Smithsonian Folkways' Music of Indonesia Series, Vol. 19: Music of Maluku - Halmahera, Buru, Kei, focuses on the eastern Indonesian province of Maluku (also known as the Moluccas), an area that spans many tiny Islands. Because of the difficulty of travel between the islands, the editors for this volume of the CD decided to be representative instead of comprehensive in their selection of material, therefore the music here comes just from three regions -- Halmahera, Buru and Kei.
The music of Maluku that the most generalizations can be made about is that which has been brought from the outside; Islamic devotional singing and dance, Sufi ritual music, Christian hymns, and katreji ensemble (which shows evidence of European and, more recently, Hawaiian influence), all have been absorbed into the local idiom. The "traditional" music of Maluku has not been well documented because of the diversity of its inhabitants and the geographic boundaries that have inhibited musicologists' best efforts. This collection focuses on snippets from many of these styles of music. Among the most interesting tracks is the second, entitled "Lagu Togal," which combines a song form that is the descendant of European folk dance music with lyrics that describe a lost love. "Tigertama" and "Perusi Tajang" are supposedly musical imitations of a mythical man who liked to beat on tree trunks in the forest. "Marin Uib" is the only Folkways Indonesian recording to feature children -- it is a children's choir singing a rowing song from the Kei region. Also fascinating are the last three tracks of the recording, from the Halmahera region; they are ritual songs for a group of Sufis who, while protected by a spiritual leader, called a syeh, stab themselves with steel awls, causing bleeding wounds and inducing a higher state of consciousness. The music itself is mesmerizing and provides a very interesting conclusion to this informative and intriguing collection of recordings.