Tag Archives: indonesia

Radio Show: Folkways World

19 Jan

elisa in the folkways stacks
After spending the summer as an intern at Smithsonian Folkways Recordings in Washington, D.C., my No. 1 goal for my trip home to California in the fall was to sub a radio show at KDVS. I wanted to share all my Folkways favorites, all the new music I had learned about.

While Folkways is best known for its collection of American folk music (i.e. Pete Seeger, Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie), I was introduced to it at KDVS as an incredible source for regional folk music from all over the world. In this show I focused mostly on Africa, Asia and South America.

See the KDVS playlist page to follow along!


Kacapi Suling: Indonesian Flute & Strings

10 Sep

kacapi suling cinta
Among Indonesian musical styles, kacapi suling is the West Javanese antidote to Balinese gong kebyar. Instead of a lightning-paced metallic frenzy, it’s slow and soft with only the suling flute and kacapi zithers. The multi-layered melodies are still there, but there are few enough that your brain can actually wrap around it.

I found this CD at Long in the Tooth in Philadelphia and was excited because 1) it was only $1, and 2) it inclues multiple songs from the UC Davis Gamelan repertoire. Here’s a couple of my favorites:

This song “Kalangkang” was written by Pak Nano S, a famous Sundanese gamelan composer who blended traditional and contemporary pop styles. We were lucky enough at Davis to host him for a week; he sang along with us and made me feel pretty nervous to be on bonang.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=SHVt4vEMIcM]

This is listed in the liner notes as “Jeruk Manis” (which is also an excellent song; check out this funky version by the Acadia Gamelan Ensemble), but I’m pretty sure it’s “Lutung Bingung.” The intro gives me butterflies.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZ4qiQVWYYo]

Folkways Mini Mix

24 May

I took this photo when I was 19!
I’m spending this summer in Washington, D.C.!

For years as a college radio DJ, I said that my dream job would be to work at Smithsonian Folkways, the institution’s record label that specializes in regional folk music, field recordings and spoken word. The dream is coming true — temporarily and with no pay, but I’ll take it.

To get myself psyched up, I wanted to make a D.C.-themed mix, mostly so I could start it with that Magnetic Fields song. Instead I pulled out the few Folkways records I have in my collection and picked some favorites. If you’re unfamiliar with the label, here’s a tiny primer.

The greatest thing about Folkways is the detailed liner notes that come with each record: descriptions of musicians and instruments, translations of lyrics, and social contexts to what you’re hearing. (Sorry I can’t share those too.)

The other greatest thing is that every single record they’ve ever released is still, in a way, in print. You can order anything from their catalog digitally, on CD, or on tape. If the professionally manufactured copies are gone, they will burn you a CD-R or dub you a tape and Xerox all the liner notes. You can also listen to snippets of everything online (that’s where I got all the spoken word bits.)

This is a pretty measly sampling of all Smithsonian Folkways has to offer. Hopefully through the summer I’ll have much more to share!

Track list: Continue reading

Gamelan Rap Attack

19 Mar

ian solontongan
Last week I visited my alma maters, UC Davis and the UC Davis Gamelan Ensemble. I was hoping to practice along with the group, but instead I played the spectator — for the first time! — at their end-of-quarter performance.

Ian Martyn led the first group singing this song, “Warung Pojok.” Director Henry Spiller explained: “The song is actually about the corner food stall. Warung is the place you go to eat really, really really, cheap, student-type foods. The lyrics are talking about how delicious the food is and how sweet the coffee is. The only thing sweeter than the coffee is the waitress.

“So it’s just Ian’s kind of song,” he joked.

gamelan salendro
I continued my classically Davis day with an underground stop at KDVS, dinner at Delta of Venus and the monthly Sick Spits open mic poetry and comedy night.

I walked in just in time for Sacto pseudo-celeb Random Abiladeze, who has recently changed his name to Rasar. He tried out some new material a cappella, and I tried out mashing it up with the gamelan’s “Solontongan” recorded earlier in the day:

Radio Show: Western Gamelan

10 Oct


I spent all last school year thinking and writing about how American students adopt a sort of Indonesian identity through gamelan music. We start playing, usually out of curiosity or boredom, and continue because we find a sense of self and belonging, a musical, cultural community.

It all culminated in my thesis project in April, but last month I got to have some freeform fun with the idea when I subbed my friend’s radio show on KDVS.

The idea was to collect an hour of songs reinterpreting tradition gamelan in a Western context. From Lou Harrison’s dueling Indonesian suling bamboo flute and French horn to Th’ Mole’s use of a killer (probably synthetic) bonang sample, it’s all artistic appropriation. It’s all introducing new audiences to these exotic sounds and furthering the power of the music.

For as confident as I feel talking about this subject, I still got nervous during the show! But I think it’s a good sign that after being a radio DJ for eight years, I still get excited enough to momentarily lose my voice.

Playlist: Continue reading

Gamelan Sari Raras

27 Apr

Gamelan music is a thrill to watch on its own, but it’s especially delightful as the accompaniment to wayang kulit, Indonesian shadow puppet theater.

This centuries-old art form is traditionally performed at community-wide gatherings, beginning in the evening and lasting until dawn. Last weekend I got to see a truncated two-hour version of “Gatutkaca’s Journey” at UC Berkeley featuring their campus ensemble, Sari Raras.

The dhalang is the single person in charge of handling the puppets, narrating the story (all well known, but he or she must incorporate current events, pop culture or fart jokes) and directing the gamelan with narrative cues. Midiyanto is Cal’s resident dhalang.

One of the best parts of these performances is they encourage the audience to move all around the stage, just as they would in a Javanese village. I got a prime spot behind the kenong. Not so great for vocal acoustics, though.

Gamelan Radio Mashup

24 Apr

I’ve never been too crafty with mixing music live on the radio, as so many KDVS DJs are (including playing all three turntables and all three CD players simultaneously like DJ Mucky), but I did try layering tracks a few times.

This was probably my first attempt, combining Four Tet’s “Sun, Drums and Gamelan” with an Indonesian vocalist. Wish I had turned her up!


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PS: KDVS is bringing Quintron & Miss Pussycat to the Hub in Sacramento on July 6! With puppets!