A neighbour passed away few days ago at around 6.00 o’ clock in the morning but only the sound of beaten gong was heard around 9.00 o’clock. That was a normal as a time to inform relatives to help with the family who just lost a dear family member would take time. In a Kadazan custom especially in Penampang, it is a must to beat the gong if someone passed away.
The ritual of beating the gong if someone passed away amongst the Kadazan Penampang is a must when someone passed away. It is taboo and no no to beat the ‘DUNSAI’ as you like. It is an eerie sound when you heard it whenever the gong is beaten to the sound of ‘DUNSAI'.
It was the first morning of the death of the person and before the sun rises and still dark say around 5.00 am, the ‘Dunsai’ or gong must be beaten. I was awakened by the unfamiliar sound of the gong beaten as some of the sound mixed with the sound of a normal gong beating as the ‘Sumazau’ beaten during a happy occasion. I realised that the gong beaters were not familiar with the ‘Dunsai’ beat, of which you have no time to learn the beating. The beating of the ‘Dunsai’ is not a hard to learn but depended on the individual to follow the tempo and one has the ability and passion to try it. If you can beat the normal beating of the gong then you have no problem beating of the ‘Dunsai’ sound. Dunsai cannot be learn by beating any time you like but learned it on the actual time when the deceased inside the coffin. It is more worst if the number of gong beaters is less than six persons and whoever is available have to beat it.
With the passing of time and the conversion to Christianity by the Kadazan people this ritual will no longer be practiced in time to come much earlier. People will not wake up early in the morning just to beat the gong as some of us are getting ready for work and to manage the children for the school.
The reason of why the beating of the ‘Dunsai’ in the Penampang district is not clear as other Kadazan people in other district does not practice it. What I believed and conclude about it is their way to inform the people nearby of the death of someone during the time of which no communication was available to inform relatives and friends about the death.
As there are available caretaker for the dead, I believed when we are short of people to help there is always the caretaker to help whatever we need them to take care. They can do anything even to cry for the deceased.