Busker playing Angklung on Jalan Malioboro

Angklung Busker on Jalan Malioboro
2 min 51 sec / 3.91 MB / 192kbps MP3

Walking through Jalan Malioboro, the main street of Yogyakarta, I could hear angklung. It was there, I was sure of it. But when I looked around to find the source of the angklung I couldn’t find it. I asked my friend if she heard it too and she said it was just in one of the songs playing through the speakers of a shop we were walking past. But the shop was too my left and I was certain the angklung was coming from my right.

An hour or two later, I walked down the street again and hear the angklung again. Hidden from view, I found a man squatting behind a hedge, with an angklung set in front of him. I sat down to listen for a few minutes and then left a couple of thousand rupiah as I walked away.

Jamming with karinding(s)

Photo from su.wikipedia.org

Karinding Jam at Taman Budaya Jawa Barat, 11/2/2012
1 min 46 sec / 2.42 MB / 192kbps MP3

I was at a wayang golek performance of a story from the Ramayana epic at Taman Budaya Jawa Barat that never finished because of the rain. Stuck inside because of the heavy rain, I had a look around the souvenir “shop” and found these little wooden things which I found out are a Sundanese musical instrument called karinding.

A karinding is a type of jaw harp made out of bamboo. It’s similar to a traditional Hmong instrument used in Vietnam called Đàn môi and many other jaw harps found all over the world. However, I’m not sure how many other jaw harps there are in the world that are made from bamboo or any other wood.

So anyway, while we were all hanging around, trying to keep dry from the rain that just kept on falling, some of the guys who were hanging around had a jam using karinding to demonstrate how it’s played and what it sounds like. I can’t remember how many people were playing, I think at least four.

Also, if you want to hear a better recording of people doing really awesome stuff with karinding you should check out Karinding Attack.

Wayang Golek at Taman Budaya Jawa Barat, Bandung

Wayang Golek at Taman Budaya Jawa Barat
9 min 56 sec / 13.6 MB / 192kbps MP3

Here’s a recording from a wayang golek show I saw while in Bandung. Basically, wayang golek are wooden puppets and the show is accompanied by gamelan music. This show was a contemporary version of wayang golek – instead of just one puppeteer there were about forty and there were even breakdancers dressed as monkeys.

From what I could figure out, the show was based on the Ramayana epic. Shinta (Sita) was kidnapped by Rahwana (Ravana) in the beginning and then there was some mad fighting between lots of monkeys and the bad guys. I couldn’t really follow the story because I can’t understand Sundanese and I’m not very familiar with the storyline of the Ramayana. However, I don know the meaning of the word geulis (beautiful), so I could figure out that Rahwana justified his kidnapping of Shinta by saying he couldn’t hep himself, she’s too geulis. I guess the “she’s asking for it” excuse has been around since ancient times. I wonder if women in Lanka or Ayodhya ever had their own Slut Walk.

Unfortunately, it started raining during the show and it had to end short. So I don’t know what happens in the end. Not that I was relaly aware of what was happening in the start or the middle. But the gamelan was awesome, the puppets were cool, the monkeys were cute and the breakdancing monkeys was best gila.

Efek Rumah Kaca @ GSG Institut Teknologi Telkom, Bandung – 10/2/2012

Efek Rumah Kaca
1 hr 15 min 50 sec / 104 MB / 192kbps MP3

Efek Rumah Kaca are a band from Jakarta who I was actually going to see in Kuala Lumpur last December but their tour was postponed or cancelled for some reason. Fortunately, before leaving Nusantara (and yes, I’m using this term to include Malaysia as well), I had the opportunity to see them. And possibly making it more special, I had the opportunity to see them perform an acoustic set, even if their performance was “acoustic” in the sense that instead of using an electric guitar plugged through reverb, delay and other effects pedals and a guitar amp, the guitarist used an acoustic guitar plugged through reverb, delay and other effects pedals and a guitar amp.

A few of my Indonesian friends like Efek Rumah Kaca. And whenever I ask them why, they usually have the same response: “Mereka pakai Bahasa Indonesia yang baik dan benar” – that is, they use good and proper Indonesian.

Maybe I just don’t understand, growing up with English as my native tongue, in a country that never successfully fought off imperialism with “One Motherland, One Nation, One Language” as its funadamental ideals, but I always found that reason odd. It might be that whereas the “One Language” in the Youth Pledge of 1928 was seen as a progressive move toward unity among all people of the archipelago oppressed by Dutch colonialism, the only analogous Australian example  I can think of is “Speak English or Fuck Off”, the rallying call of unity against the oppression of Anglo-Australians at the hands of the powerless non-Anglo minority populations. But even a brief look over the Anti-Bogan blog, will demonstrate that maybe these Anglo Freedom Fighters weren’t really specific when it comes down to the “good and proper” usage of English.

[TANGENT] I think it would be funny if there was a t-shirt that said: “Speak Cadigal or Fuck Off”. If it hasn’t been done already. [/TANGENT]

Racist connotations aside, I still can’t seem to understand the main reason for enjoying a band is because they use “good and proper Indonesian”. Maybe its because, even though I’ve spent years in school learning something that is considered proper English, I spend so much time trying to find the best ways to break English. I sit and look at pages and pages of LolCats pikchaz on teh interwebz. And although they said he wouldn’t make it, said he was a loser, said he was a fuckin’ psycho, look at Ninja now, all up in the interwebs, two thaasend naarn, and damn there’s just something awesome about hearing that Afrikaans accent rapping in Akrikaanglish. Besides Die Antwoord and their accents, some of the best (English language) hip hop is all about trying to find the best ways to tear apart the English language. And its not just a feature of hip hop, one of my favourite books, The God of Small Things, is a favourite because of the way Arundhati Roy plays with English. I am in awe of her ability to do so. Opening up the first page of the book, you’d find Arundhati Roy dedicating the book to “Mary Roy who grew me up” and people who don’t know any better always ask me, “Is it because she can’t write English properly?”

And I know its not just me that thinks one of the best things about travelling is learning the different ways that English is spoken. Anyone who’s been to Malaysia knows the determination one feels toward mastering the “lah”. You need to know where it goes, and how to say it – it’s not just something you can put on the end of every sentence. And if you stay there long enough, you might start to say, “open your shoes”, “close the light”, and if you stay there even longer you might begin to just use a whole bunch of Malay words in your English, or even impose Malay grammar rules on your English and start putting adjectives after the nouns. Maybe that last one was just me. You cannot deny the fascination of hearing English spoken in a completely different way to what you’re used to. Of course, there are the haters who’d call it “broken”, but fuck Lee Kuan Yew and let’s all Speak Good Singlish!

You don’t even need to go that far to hear English spoken in different ways. Catching a train around Sydney, you’d hear a whole lot of different accents and if you listen close enough you might even notice some little grammatical quirks depending on where you are. Listening to Chinese fathers talk to their children in English in the third person is one. And it wasn’t until I had it pointed out to me by a Singaporean friend, I noticed that I, and others that I know, have a tendency to end sentences with “but”. Seriously, why the fuck am I ending sentences with conjunctions? (Actually, at first my Singaporean friend though I was speaking Indonesian, adding mbak on the end to every sentence I made when talking to a friend). Maybe its a Bankstown thing. Bankstown in itself is a linguistic amusement park. The linguistic tour of Sydney is an internal journey as well. I’m aware that I switch between a variety of accents and styles of English depending on context. Maybe the differences are subtle, but I notice them.

Maybe my inability to accept “good and proper Indonesian” as a reason for liking a band come from the fact, that I didn’t grow up with “good and proper” English. Firstly, on my dad’s side of the family, I never had a grandmother or granfather, not even a nanna or a pop (I never knew my maternal grandfather, so I don’t actually know what the informal form of grandfather is. Is it pop?). Instead, I had a nonna and a nonno. And I never asked for hot milk, I would always yell out for hot latte. And no, latte is not a coffee, it means milk. Plain milk. And when I was growing up I never had to poo, I would always caca. On my mother’s side, even my Anglo-Australian nanna can’t speak “good and proper” English. And that’s ok, because if she did, I probably wouldn’t get so much enjoyment out of hearing people say, “I seen it” or “I aksed ‘im”.

Before I get into a real debate about descriptive linguistic versus prescriptive linguistics, I should go back to talking about Efek Rumah Kaca. I seem to be able to go on lengthy rants about language, but I’m not so good at describing music. I like Efek Rumah Kaca, I really do, but I just don’t know how to say why I like them. With most music I listen to, especially music with vocals in a language other than English, or music with vocals that are in English but produce the same feeling (e.g. grindcore), I’m attracted to it on a purely aesthetic level. I also can’t say why I like Efek Rumah Kaca on an aesthetic level, I just do.

After listening to Efek Rumah Kaca a few times, and as my ability to understand Bahasa Indonesia yang baik dan benar increases, little fragments of clarity begin to emerge as lyrics become understood. What previously sounded like Sigur Ros now sounds like a powerful homage to a well-known human rights and anti-corruption activist and a warning to authorities that continue to oppress the rakyat. And then, just like that, I like Efek Rumah Kaca more.

For this gig, catching three angkots, from one side of Bandung to the other, to a place we weren’t really sure where we were going, and finally arriving and sitting on the floor with a hundred or so other people, who were all singing along, was totally worth it.

Oh, and…

Mahathir and becoming Malay

More support for my quest to become Malay. This time from the most Malay person ever, Dr Mahathir:

The Indians and the Arabs changed the pattern of trade in the old Malay sultanates. They not only traded, but some of them settled and married Malays close to the courts of the rajas. Because these merchants had to be astute in business and reasonably rich in order to trade so far from their homeland, it is not surprising that their abilities were soon recognised and utilised by the Malay rajas. They became influential in the Malay courts and were in time accepted as Malays. Quite naturally they became more and more involved in the commercial life of the country, but they were regarded by themselves not as foreigners but as Malays. Their business know-how and their contacts with the courts as well as with foreign merchants brought a new sophistication into Malay business. No longer were the rajas required to trade directly. Henceforth they, as well as the ra’ayat, were serviced by competent merchants and shopkeepers, whom they could still identify with their own race, even though the racial origins were different.

Mahathir bin Mohamad, The Malay Dilemma, p. 34

So, according to Mahathir, Indians and Arabs, some of whom were actually born in India and the Arab peninsula instead of being born in Malaysia or being “the issue of such a person”, were accepted as Malays, regarded themselves as Malays and had racial solidarity with actually Malay Malays?

Well if it makes sense to Mahathir, then that’s good enough for me. If my Indian and Arab brothers could do it, then what’s stopping a mat salleh like me?

Killeur Calculateur & Orbitcinta Benjamin Split Release Party @ Grafa Bike Cafe, Subang Jaya – 29/1/2012

Just saying, flyers for gigs are a little bit annoying when they just have something as ambiguous as “SS15” as the address of the venue. To put it into Sydney terms, it’s like writing “Petersham” on a flyer. So after walking around SS15, taking unfamiliar roads in unfamiliar directions, I finally found Grafa Bike Cafe. Basically, a “bike cafe” seems to be a cafe that is also a fixie shop, or a fixie shop that is also a cafe, and a place where many fixie-riding people come and hang out. It kind of felt like I’d walk through a portal into Melbourne, except all the people were Asian, not white. The gig was held in the backyard area, which was a very nice place for a gig and many workers from nearby restaurants seemed to come around the back and have a look, or a laugh, at what was going on.

Jin Hackman
18 min 27 sec / 25.3 MB / 192kbps MP3
Its pretty cool getting to see hip hop at a “punk” (or if you wanna get specific “screamo/skramz”) gig. I didn’t think it was that great but there was enough humour and dissing on Reza Salleh to make it worth it. And Arabyrd rapping in one of the verses was a nice surprise too.

Killeur Calculateur
12 min 53 sec / 17.7 MB / 192kbps MP3
For some reason Killeur Calculateur only played for twelve minutes. I hadn’t seen them since almost three years earlier, so maybe that’s just the normal thing for them. Anyway, they were good twelve minutes and I think it would still be good, if not better, if they played for another twelve.

16 min 16 sec / 22.3 MB / 192kbps MP3
This is the band whose name Jin Hackman didn’t know how to pronounce. That’s ok, because I don’t really know either but apparently its what French people call Free Willy. I’ve recorded Epaulard once before but this time they had a new drummer and a keyboard player, which was a pretty cool addition and something I haven’t seen much of in that skramz muzik.

Orbitcinta Benjamin
16 min 21 sec / 22.4 MB / 192kbps MP3
I first heard Orbitcinta Benjamin many years ago on some skramz compilation, I think it was called “Emo Apocalypse”, in which each band had to submit a song that was less than 30 seconds. I enjoyed the Orbitcinta Benjamin song and after figuring out they were from Malaysia I always wanted to see them, even though I wasn’t sure they still existed. Well, they do still exist and I finally got to see them just before saying goodbye to this country. They do that fast, chaotic style skramz.

Frinjan Edisi 26 @ Kompleks Belia dan Kebudayaan Selangor, Shah Alam – 27/1/2012

Frinjan events are usually lots of fun. Even if the bands playing aren’t that great, its still a nice environment to hang out it and have a look around at all the tables of things people are selling. Lots of books, CDs and clothes. At this month’s Frinjan I had a little “free table” with all the stuff I want to get rid of before I leave Malaysia. Thanks to the pak cik who picked up the two books to learn English.

Dum Dum Tak
25 min 6 sec / 34.4 MB / 192kbps MP3
Dum Dum Tak are awesome and I can’t believe it took me this long to realise it. In terms of sound, Dum Dum Tak are just a punk band, but that’s not really the point. The message, is the point (as well as the language its delivered in – Dum Dum Tak being one of the only punk bands I’ve seen to use Malay for the majority, if not all, of their lyrics). I guess in a way Dum Dum Tak feels like they’re Malaysia’s Marjinal, but of course it’s not fair to put so much weight on trying to make comparisons. There’s a cover of The Internationale in Malay, a cover of Nyanyi Budaya Pembebasan and two Marjinal covers – Negri Ngeri and Marsinah. As well as a few of their own songs about politics and life in Malaysia and, of course, the recording includes the sound of all the people around me yelling along to the parts they know.

Members of Dum Dum Tak also recently published a book about punk in Malaysia called Punk Rock: Disebalik Fesyen dan Muzik Bising, which as the title suggests, is written in Malay. When I get around to reading it I might even do a few translations of the good parts. But that might not be for a while. Until then, at least there’s this little recording.