Field Recordings – Bali/Java 1998

February 7, 2011

Balinese night festival

This is a recording made in Tabanan, Bali in summer of 1998. That particular day was a holiday (one of the Balinese Hindu festivals, but I don’t recall the specific occasion). There were celebrations all over the place in Bali that week, and this was a street festival with an unusual hybrid gamelan of bamboo and metal instruments; the next day Balinese friends took us to watch a funeral procession; the coffin was elaborately decorated and carried by about a dozen men, who struggled to keep it on the path as it lunged back and forth. It was explained to us that this was caused by the spirit of the deceased seeking to remain in the world rather than be laid to rest at the cemetary…

Balinese song

Suling solo

A Balinese friend’s grandfather had toured the US in the 60s with his Gamelan (Tabanan is known as one of the main centers for Gamelan in Bali). We visited him and he graciously sang a folk song recounting stories from the  Mahabharata, and played a song for us on suling (end-blown bamboo flute). This was actually the same suling which he brought to the US in the 60s; he gave it to me as a gift after our many visits with him.

Buskers on Javanese public buses 1

Buskers on Javanese public buses 2

Buskers on Javanese public buses 3

Taking the buses and trains around Java you’ll often encounter merchants hopping on and walking through, selling snacks or children’s toys, and guys who walk through the aisles with a guitar singing original material or traditional folk songs. My visit was just after the riots and political turmoil in 1998, and we heard a lot of original songs about the Suharto regime, the corruption of the military and so on. On certain point in these recordings you can also hear a little kid battling it out with the musicians crossroads-duel style using a squeaky toy…



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