forest, the Penan developed their own musical instruments, which are quite distinct from the instruments found elsewhere in Borneo.  They are, of course, made from forest materials and are light enough to carry and play while walking.

The men play the keringot, which is a nose flute.  Here is Issac making a keringot from bamboo.

This is a recording of the keringot, played by Maurice.  As you will hear, the sound is beautiful and ethereal.  One can imagine it echoing out into the jungle at night.

The women play a stringed instrument called the Pagang.  It is made of bamboo, with strips cut and raised from the bamboo to create strings.

The Penan ladies would play the Pagang as they walked through the forest.  The songs represented stories, myths and imitated animal sounds. It is said though, that if a man played the Pagang, he would be eaten by  wild animal.  Thus, the Pagang is played by Penan women only.  Here is a Penan elder playing;

I hope you enjoyed these recordings. Whilst staying with the Penan, you may like to listen to some Penan music, learn to play or even have your very own Pagang or Keringot made.  🙂



Filed under Cultural activities

3 responses to “Penan Music

  1. vivian

    hello, this is a nice post, and i like it. =) do u have more information about the musical instruments and the music? i’m doing research about it for my assignment, need more details about it. Really thanks for ur post. =)

    • Hi Vivian,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you like the post. Those recordings were taken when I visited the Penan recently. It is only really the older people who still play these traditional instruments. There are many books about Penan culture; you could try ‘Nomads of the Dawn’ by Wade Davis, or some of the books by Bruno Manser. He lived with a differnet group of Penan. There are also Forest People’s organisations who may have more information for you. Perhaps in the future, you could visit the Penan and interview them yourself. There are some interviews with elders at, which may also have some information about music. Best wishes, Ang

  2. badet

    aun.!!sana may iba pang mga instrument..!!!nkatulong naman to saken,,,tnx sa info ah,,,,,


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