The history of modern wooden kolintang.

The birth of modern wooden Kolintang music not be separated from the initiative and innovation of a number of figures and artists. Despite no coordination between them, they have made music wooden Kolintang complete with chromatic tones as the development of the earlier music wooden Kolintang.
Almost all development activities ranging from single wooden Kolintang music, combined wooden Kolintang orchestra up to ensemble of solely wooden Kolintang performed by locals took place in Minahasa. This indicates that wooden Kolintang music was from Minahasa.

Wooden Percussion Instrument and Single Kolintang , before the 13th century, a percussion instrument of bamboo slats having trinodic tones was called Tetengtengan and music instruments of wooden slats having pentatonic tones was called Tentengkoren (Pamengkelan) and had been used as a ceremonial music of agriculture, forest clearing and housing construction.
Such wooden instrument was also known as entertaining music played to relieve the tired workers and farmers in the field (kobong). In those days wooden Kolintang was still in primitive form, didn’t have a resonator box yet, nor did it possess regular tones as compared to iron (gong) Kolintang music, which already had pentatonic tones.
Wooden percussion instrument at that time consisted of 3-4 or 5-6 wooden slats having irregular tones (de Graafland). Wooden percussion instrument was still considered as a tool worshipping ancestors and players considered infidels (alifuru) thus became kobong (field) music.
Then in the 13th century copper (gong) music instrument of having pentatonic tones was dispatched into Minahasa (and Mindanao) through trade-route of Ternate-Minahasa during development of Hindu-Buddhist kingdom in Java whose authority reached Maluku region. Gong music instrument called Kolintang then became the main instrument in all custom events in Minahasa.
In the 1850s, Zending Protestant prohibited the play of Kolintang music as it was considered idolatry. Since then time gong Kolintang was no longer played at various parties, ceremonies, making its role gradually disappear while wooden instrument (tentengkoren / pamengkelan) still existed but was played restrictedly as music entertainment relieving workers and farmers from tiresome in the garden (kobong).
In 1930 there was a simple event causing a fundamental change in wooden percussion as kobong music. Romiana, the wife of Jonas Karamoy a teacher in Lahat, South Sumatra, followed her husband back to his hometown in Karegesan, Tonsea, Minahasa.
Every night Romiana heard the sound of wooden percussion instrument played at hilly area where copra farmers were working, but the sound was ignored by neighbors. Apart from mental burden cornering wooden music as alifuru, Romiana persuaded the farmers to be willing to practice at home.
Finally communities around Karegesan namely villages of Kasaar, Treman and Lembean who were in need of entertainment often watched performance of wooden instruments performed during the leisure time. Among the crowd was Nelwan Katuuk (born in 1920), a blind artist who later joined in practicing.
In 1939 for the first time in Tonsea Nelwan Katuuk made wooden percussion instruments having diatonic tones assisted by William Punuh. This wooden percussion melody consisted of a series of mawenang wooden slats 9 in range of one octave. The wooden slats were placed just above the resonator box without bond, so when played they were often moving. Resonator box became a media storing wooden slats.
Nelwan Katuuk named the wooden percussion instrument as Kolintang, which traditionally use for metal percussion instruments (gong). Since then the term Kolintang has been more popular as the name of a wooden percussion instrument than tentengkoren. Meanwhile the term Kolintang for the metal(gong) began to fade along with the disappearance of the gong from Minahasa.


from : Ansambel Musik Kolintang Kayu Minahasa Goes to UNESCO (page 59-62)- Lis Purnomo Yusgiantoro