Friday, July 15, 2011


Each night this week the soundtrack of the village has been swept on the wind to our usually peaceful abode. Three nights of gong music, two nights of soppy Indonesian love songs with a deep distorted base, one night of gospel singing, then back to the gongs.

Despite being staunch Protestants, the traditions of past generations remain in times of crisis or death.  For (a minimum) three nights after a person dies, the gongs are played to ward off evil while the spirit travels to heaven.  A crude form of gamelan, the gongs are played with a clash of syncopated sound, loosely organised and continuous.  The rhythm varies from the tic-toc of a grandfather clock on speed to a crescendo of jazzy clanging. The village owns one set of gongs that are guarded by the kepala desa (chief). It is a sound that brings me to the present and reminds me that I am in Indonesia.

The two nights of base music from a nearby wedding also reminds me I am in Indonesia, the one that is embracing western culture with fervour, and blasting it too the heavens with the almighty power of speakers. There is no cut off time and no complaints.  The electricity is on all night, why not keep the music going?

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thanks for taking the time

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