Italian joins traditional street performers in T'ganu, to the delight of tourists


KUALA TERENGGANU: Former barman Simon Piccini loves making music these days, especially after he fell in love with a rare, traditional Swiss musical instrument.

The Italian from Tuscany quit his job early last year after he stumbled upon a ‘hang’ – a Swiss drum handmade out of steel which hums much like a gamelan and xylophone.

The 40-year-old was fascinated with the hang, which resembles a wok and is struck with bare hands, and was invented by two Swiss musicians 17 years ago. Unfortunately, they stopped producing it after ten years – and Piccini is one of its few players and champions.

Luckily for Terengganu, Piccini is keeping the hang tradition alive by performing his favourite instrument every Saturday at the scenic tourist spot of Bukit Puteri – a 200 metre-high hill that overlooks the Sungai Terengganu estuary.

He performs as part of the ten-member Persima (Pertubuhan Persaudaraan Seni Silat Melayu Pantai Timur), a troupe specially brought in by Persima advisor, Mihesh Mitch Ramesh, to promote ‘Visit Beautiful Terengganu 2017’, under the patronage of Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman.

Piccini travels the world with his hang, having made his way around Europe, the Middle East, and now, East Asia.

“I play for fun at festivals, shows and if invited to functions. I just want to enjoy travelling the planet,” he said.

Meanwhile, Persima Pahang branch leader, Zulkefli Hussin, 47, said that the troupe performs two shows, one atop Bukit Puteri in the morning and one at the foothill, opposite Pasar Payang here in the afternoon, for the benefit of tourists.

He said Pesima has been holding regular performances in Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang over the past 30 years.

“We want to keep the Malay silat tradition alive, (in tandem with) traditional music and dances, like the tarian puteri (princess dance).

“(While here), we also want our performances to contribute towards Terengganu’s tourism efforts,” said Zulkefli.

He added that their musical instruments comprise Piccini’s hang, the gendang silat Pahang ‘ibu’ (large) and ‘anak’ (small) and gong, but minus the usual seruling (flute).

“We included Peccini’s ‘hang’ to add flavour to our music,” said Zulkefli, adding that the performers wear traditional Pahang Malay attire, complete with tajak (headgear).