Various Artists

Music of Indonesia, Vol. 2: Indonesian Popular Music

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This volume samples three varieties of Indonesian pop music, all emanating from the capital, Jakarta. Like so much pop music, all these forms originated with the lower classes. Kroncong harks back to the 19th century when singers would improvise boastful lyrics over melodies adapted from "Black Portuguese" songs. Ukulele was a key instrument in the sound from the start, later joined by other local lutes and by guitar. As the music began to appeal to a higher class of patron, it became slower and more polished. Today, it is performed rarely, but well appreciated by a small, loyal audience, particularly those who came of age during the revolution years, 1945-49. In the patriotic songs and love songs sampled here, there is an Old World stateliness reminiscent of the Cuban danzon. The scales are familiar, but the soundscapes and melodic phrasing are exotic.

Langaam jawa, a beautiful offshoot of kroncong, has something of the serene, tuneful quality of Javanese gamelan music. On one selection here, melodies played on a gong row interweave with plucked strings to rich effect.

Dangdut is the pop music of today's young Muslims, which means most Indonesian youth. Songs speak of daily life from an urban poor perspective, often with some inherent social protest. Middle Eastern pop music, such as that produced in Lebanon and Egypt, is clearly a model for this sound. Songs feature quirky production ideas, catchy melodies, lilting dance grooves, and a range of instrumentation that includes rock guitars and keyboards, horns, Hawaiian guitar, strings, and local instruments. The variety and playfulness in the seven dangdut tracks here help to make this one of the most accessible volumes in the series.

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