The title refers to the fact that a lot of Indonesian culture, like fried rice, batik and music, is appropriated by non-Indonesians. There have been some, such as Debussy, Steve Reich, Colin McPhee, Neil Ardley and Daniel P. Quinn, who have absorbed the spiritual essence of the music. Others have exhibited little more than a nodding acquaintance, perhaps by having a word such as Bali or Java in the title.
My definition of Indonesiania music is that it isn’t really Indonesian even though the title may make you think it is.
For example, Bali Ha’i is a show tune from the 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific, and the name refers to a mystical island, visible on the horizon but not reachable, The Portuguese Magellan expedition (1519-22) may have spotted Bali on the first circumnavigation of the world, but that’s of no relevance here.
Just one track, which was recorded at the Jugula Studio in Bandung, may seem to be Indonesian, but the song was written and is sung by a prominent English bass player.
The Les Baxter track Balinese Bongos is from an album called African Jazz (1959), while the Surfmen’s track sounds Hawaiian and comes from an album called The Sounds of Exotic Islands.
Surabaya Johnny was written by the German playwright-composers Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill and Elisabeth Hauptmann for the musical comedy Happy End (1929). Marianne Faithfull’s version was translated by the Irish Professor Frank McGuinness.
There’s a nice German prog-rock Canterbury-style track from 1975 to finish with..
Sumatran Ladies Wearing Hats as Outlawed by Govt. (1951) is an album I had long before I had an internet connection. That it is now available for a mere £4 on Bandcamp does not make it readily available for Indonesians because locally issued debit and credit cards are not trusted outside the country.
Nor inside, come to think of it.
So please buy it if you can, but email me with subject line ‘Ungo-Buntu’ if you can’t.
Recorded on the shores of Lake Toba, 1981, this is a 3 inch CD re-issue of an Indonesian album released on Cassette Tape only in 1982. The composers Obeng Ungu & Jalan Buntu chose as the subject and inspiration for the music, quite tragic and horrific events during the first few years of Indonesian independence. The theme of the album seems to be the tremendous struggle of enlightened and ‘OPEN’ culture, engaging and absorbing outside influences, whilst being viciously oppressed by the conservative and ‘closed’ culture that holds power and wishes to keep that control at any cost. The actual music is a scarily childish mix of nursery-rhyme gamelan, Indonesian style pop and early 80’s electronic processing and sampling. Somehow it treads a triangular path between 23 Skidoo, Val Doonican & Harry Partch.
Sample track: Maaf, Bukan Sulingsuling (“Sorry, not bamboo flutes”)
For some Jazz Bali, click here.