Smithsonian Folkways' Music of Indonesia Vol. 18 - Sulawesi: Festivals, Funerals, Work shows some careful selection on the part of the Music of Indonesia series editors. Another collection (Volume 15 of the Music of Indonesia series) had already been issued on the music of South Sulawesi, yet many more musical styles were left to be explored.
This volume of the series was supposed to represent each of the four major regions of Sulawesi, but the recording team ran out of time and was unable to make any recordings of Southeast Sulawesi. The focus then is on Central, North, and South Sulawesi. Because of the overwhelming influence of pop and missionary music styles on regional music in this area, Folkways decided to limit this volume to more the traditional music of indigenous festivals, funerals, and work. There is still quite a lot of interesting material here, regardless.
The first two tracks feature a Pakarena ensemble playing the final two segments of a dance that would typically be featured at a wedding or other celebration. The music is an ecstatic drum ensemble which displays increasingly passionate playing. While the drummers are playing, the dancers are supposed to remain almost motionless and serene, symbolizing either the women who ignore the attention-grabbing of men, or the pious who keep their focus among the distractions of the world. Also featured are funeral songs from an ascetic sect called the Kajang, featuring a beautiful blending of flute and voice. Equally interesting, but of an entirely different character is another type of dance, the Raego, which is featured on track 6 of this CD. The Raego that was supposed to have been included on the CD was one appropriate for a celebration, however, a mother and child had just died nearby and in the interest of appeasing their spirits, a funeral version was chosen instead. Because it is a dance featuring mixed groups of men and women, Raego had been the target of missionaries who claimed it was immoral; the colonial government had tried to limit its performance because they declared it a decadent waste of time. By the mid-'90s, however, more sinister outside cultural influences had displaced the concern about village dances, so it was no longer opposed. This song is quite beautiful and mournful, and features the rhythmic round-singing of the male and female dancers. The collection is closed with "Ma'owei Kamberu," a harvest song which was performed by an award-winning Indonesian folk group, Maengket Pisok Lengkoan, which has been performing for over 40 years and draws its members from a variety of ethnic groups in North Sulawesi. It provides a triumphant end to this fine collection.