Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Various Artists: Music of Indonesia, Vol. 20: Indonesian Guitars

The flow of material available in the marketing niche known as world music has greatly proliferated in recent years, but few labels have devoted more energy to unearthing intriguing, and not-necessarily commercial, ethnic musical byways than Smithsonian Folkways. It’s the latest evolutionary incarnation of the original Folkways label, founded in 1948. Recent case in point: the fascinating Music of Indonesia series of recordings, which presents a broad spectrum of music from this complex global corner, beyond the well-known examples of Javanese and Balinese gamelan. The last batch in the series, consisting of three volumes, includes rough-hewn music from Sulawesia and Maluku, in volumes 18 and 19, respectively. The series concludes with an ear-opening anomaly, Music of Indonesia, Vol. 20: Indonesian Guitars (Smithsonian Folkways 40447; 73:40). Here, on recordings from South Sumatra, Lampung and South Sulawesi, the definition of indigenous Indonesian music is stretched to include local uses of that western instrument, the guitar, adapted to Indonesian musical values and vocabulary. Presumably, the guitar was

introduced to the region via Portuguese ships hundreds of years ago, but these musicians apply their own meditative sonic folklore to the instrument, and it’s a sound not quite like any other guitar-related music you’ve heard.

Originally Published