Kolintang is a melodic percussion instrument originated from Minahasa (North Sulawesi).
As an idiophonic instrument, the sound come from the vibration of the key bars.
Kolintang bars are made out of soft wood such as: Banderan(Tolor) wood (Alstonia sp);
Cempaka (Chrysolite) wood (Elmerrillia Tsiampaca)
; Waru wood (Hibiscus tiliaceus).
All of the wood that mentioned above have similar characteristics which are lightweight, dense , straight fiber texture and able to produce a loud sound when struck.
For the resonator box, usually harder wood are used, such as:
Jati(Teak) wood (Tectona Grandis);
Mahogany wood (Swietenia Macrophylla).
The origin of the word Kolintang, comes from the sound: Tong (low tone), Ting (high tone) and Tang (middle tone).
In Minahasan language ,to invite people to play kolintang (Let’s play Tong Ting Tang) they use the phrase “Maimo Kumolintang” which turns into “kolintang”.
Kolintang had a relate closely with the traditional belief of Minahasa natives.
It was often played during ancestor worshipping rituals.
That might explain the reason kolintang was nearly totally left behind when Christianity came to Minahasa.
It was so rarely played that it was nearly extinct for about a 100 year .
Kolintang reappeared after the World War II, pioneered by a blind musician Nelwan Katuuk, who reconstructed it accordingly to universal musical scales.
Initially, there was only one kind of Kolintang instrument which was a 2 octave diatonical melody instrument.
Inspired by Nelwan Katuuk’s kolintang performance heard in radio broadcasts in 1952, a boy named Petrus Kaseke tried to make his own kolintang using Banderan (Tolor) wood, commonly found and used as firewood.
Once he was satisfied tuning and playing the kolintang, the wood would be used as a firewood.
The habit of tuning and playing kolintang using softwood before making it as firewood, led him to become famous kolintang artisans.
Petrus Kaseke start the commercial production of kolintang outside its native land of Minahasa in 1964 in Yogyakarta, Central Java. At that time kolintang was still a single melody instrument accompanied by string music instruments such as : guitar, ukulele or string bass.
The next development was to replace string instruments with kolintang accompaniment in 1966. He managed to make first kolintang ‘Orchestra’ performance at Satya Wacana Christian University in Salatiga.
The group consisted of a set of 5 Kolintang, each with different function, namely Melody, Alto, Tenor, Cello and Bass.