I have called in this blog for a response by the world music community to the devestating tsunami by highlighting the music of those countries hardest hit by this tragedy. It’s a shame that the media prefer showing us endless video clips of waves crashing over beachfront property. I suppose it’s easier to do this than to actually send a reporter to meet with local residents and learn something about their society and culture. Dramatic video clips seem to replace hard reporting in these types of situations. I’m going to do my small part here by introducing my readers to the music of Aceh.
I’m glad to say that one of those who responded positively to my message was Brad Powell of Calabash Music. Robert Urbanus of Stern’s Music also replied that he’d try to get permission from those record labels in his catalogue which distribute recordings from affected nations. Nothing concrete yet, but hopefully there will be something soon.
Brad told me that he planned to feature the music of northern Sumatra at the Calabash site. Now, he’s provided a free mp3 download of the Partopi Tao Group.
Since I’ve been able to locate no research online about the music of Sumatra, I’m going to rely on the following excellent material quoted from the Calabash site:
“Northern Sumatra is crossed by the Bukit Barisan mountains with peaks of numerous volcanoes. The land has thick virgin forests, lush vegetation, rice fields, mountain streams, rivers, waterfalls and sandy beaches.
Beautiful tropical panoramas, terraced rice fields, blue mountains, jungle covered hills, white sandy beaches, music, dance and folk arts. The people are hospitable and warm.
Chinese chronicles from as early as the sixth century speak of a kingdom called Po- Li on the northern tip of what is now Sumatra. Arabic writings and Indian inscriptions from around the 9th century also mention this area and its obvious importance. Of all the regions in Indonesia, Aceh, at the northwestern end of Sumatra, is the first to have contact and be influenced by the outside world. Ironically, it is still one of the least known regions of Indonesia, even among Indonesians themselves. Banda Aceh is the capital of Aceh and also the main gateway to the province.
The Partopi Tao Indonesian Music Ensemble, who play exclusively on traditional hand instruments. [Sumatran ensembles] developed complex traditions of instrumental music — from one of the very few societies in the world to use tuned drums to carry a melody. Combining these drums with gongs and an oboe-like instrument, their ensemble produces a “musical ecstacy that never ends.” — from the liner notes by producer John Matarazzo These surprising genres are virtually unknown outside of Indonesia. Their song Little Girl (hear it) is a delightful happy sounding instrumental filled with Sumatra spices.”
Calabash is generously contributing 100% of its own profits from sale of this recording to disaster relief. I would’ve already bought a few of the songs from the recording except I can’t get WMP to play the samples offered at the site. So it’s hard for me to tell which songs I like. But I will be taking him up on this wonderful offer as soon as possible.
WARNING: This mp3 blog exists to spread the wonder and genius that is traditional music. It does NOT exist to enhance your private mp3 collection. So by all means come, listen, enjoy, then follow the links to buy the music. If you come, listen, download, then leave—you’re violating the spirit behind this blog and doing nothing to support the artists featured here. And if you link to my mp3 file at your own site, then you’re stealing my bandwidth and being pretty uncool. So please don’t do it.