Music of Indonesia, Vol. 11: Melayu Music Sumatra & Riau Islands

Music of Indonesia, Vol. 11: Melayu Music Sumatra & Riau Islands


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The Melayu or Malay people share fairly coherent ancient roots, although they are spread throughout Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, and pockets of Indonesia and enjoy various levels of status in each country. The music on this volume demonstrates their deep embrace of Islam, but also conflicts between Islam and older, polytheistic Melayu traditions. Volume 7 presented Melayu ritual music; this volume concentrates on music for entertainment and also theater forms in Sumatra and the Riau Islands, which lie between Sumatra and the Malaysia/Singapore peninsula. The program begins with four selections of zapin, dance music for domestic celebrations. The plucked, fretless lute called gambus is featured along with lively, interlocking drumming, both elements with Arabic origins. The Arab flavor is evident in the rolling rhythms, relaxed vocal style, and percussive string playing in these appealing songs. One song, sung in Arabic, was learned from a Middle Eastern recording. Another bears the perky canter of what sounds like a Tuvan hunting song from Central Asia, but without the throat singing. Eight selections from mak yong and mendu theater forms follow. Mak yong plays blend royal drama with contemporary comedy and date back to the Melayu court in Thailand in the 1600s. Under attack by Islam in today's Indonesia, this vocal and drumming music is harder and harder to find. The selections feature layered gandang drumming and reedy, sometimes rough female vocals. Some incorporate gongs giving the music the flavor of Javanese gamelan, although in a raw, village manifestation. Mendu is a younger, more ritualistic form, also frowned on by Islam and in decline. Arab and European musical elements are more evident in these principally vocal tracks. Five ronggeng pieces from Riau end the volume on a lively note. Like jaipongan pop music in West Java, ronggeng involves a professional female singer with male musicians providing plenty of percussive drive. The music usually accompanies drinking, dancing, and gambling in night spots. Its use of the "gypsy minor" scale (Phrygian mode), fast rhythms, and fiddle and accordion melodies over the drumming evoke Arab and Indian associations, but also at times, the loose ambience of a country hoedown.

Product Details

Release Date: 11/19/1996
Label: Smithsonian Folkways
UPC: 0093074042724
catalogNumber: 40427
Rank: 144889

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