Here's a slightly manic recording of a Balinese angklung balaganjur hybrid style. I always feel a little wobbly after a few minutes of listening to this one. I think it's the sulings. Your mileage may vary. Nice deluxe fold out cassette packaging from the Maharani/Rick's Records label.
Masterful performances by STSI throughout both sides of this great cassette. Their take on the venerable Tabuh Kutus Pelayon stands out; with classic telescoping lelambatan structure, evolving towards a gong-cycle sublime, and the interlocked gamelan super-focus required to articulate it all. The B side has some unusual choral accompaniment that hovers wonderfully amongst the shimmering metallic pulsations. Beautiful music.
Hard hitting and bruising Beleganjur performance courtesy of Sekehe Gong Puspa Werdi. Heavy in form, but fluid and torrential in execution, these four intense pieces capture a propulsive energy, full of much fervor. Great stuff!
Music for drinking, singing, and joyful abandon. Genjek is a fairly recent creation of the past few decades. Originating from the north/northeast of Bali, it's now become popular over much of the island. The name comes from the word 'gonjok' meaning 'joke'. Vital to any successful genjek session is tuak - a sweet & sour, milky wine beverage made from cocoanut palm flower. Potent and acidic, tuak is usually served from plastic jugs and consumed at room temperature (which, being the tropics, is not much colder than ones' own body temperature). Often there's some inadvertent dead ant garnish floating in the swill. Similar to drunkenness and punk rock, it's said that the more tuak consumed the better the genjek song. Listening to this tape and not intending any criticism, it does sound like the musician's are more pleasantly buzzed than wasted; it would be pretty tough to keep it together as well as they do if they were completely trashed! Besides, there's a lady singing and she wouldn't imbibe with the fellas.
In Bali there's a ceremonial repertoire for gamelan called Lelambatan (literally: slow music), the primary purpose of which is for entertaining visiting deities at the temple. Intensifying with an uncanny grace, the super-refined complex structure of a lelambatan composition reveals itself in an almost organic way; articulating a sense of harmony between the human world and the greater celestial dimension. This exquisitely balanced sentiment also works to guide the mortal listener's mind towards the idea of a cosmos beyond while, simultaneously, defining their place relative to it. Yes, it's music for the Gods - but people get something too!
More interesting music from the Kaliakah village in West Bali, home of the previously posted Angklung Reong. This tape combines solo Kidung Wargasarivocal poetics with gamelan gong accompaniment - a very nice reverent vibe captured.
Here's a remarkable tape documenting the mysterious Nolin ensemble from the Pujungan village in the highlands of west Bali. These guys make deeply wonderful music; Kruyuk Siap, the tune that opens side A, exemplifies this - check out the wooden clapper kotekan that appears at about the 9:30 mark! I've searched quite a bit, but have yet to unearth any information about nolin. It would be great to know more. Please leave a comment if you have any info - I'd be much obliged!
Austere recording of the Balinese romantic, quasi-historical kidung wargasari poem. Often heard at temple festivals reverberating from within the structure's inner sanctum, these sustained incantations are performed by groups (like on this tape) or, to different effect, solo. Gamelan accompaniment is sometimes a feature. I first heard this particular cassette when it was being blasted from an old loudspeaker for the benefit of the whole village - it sounded very cool echoing throughout hills. With a little work I tracked a copy down for myself, but have yet to crank it for the neighborhood. Nice cutout artwork on the cover.
Busy week here for your humble BG janitor, so just a quick post with this very straight forward (but perfectly fine) 90 min collection of Balinese gamelan. Works as a good introduction to some classic tunes.
More music from Western Bali - this time from the Kaliakah village, home of the harsh "Makepung" buffalo race. However they treat their livestock there, I won't hold it against the cool music on this tape - a meditative soundtrack for mortality and creation.
More gamelan gong gede, this time from STSI - Bali's premier college of the arts. Truly sublime compositions that unfold like stratified mandalas, and effect time for reverence of the deities sacred dimension. There's a second volume to this which is just as good - I'll post that later.
The pereret is a ancient kind of reedy trumpet/oboe instrument found on various islands in Indonesia. Apparently in the West Bali Jembrana district young single men will clime into trees at night and play enchanting serenades on their pererets to seduce maidens from the village for some amorous hookup. They probably wouldn't bother doing it if it didn't work! Here's a brief article in Indonesian that has more of an explanation. This tape captures an ensemble of pererets augmented with suling, a small gamelan, and some occasional singing. Even though they're from the West Bali Batuagung village, I don't know if there's much of a connection with the tree bound fellas described above and the music/musicians on this tape other than they come from the same region of the island. Regardless, the music is very cool and heavy - and, who knows, might very well cast a potent spell on some womenfolk. The pererets themselves saturate the sound in a wonderful way, creating blown out chords that rise from the driving percussion and gongs. Very nice! (Suling Pereret (B 886).rar - 83MB)
I purchased this mildly strange album in Bangkok from one of those old record shops that cluster around the same city block (if i remember correctly the street's near chinatown, but it's a large city and it's been awhile.) The music is basically ten pop songs with (what sounds like) children doing the singing over a groovin' 80s backup band. Their influences are awkwardly obvious at times (Giorgio Moroder, Santana, etc.), but they still rock out in earnest. The weird thing is that it's always the kids singing. Perhaps they won a talent contest or something. It's probably all explained on the record sleeve - in Thai. Just so you have an idea of what you're getting into, here's a single tune to digest.
Great tape of marathon Baleganjur workouts. This is heavy, virtuosic, hypnotic music. The waves of interlocking reyong patterns (reyongan) that these guys play sounds wonderful. Total focus. Curious artwork from Aneka - kind of a faux tear theme going on.
"Every part of the Thai is blessed with venom. Even with his bare hands, he can fell nine or ten opponents."
- King Mangra
Music from the Kingdom of Thailand for fighting and nationalistic fervor. Connoisseurs of Muay Thai, national anthems, double reeds, circular breathing, and spry hand percussion should check out this one. Great stuff.
Here's a cool tape of Bali's largest type of gamelan - the awesome gamelan gong gede. With a repertoire and colossal sound created specifically to call the gods to attention, it exudes heaviness. It also functions as one of Bali's most enduring sonic connections with a bygone era of royal courts and spectacular ceremonies. I'm in the dark about the vocals that show up throughout side A - they sound great though.
Very nice album of instrumental Balinese gamelan accompaniment for the sacred Barong dance - one of Bali's most well known dances, famous for the "scene" where the witch Rangda puts a spell on the followers of the Barong, forcing them to stab themselves with their own krisses. It's all very dramatic. Also, here's a excellent and very detailed description of what it's like see to see one of the performances typically shown to tourists and big crowds.
Nice tape of the seldomheardofftheisland Balinese gamelan angklung kebyar. For some info on angklung in Bali http://www.asianclassicalmp3.org/ has a brief but very nice description here, with some cool songs to check out as well. This tape is just one example of many showing how the kebyar style has inspired all kinds of ensembles outside of the gamelan gong family to shake things up over the years. Cool little obsessive doodle as part the cassette artwork.
I purchased this tape in Bangkok at one of those stores that caters to the monastic crowd. I wonder if it was ever a big seller? The music's Indian, but, with the vibe suiting the artwork, it's obviously not bollywood fun time. To be honest, I don't know if "hell" is really the most accurate descriptor for this, but I'm going with it - seems apt enough. Note: there's only one 21 min song being that the same track appears on both sides of the tape.
This is a raw, lo-fi cassette recording documenting a Balinese performance of the venerable Indonesian topeng mask dance. The propulsive gamelan overture that opens side A sounds really great through the murky tape fuzz, periodic mic feedback, and raucous crowd noise. For more info on Balinese topeng here's a good Jakarta Post article from 2001, specifically talking about the humor that's often a feature of performances in Bali these days, and also mentioning I Gusti Ngurah Windia who performs on this very tape.
I picked this tape up somewhere in Bangkok, most likely at one of the numerous department stores for university students - those places being pretty good for bulk tape buying. There's some really catchy cool tunes on here, with a few of 'em swinging hard. The singing's nice, and the band's playing sounds on - check out what the rhythm guitar's up to, morphing from traditional guitar duties to gong approximations and such. Very cool. Like Thai shadow music(I'll post some of that later)I really dig the songs that sound like they're more based on traditional grooves, but it's all worth a listen imho. Enjoy!
This is a cool tape of Balinese gamelan pelegongan - a antiquated or klasik kind of pentatonic gamelan very closely related to the gamelan semar pegulingan and mostly associated with the ultra-refined classical legong keraton dance (hence it's name: pe-legong-an, meaning "accomplishment to the legong"). Pelegongan was the kind of gamelan that was holding sway over the island during colonial times up until the modern kebyar craze hit the scene and blew many minds. The gamelan that performs on this tape is from the government college of the arts, at the time of the recording called ASTI (Akademi Seni Tari Indonesia) but since changed in 1988 to STSI (Sekolah Tinggi Seni Indonesia). Nice hand drawn lettering on the cover of this tape, and cool Bali Record logo/sticker on the cassette itself.
A super nice album of Javanese gamelan music recorded in July, 1992 at Pusaka Studio, Semarang for the esteemed Keraton label. Music for gongs, strange masks and cool dance. Been listening to this one a lot lately.
This intense Thai cassette is a dear favorite, and still leaves me with the same somber feeling that I had when I first heard it - but like my other Thai tapes, I'm pretty much in the dark when it comes to a substantial explanation for the music. It's obviously mastered from vinyl, like many of the Thai classical music tapes out there. Also I was told that it's funeral music, which makes perfect sense. The saturated lament that opens side A sets the vibe with a weeping man's cries of sorrow over the loss of his friend, all accompanied by the piphat emsemble. What follows is a heavy spiral of blown out instrumental music and haunting pi solos - powerful stuff. Cool open shutter photo for the cover art as well. I would love to know more about this cassette - if anyone reading this can provide some insight into the story here, please leave a comment - I would be much obliged.
"i think i can help you out with some context for this tape. you're right about it being funeral music; the style is "piphat mon", derived from the mon people, though now part of the thai repertoire, played (by thais) at funerals.. i'm not sure about historically how it acquired this position, other than through the clearly plaintive nature of the tunes.. this would be interesting to look into! there are no artists listed, only the description of the ensemble as a ปี่พาทย์มอญเครื่องใหญ่ (piphat mon khrueang yai), which indicates the size and instrumentation of the orchestra. this is a really excellent recording, i've never heard vocals like this! thanks so much for sharing."
Totally beautiful tape of the ancient and deeply revered gamelan slonding - also spelled selonding, selundeng, etc. - considered probably to be the oldest known type of Balinese gamelan ensemble, predating the gamelan gambuh. Something else that distinguishes slonding is that it's the gamelan most commonly associated with the present day Bali Aga, original Balinese whose history is one of mystery and geographic isolation. Not unlike how a possessed record collector behaves towards his most precious piece of vinyl, the Bali Aga village of Tengana kept their gamelan slonding secluded away for centuries, only bringing the instruments out for the most important of religious rituals. People couldn't even look at the gamelan without an elaborate ritual undertaken to protect the purity of the instruments. It wasn't until the last few decades that the village made the quite controversial decision to allow the gamelan to be recorded. I wonder what changed their mind? It all seems a little arbitrary. Whatever happened - we can only be grateful - the music is amazing. There's a quality to the sound that's delicate yet enduring - a rippling, shimmering sentiment passed down from antiquity.
I've always been fond of warped tape sound - it's a feature of the medium. Instead of dismissing the whole package as damaged beyond interest, I usually try to embrace the phenomena in some way if I encounter it. Certainly there are times when it'd be nice to have the option to hear the original recording unaffected. In my experience cassette tapes from the Balinese ANEKA label (a scruffy, slightly awkward alternative to the mighty Bali Record) seem to be afflicted about half the time with some sort of warped weirdness. The cassette pictured above (from which this short gilak tune comes from) is a good example - the entire B side is empty, while the A side warbles throughout. You can also see that the little pressure pad thingy that sits under the tape has become dislodged and free floating - that being a simple fix. Once the tape is stretched though it's warble city all the way. I usually ask the vendor to "test" the tape before purchasing - they don't mind, they know the drill - it's the final quality control check before the thing heads out into the world to be forgotten or repeat itself until it dies.
More baleganjur - though with the trendy alternate spelling. Same difference. All throughout this totally great tape Seka Gong Kalingga Jaya play from the heart, with the spoon-bending focus and indefatigable stamina required for the style. Additionally there are several pieces where Balinese Agama Hindu incantations are performed - I'm not sure what the proper name is to describe these - Kidung maybe? It's a profound and heavy sound that brings a quality of strong reverence to the music, and probably not heard much at all outside of the context of a Balinese religious ceremony.
Unfortunately I cannot speak Thai, nor read it - but I have a good handful of Thai cassettes. It often makes for mysterious listening. The music still sounds great. Molam in particular seems to connect wonderfully with quite a few listeners outside the kingdom. Here's a very nice molam cassette to check out - one from among the seemingly endless catalog of Molam recordings floating around out there. Enjoy!
Some very heavy gong cycles and swirling suling captured on this baleganjur tape - or bedondangan, if you're persnickety about such things. Maybe it's the incessant saturation/distortion that makes the ceng ceng sound like mere bursts of white noise or that much of the higher freqs have simply been eroded away - whatever - there's just something about the fidelity of this cassette that compliments the music perfectly.
Most of the tracks on this French produced comp are excellent, offering up a very nice musical sampling of Malaysia's diverse cultural and ethnic makeup. It's no small feat assembling a collection that attempts to cover such a broad spectrum of music - however, what really makes this record superlative imho is the Sabah and Sarawak tunes that wrap up the B side. The funky, tumbling rhythms these guys play on their gongs out there in the Borneo jungle totally delivers the cool, intense vibe you'd expect. It's a minor bummer that the tracks aren't longer - brevity does not behoove this kind of music.