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About Kadayan ... part 14

Written By kadayan chronicles on Monday, 17 July 2006 | 17:30

Written by Amde sidik

Gasing -Top Spinning

I Wonder how many have watched tele movie titled Top Spinning– gasing, directed by a Malaysian director a few years ago.

That gasing portrayed in the movie was very much of what gasing was and is commonly seen in peninsular Malaysia or even called national gasing now.





My writing on gasing here is a little bit different than what most of you know of something I experienced during my childhood. I am sure now the scenario is totally different, for examples, the appearance, sizes, and the rules in the competition and the way the gasing game is played.

I am talking about 40 years or so ago.

When I was a kid I played gasing like a mad golfer. I used to have yellow brown hair on my forehead because those hairs were touching the sand or ground every now and then during the game- a few days ago I received a call from an old friend telling me of the same experience he had he must have read this article, so inserted this new sentance.

Why? Because I kept on blowing the sand, that’s the way of making sure the bottom part of the gasing was clear, wasn’t buried either on the sand or earth as gasing could only spin well on dry hard ground.

My gasing was about 3.5 inches in diameter. This was the size I liked most.

Gasing is an incident game played in many parts of Malay Archipelago or even beyond except we have no way of proving it.

No body can be sure of where gasing was originated from. Nonetheless people in Europe and African continent do have an idea of what top spinning game is about.


According to one unsolicited material, gasing the top spinning game is something to do with spinning an object. How the object looks like, has never been seen and documented. All I can say is in Europe it’s made of steel; the pattern is similar to some of the Malay wooden gasing except the size.

How was the game played in Europe? I have no idea. So far even in Malaysia there is no real study on Malaysian’s gasing let alone Malaysian studying gasing in Europe.

According to one local publication which I consider arbitrarily written- gasing was played in Europe- Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Belgium, Africa, Japan Taiwan, China and Vietnam, to me it sounds like world cup again, let have world top spin next time.

Gasing game may not be that appealing to western public because it’s not western by origin? Otherwise it could have been included in international stage.

I have left gasing game for a very long time, what I knew then was purely on kadayan’s gasing in my kampong, typical of Borneo gasing

Borneo gasing has been Borneons traditional sporting activity for quite a long time. It must have been many hundreds years, according to M Jiri, Sabah Times, 1990.

My late father was among those who were known to be gasing makers in the 60s in Sipitang. I used to watch him with his friends making gasing when I was a boy.

The first thing they did was to get good hard kayu-wood in the jungle, one was called mengaris, to me it looks a bit brownish or dark red in colour, it’s good for making big or small gasing. The other one was known as impas which looks a bit dark yellowish or cream in colour usually only for small gasing.

My father used laik-poly system mechanism, if you ever seen an old sewing machine which used foot to paddle the machine that’s roughly how laik looks like. See picture above

He used verity of chisels. And according to his friends who were always accompanying him, not every one could make good gasing, there was a kind of art involved. Not only that gasing is pleasing to look at but it spins longer time, and durable too, because playing gasing it those days had a lot of knockings.

In Borneo, gasing game has always been associated with Kadayan people.

It has been Kadayan tradition to compete each other especially after padi harvesting seasons.

The competitions normally started by a few people in the kampong, followed by inter kampong competition, districts, region and later states. And just to clarify, its common for Borneo people to call Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei as states individually.

Borneo gasing is slightly different in appearance compare with the Peninsular gasing that found in Kedah, Pahang, Kelantan and the rest.

Thus in Malaysia we have a few type of competitions designed for national competition which rules and procedures were made out by the gasing experts in Peninsular.

I am not sure if people in peninsular realized that Borneo has its own rules and procedures as well as a few type of competitions.

I know Sipitang and Labuan still have some experts, and among the commonest type of competition are palu and guwau

Palu was where either individuals or by team knock the opponent. And guwau was a competition whose gasing spins longer, a gasing can spin as long as half an hour.

The type of gasing big or small, thick or thin depends on the type of competition they were having.

Gasing could be played individually one by one, or in a team, it didn’t matter how many in a team.

String is an important component of gasing playing. In the olden days the string was made of the bark of tarap tree while the tarap leaves were used to smooth the gasing body in lieu of modern sand paper.

The string is rolled at the neck of gasing.One has to throw the gasing away from him while at the same time pull it towards him to create spin before releasing to the ground.

It was during the competition of this kind Kadayan induldged themselves playing black magic-pantak, but I also found out it wasn’t just the Kadayan deploying black magic in gasing competition, in peninsular they did the same thing.

The affect of black magic among others were: to weaken the opponents, for example their gasing didn't spin longer, the player couldn’t play at their best, their gasing could be split and broken into pieces or any other weird incidents.

A person who span the gasing with special string swung, pulled and released the gasing to the ground with all his might ghastly I would say, created thundering sound enough to scare the opponents if the opponents had no knowledge about black magic, they wouldnt be able to withstand the competition.

In other words, this articular person was employing orang anggau-the jinn.

Among the earlier writers who wrote about gasing in Malaysia was Tan Sri Hajj Mubin Sheppard a Malaysian of British by origin.
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