Indonesia’s Creative Economy Agency (BEKRAF) is busy pushing nasi goreng (fried rice) and prog-rock-jazz A-listers as cultural icons to the country’s embassies overseas. Bekraf’s bureaucrats also believe that creating ‘cultural villages’ with blanded rituals for incoming tourists and building empty standardised ‘homestays’ for them is selling the best that the country has offer.
But the real creative economy is at the grassroots, within local communities, and some (most?) of “the best” is free in both the bureaucratic and financial sense.
Seek, and ye shall find!
When in Bali, stay off the beaten track and listen … what is that dreamlike heartbeat drifting across the fields? Wander closer and you might find that it’s a temple or palace gamelan group rehearsing. Put your camera away … this is no time or place for a selfie … sit down and let the music wash through you, cleanse your mind and be at peace, at one with yourself.
And that is the essence of Ramadhan, the Muslim fasting month which now grips the nation having got underway a couple of days ago. Today is a working day, but there is little evidence of that around Jakartass Towers: the street is quite quiet, and that suits me well.
Combining the two themes, here are some gamelanish grooves from non-Indonesians who have taken some of the best that Indonesia has to offer and made it part of their lives. (For the Francois-Marie Ngoa Group, it was already there.)
01. Barry Cleveland – Abrasax (USA)
02. Yas-Kaz – Respite Of The Bows & Arrows (Japan)
03. Finis Africae – Juana Y Rosalia (Spain)
04. Hanne Hukkelberg – Fourteen (Norway)
05. Kalacakra – Deja Vu (Germany)
06. Peter Gabriel – No Self Control (UK)
07. Vic Coppersmith-Heaven – Pengosekan~Ramayana Monkey Chant (UK)
08. Francois-Marie Ngoa Group – Obama Ondoua Ebini (Cameroon)
09. Yas-Kaz – Finale = Calendar (Japan)
10. Roscoe Mitchell – Bells For The South Side (USA)
Having only discovered Colin McPhee’s Tabuh-Tabuhan today (here), I figured I ought to include it in this post. The notes are from the included pdf in the folder which also includes McPhee’s Balinese Ceremonial Music (transcribed for two pianos, himself and Benjamin Britten), and a reconstruction of Britten’s The Prince of the Pagodas.
The indigenous music of Bali influenced several of Colin McPhee’s original compositions, including Tabuh-Tabuhan, a Toccata for Orchestra and Two Pianos written in 1936. By using various keyboard and percussion instruments (celesta, xylophone, marimba, glockenspiel and drums as well as authentic Balinese gongs and cymbals) in addition to the two pianos, McPhee was able to recreate the distinctive sonorities of gamelan music.
However, the work is far from being mere pastiche: McPhee also includes references to jazz and Latin-American music, while the orchestration, particularly in the last movement, has that recognisably ‘American’ colour one associates with the music of, for instance, Gershwin or Copland. It is one of the most remarkable aspects of Tabuh-Tabuhan that these various elements are so seamlessly and effectively integrated.