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Tete Suling, the Elder who Protects the Drumming Flute Art in Solol Village
14 December 2022 - by Admin

That afternoon, the air in October was quite hot in Kampung Solol. Inside the village hall, a small group of men sat in a semicircle formation. They hold guitars, jukulele and bass bass. Beside this row, also sat four women holding a piece of paper. Slightly apart from this line, behind him, an old man with dark skin and a stocky build sat. An old man with a flute in his hand.


This music group plans to record songs. They will register their work at the Papua Green Sound and Culture (PGSC) event. PGSC is an annual event held by the Bentara Papua Association as a space to express concern for and love for nature, culture and indigenous peoples in the Land of Papua. 2022 is the third PGSC event.


This band is really impromptu. They were newly formed and called themselves the Tepin Group. However, because he was used to being involved in church spiritual activities, it didn't take long for him to create musical and vocal harmony. The leader of this group is a young man named Lazarus, who is also the composer of the song "Preserve Nature".


Not long after, the rhythm of the guitar, jukulele and string bass began to resound. Mixed vocals began to sound. The old man just stared at the floor. The toes of his right foot move up and down to the rhythm of the music. When it was his turn, he played the flute quietly. It faltered a few times but that didn't change its focus. During the pause and being briefed by the group leader, this old man just nodded silently.


The sound of the flute he blows gives a more solemn dimension to the Conservation of Nature which expresses gratitude to God for his gift to the Land of Papua.


Funa...Funa..Funa..Funa..Fun nehmol papua cut ni kayamo.(God..God..God..God..God created Papua with its wealth) 



The flute player's parents are known as Tete Suling. Originally surnamed Dimara. He was called Tete Suling because his parents were the only ones in Kampung Solo who were still actively playing the flute. This skill is not his alone. There are several Solol residents who can play the flute, including his son who is the leader of the band.


 “Before I was a drum player. Because of that, it's easier for me to recognize the wrong drum beat when playing the flute," he said. 


The difference is because Tete Suling is a special flute player. He was able to memorize up to 25 songs. He also has strong breath and the ability to read notes—an ability that is rarely possessed.


At the Rainforest Festival (21-29 October 2019) which was centered on Bentara Papua at Solol Station, he played his flute when he invited delegates who came from outside. It was the same when picking up the Vice Regent of Raja Ampat Regency who attended an activity at the Ebenhaezer church, Solol not long ago.


He had to blow the flute all the way from the village pier to the station. Travel as far as 800 meters. With an age that is no longer young, only a flute player with a maestro level can do it stably.


How was the skill of the Tete Suling to play a musical instrument whose evolution had started since the Neanderthal era was formed? 


Tete Barnabas Sawoy, another village elder from Solol, said that the flute and drum arts were taught by Guru Pattiwael, who came from Maluku. Because of that, this art is synonymous with the existence of the church. This art from Maluku is indeed not limited to developing in Solol. On the coast of West Papua, which is an evangelistic area, flutes and drums are quite developed. 


Flute and Tambourine are only shown on major holiday celebrations, such as Christmas or the birthday of the Gospel. In addition to being displayed when picking up visiting guests. Because of that this art represents an expression of joy, not sadness like at the time of death. 


"One of his students is Tete Suling's older cousin," explained Tete Barnabas who is also still a relative of Tete Suling. This statement is in line with the story of Tete Suling herself.


"I learned from my brother. The teaching was harsh but I remained steadfast. I believe, because there is advice that says at the end of the teacher's rattan there is gold. Now at the end of the flute there is gold for me."


Gold is not in the form of material rewards. Tete Suling did not become a rich person by blowing the flute everywhere and then getting paid for it. Playing the flute has taken him to faraway villages, especially when there are church activities. However, the "gold" in question means more respect for skills. And even bigger than that is his role in caring for the drumming flute art in Kampung Solol.


Grizon Krey, one of the young people of Solol, is willing to bet that something like Tete Suling is only left in Kampung Solol. "I've been to villages around Salawati Island, but I think only Tete Suling is the best. There's no one like him." 


It is no exaggeration if Tete Suling can be called an old man who maintains traditional arts to this day. Not many people can survive this far. Tete Suling is perhaps the flute itself.


In Japanese culture, Tete Suling represents the role of a Meijin. Meijin is an elderly resource person who throughout his life has maintained certain traditions in society regarding good practices for caring for life. 



"I can't stay in the village. I have to take a walk. Even though it doesn't work," explained Tete Suling when asked what the secret was for being able to live a healthy life until now.

Everyday, Tete Suling spends her time gardening or going to sea. If not, he can join the group of village people who go to work. In his garden, he grows coconut, durian and areca nut. Only long-term crop types.


He loves to joke everyday. His association with young people also feels distant. Many young people respect him very much. 


In 2022, he will be 74 years old. On November 13, 1948, he was born. Live long and always be healthy, Tete Suling.

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