Various - Folk And Pop Sounds Of Sumatra Volume 1 LP


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Label: Sublime Frequencies

Our Review:

Folk And Pop Sounds of Sumatra was assembled from cassettes acquired by the Sun City Girls' Alan Bishop through trade or purchase in 1989 while traveling through Sumatra, which is located on the furthest Western edge of the Indonesian archipelago. This landmass is big (as big as California) and widely unexplored in the audio realm in comparison with its neighboring islands to the East, Java and Bali. The disc begins with the Haba Haba Group in which a male singer is accompanied by flute, two alternating gongs and percussion and secondly by an unknown Sumatran Dangdut (crazy overdriven pop with a heavy Indian film music influence). The most immediately noticeable difference in these recordings from Sumatra to Bali & Java is the overt Arabic influence on the music. As if to admonish us against generalizations, there's a later Dangdut track, with runaway Farfisa organ, pleasant arpeggiating electric guitar and female vocals sounds not dissimilar to the "keroncong" music of The Steps. While the disc may begin innocently enough, the sequencing of the tracks seduces the listener into the strange world of Sumatran music. The very Arabic sounding "Indan g Pariaman" which features a female singer whose melody line interweaves beautifully with end blown wooden flute and some more incredibly nutty buzzing electric keyboard (one can only imagine that the sound is intended to imitate a double reed instrument of old) is moved along by jovial electric bass and Casio-rhythm. The combination of acoustic and archaic electric instruments is shamelessly wonderful. Later an orchestra of sorts, complete with violin, electric organ, bass, drums, female voice leads us down a fragrant path that's oddly reminiscent of a Sun City Girls track. Speaking of which, though this one technically isn't, there are a couple of tracks on here which indeed are songs covered by the Girls, can you figure out which ones? Along with the songs proper included here, there are some great excerpts from dramas. The first instance begins with sweet flute and what's supposed to be a rooster crowing, but emulated by what sounds like an old air raid siren played through a broken megaphone. A melodramatic dialogue ensues between a terribly afflicted female and a stoic male voice. Needless to say, this one comes highly recommended.