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Jambatan Tamparuli: the bridge and the song it’s based on

“Jambatan Tamparuli” is the title of a Kadazandusun song composed and sung by Justin Lusah in the mid 1970s. In my opinion, Justin Lusah is Kadazandusun’s greatest ever songwriter. This song first appeared in his 2nd album. Also in my opinion, it is not his best song, and I can name several of his other songs which I think has better melody, but I am digressing here.

The song has reached heights never reached by other Kadazandusun songs before or since – it has been recognized as a national heritage, in essence, a national monument.

Well, now let’s see the actual bridge the song is based on.

Tamparuli town is located near the Tuaran river. There are 3 major bridges over this river, as can be seen from this Google Earth image. The image below is approximately at 6°8′ N, 116°15’E:


#1 in the pic above is the new (high) suspension bridge, officiated in the early 1980s by the then Chief Minister of Sabah, Datuk Harris Salleh. It is intended for the use of vehicles and pedestrians. About 50m in length, this bridge is a real lifesaver. Before it was built, if the low bridge #4) is flooded, tamu traders, towkays and general townsfolk have to stop their cars on the other side of the river and get to town via the hanging bridge (#2) carrying all their things.

#2 is the original hanging bridge, *the* Jambatan Tamparuli. Hence, the basis for Justin Lusah’s 1970s song. This picture must have been taken on or near the low bridge on Tamparuli town’s side. We are looking downstream. Thanks to Charsuede for the picture.


It was washed away in the biggest flood ever to hit Tamparuli in January 1999. From the picture above you can imagine how high the floodwater must have climbed! The previous worst flood was reportedly 37 years earlier, in the early 1960s.

I only saw the partial extent of the flood myself 3 days after its peak on 5th January 1999 and I must say I have never seen the river that angry and fast-flowing – it was at least 10 feet above the low bridge – if even an Olympic swimmer ever decided to try to swim across I doubt he’d make it. I am still kicking myself for not taking pictures then.

This is a picture of the same place taken in August this year – taken from the top of the new hanging bridge. Of course the old hanging bridge has been gone for 8 years.


#3 is the new hanging bridge (i.e. Jambatan Tamparuli as it is known to the world now). The following is a picture of what it looks like as you stand on it (the little guy is a tad more than 3 feet tall) and look on the right hand side as you walk towards Tamparuli town. As you can see, the low bridge (#4) is quite near. A local joke is that accidents might happen (vehicles might plunge into the river etc) because the drivers might be too preoccupied with checking out the girls in short skirts walking on the bridge above.


The construction of this new bridge started not long after the old bridge was destroyed. It is very steady, no rocking at all, even at the ends, unlike the old bridge, where people would hold on to dear life when getting on or off it.

#4 is probably the oldest: the low bridge. Some people might mistake this as the bridge in Justin Lusah’s song. Having said that, I think this bridge is more intriguing than the hanging bridge. Built in the 1950s (I might be wrong here), it is testament to its fine engineering that it is STILL standing after being hit by many logs and floodwaters over the years. And yes, even after *the flood* of ’99, it is still there.

Back to the song, I think its fame reached its zenith in July 2005 when Marsha (herself a Tamparulian) sang it live during the 7th Akademi Fantasia season 3 concert. The popularity of the reality show must have guaranteed millions of primetime viewers for the then 30-year old song. The picture below (courtesy of Astro) showed the host Aznil Nawawi attempting to dance the sumazau with Marsha during a solo break in the song.




Ben GodomonBen Godomon is a guest blogger from Chronicles, Unconventional World Records, Money Talks, IT Security News and Our Music Portal.