Indonesia Study Group

12:30 pm – 2:00 pm
13 February, 2019
McDonald Room, Menzies Library entry level, RG Menzies Building #2, ANU


Indonesian regional music in commercial media: inclusion, fusion, exclusion

Philip Yampolsky

This talk will report on a fifteen-year project to research the representation of Indonesian regional music and theater on VCD (video compact discs, until recently the main commercial medium for music in Indonesia). Representation is a key term here.  There are countless varieties of local music in the regions (daerah) of Indonesia, but only a small portion of them appear on VCD. And the manner in which those that do appear are represented is often heavily influenced by two national manners or modes of presentation, one musical and one aesthetic.  The musical mode or manner is that of national popular music, which is essentially Western in instrumentation and idiom; and the aesthetic mode is that of television and stage performance.  That regional music on VCD very often conforms to these norms clearly reflects widespread Indonesian ideas of what regional music should be or should aspire to become. For most of this report, my approach will be descriptive, seeking simply to identify the categories and trends in regional VCDs. In a coda, however, I will discuss an example (from Indonesian Timor) of the kind of traditional rural genre that — failing to conform to the prevailing norms, and hence having no commercial appeal — is excluded from VCD production.  Here my stance becomes critical — not of Indonesians or Indonesian media, but of current scholarship, which, fascinated by the popular, the diasporic, and the global, allows such rich rural micro-genres to vanish (as they almost certainly will) undocumented and unstudied.

Dr Philip Yampolsky has studied the music of Island Southeast Asia since 1971. In the 1990s he recorded, edited, and annotated the 20-CD series Music of Indonesia (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings: https://folkways.si.edu/music-of-indonesia-series/smithsonian). From 2000 through 2006 he was Program Officer for Arts and Culture in the Jakarta Office of the Ford Foundation. In 2007 he founded a world music institute at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign). Since retiring in 2011 he has concentrated on researching and documenting traditional music in rural areas of Timor (both the Indonesian and the independent halves of the island).