Mathew Ngau Jau, is a 70 year old Kenyah Ngorek, a Bornean indigenous ethnic group from Long Semiyang in Sarawak, one of Malaysia's Borneo states. He is a professional Sape' performer, maker and teacher and is one of the few community-recognised authority on the instrument.
To the community, Mathew is known as a cultural guardian or "the Keeper of the Kenyah Ngorek Songs". To the country, he is one of Malaysia's Living National Heritage.
The Sape' is a long lute-like stringed instrument made from a single bole of wood. It is hollowed out and decorated with elaborate traditional cultural motifs. Originally a two-stringed instrument, it was used for healing rites and celebrations. Today, it is celebrated for its enchanting sounds and melodies.
Mathew Ngau hopes to give the instrument and Kenyah traditions a new lease of life, preserving its traditional foundations yet giving it a chance to flourish outside of the rainforest.
He continues to perform, teach and make the Sape' for anyone who is willing to take the time to understand it.
To find out the latest information on performances, lessons or talks, please follow Mathew's Facebook page.
Mathew is managed by The Tuyang Initiative, a social enterprise whose focus is in economic and skill uplifting of Dayak (Bornean indigenous) communities. They work on inclusive and innovative indigenous cultural-related products & services. Their mission is in creating sustainable economic opportunities, as well as meaningful preservation and development of the communities' tradition, arts & culture.