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Highly Endangered

The boat lute of the Iban is called the belikan. It was never a dominant instrument as percussion instruments such as gongs were more commonly used for ceremonies and entertainment. In modern times this instrument is not well known amongst the Iban population.

Found in various regions in Sarawak, there are two distinct version of the belikan. The small bodied verson found in Saribas, Saratok and Kanowit. In Miri and Kapit belikans can appear more similar to a sape with hollowed back and long body.

there exists 2 types of belikan

Saribas Belikan

Guitar-like, smaller rounded body. Hollowed from front, sound plate.

  • Instrument Owner: Edmund Langgu
  • Instrument Maker: Kilat Anak Indam
  • Location: Saribas, Sarawak
  • Status: Highly Endangered



This two stringed belikan is over thirty years old. It is made from Jelutong wood and painted with oil-based paint commonly used for painting boats. It was made by Kilat Anak Indam, an Iban man from Sg. Kelampai longhouse, Sarawak.

The head stock of the belikan features a Nabau motif- a mythical water serpent. This motif is considered very powerful in Iban culture and so the artist must have selected it carefully before painting it on this instrument.
According to Mr Langgu every long house would have had a belikan displayed at the Ruai.


All information on the Borneo Boat Lute Revival website is based on research findings conducted by the team and/or sharings of knowledge by its community contributors. It is subject to changes and updates at any time. To discuss any information or use of material from this site, please reach us at

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