Category Archives: Research

Balinese Dance

This post is long overdue! A while back I had the chance to attend a special service at a Balinese church a few hours away.  The opening and closing of the service featured Balinese dance, and I was asked to record it.  This was all part of my research and learning about this community so that I can better understand and help them.  In a few weeks, I’ll be hosting a three day seminar on music, worship, and culture there to encourage them to think about more ways that their Balinese culture can be a part of their worship.

These two videos were shared on Facebook a while back, but I’d like to post them here as well for those of you who missed them the first time around. Enjoy!

Opening:

 

Closing:

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Filed under Church Events, Dance, Ethnoarts, language/culture, Music, Research

Balinese gamelan…on Sulawesi

In our area there are numerous Balinese immigrants, especially on the east coast of our island.  Many of them are Hindu, but there’s a significant Christian population too and many of them belong to our church denomination.

One of the most exciting things for us to see is that although they are Christians, they have not abandoned their Balinese culture and language.  The church building is in a Balinese style, and they use the gamelan for some of their music.  Gamelan is an Indonesian musical ensemble from the islands of Java and Bali. They have asked us to help them adapt more existing songs so that they can be used with the gamelan and to help them write new songs that they can use in church along with their traditional Balinese music.  We are thrilled to help since this is what we are passionate about!

I visited this church about a year ago and was completely unprepared for what I found.  At that point, we didn’t know we’d be working with them so I was just there attending a special church service.  I shot some video, but all I had was my point-and-shoot camera so the quality isn’t very good.  Now that we’re working with them on developing new music, I’ll be there a lot more and will have much more (and hopefully better) media to share in the future.

In the meantime, here’s their rendition of Kidung Jemaat No. 1 “Haleluya, Pujilah” (number 1 in the hymbook) using gamelan:

This is one of four or five songs that they currently have that use the gamelan.  They are eager for more, because the same songs over and over again get old very quickly!

For you music nerds out there, this particular gamelan is based on a Balinese variation of the slendro pentatonic scale.  In solfege it would be notated la ti do mi fa (in Indonesia,  la si do mi fa) or using cipher notation (kepatihan), 12356 67134 (12356 is how many people casually notate it here, but technically because it is minor you start on la, or 6).  Gamelan is typically tuned to the 7-tone pelog scale or the 5-tone slendro scale, and this Balinese gamelan is of the 5-tone variety but the tuning is slightly different than a Javanese gamelan.

More to come about all this later!  I should be heading out to visit them again next week.

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Filed under Church Events, Ethnoarts, Music, Research

Research and Papers

A few days ago, I (Matt) did something I have never done before.  I wrote a 21 page paper documenting all my observations, research, and musical analysis of the mopopoadat ceremony you’ve been hearing about if you follow this blog.  Today I sat down and thought about it, and I realized this is the first time I’ve written a paper like this outside the classroom and I actually enjoyed it.  It makes a difference when I care about the topic!

Although it may not seem like writing papers would be part of our job, it’s important for several reasons.  First, we need to document what we see for future generations.  In this case it isn’t just research for the sake of research, but rather preserving a moment in time for this culture.  I’m thinking about writing some of our research up in Indonesian to make it more accessible to people here (maybe even translating this paper).  Second, if we don’t do thorough research to understand the arts here how can we possibly expect to help? 

If there’s any of you out there that are true academia/ethnomusicology nerds, I’m going to put a link to the paper at the end of this post.  I know that about 99.9% of you aren’t interested in reading something like that, but on the random chance that someone is I’m including it. 

Something I’ve been considering for a long time is how to make all my research open.  I’m still working on the best way to do this, but I’d like to publish anything I write and any media we record on the web, freely accessible to all.  Academic journals and the like are excellent “gatekeepers” to ensure that published research is well done and reputable, but I don’t like the difficulty it can present when regular people want to access it.  Ideally if I publish any research it would be in a reputable journal in our field but I would like to find some way to make it easily available too.  Enough about this topic; it’s best saved for another time and I digress…

As we record performances and talk to people, we are always asking their permission to use what we record for research and to help the Pendau people, and we commit that nothing will ever be sold for profit.  This is a very important part of our research as it removes so much suspicion about motives and gives us the freedom to share with the outside world the amazing and unique things we see here. 

For now, I’m just “publishing” this paper via Google Docs, but who knows what I’ll do with it in the future.  Here’s the link for that 0.01% of you who are interested:

https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1QqfpvpCZ-pzAjhkzA1tLeCkgeHQsmtu72QyA4wX0ZkQ

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Mopopoadat– Teeth Filing etc.

This is the next blog post in my series about the recent cultural event I documented.  The first blog post gave a photographic overview, the second highlighted the traditional martial arts here, the third was about kayori singing, the fourth post explained the events at a nearby river, and this post finishes up the series.

After returning from the river and gathering in the ceremonial house, the participants are required to do a few more things.  First, before leaving the home they look into a pail of water with a branch (buah pinang, but a young branch with no fruit) and some dry rice (beras) floating on top.  They look into the water with their eyes open, and they are asked by the leader if they can see a certain species of fish.  The correct answer is “yes.”  However, there is more to this story than I yet know.  That particular species of fish is, as far as they know, only found in one lake up north of where we are.  They apparently used to live in that area but no longer do.  This question now seems to be mostly for the sake of tradition, but it is rooted in old beliefs and meanings that now appear to be lost.  Perhaps this fish had some sort of significance?  Or maybe it was just a species unique to their local lake and a source of pride?  So many questions still…

Here’s a short video of this part:

 

After each initiate looked into the water and answered the question, they all returned to the house for teeth filing. 

(Those of you who are squeamish, stop here)

It really isn’t as bad as it sounds.  Each initiate lays down in front of the leader, and he uses a stone to make their upper front teeth level.  They don’t file down to points or anything like that, and he didn’t file much off at all.  This is a mark that shows you have been through the mopopoadat and are now a full member of the community.  Here’s a short video:

 

After that was lunch, and the end!  Due to some unrest in the area I had to leave immediately, but fortunately I was able to finish documenting everything.  Sometimes circumcision would take place after the mopopoadat was finished, but I didn’t see that in this case and many boys are circumcised at a young age here, well before they participate in mopopoadat.

That’s it for now! I hope you all enjoyed following along with me through this event.  As you can see, this is just a first glimpse into a rich cultural heritage and I still have a lot of work to do.  There are many unanswered questions, and I’d like to document this event again so I can compare what happens.  I’m hopeful that we can help them keep their traditions alive in a changing world, and help them reconcile their Christian identity (which is very Western) with their cultural identity so that going to church doesn’t mean leaving behind their language, identity, culture, and arts.

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Kayori

Recently I (Matt) had the opportunity to attend and document a huge cultural ceremony with the people group we work with, called mopopoadat.  I’ve already posted a photographic overview of the whole ceremony and a few videos of a local martial arts tradition that serves as entertainment during the rest breaks, and now I’d like to continue by posting a video of Kayori singing.  This singing while processing/dancing in a circle lies at the heart of this ceremony, and I’m told that mopopoadat absolutely can’t be done without it.  I have recorded a slightly different version some of these songs once before, but I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see kayori in the context of the ceremony.  I don’t yet have a translation of all the words, but generally speaking the singers are reciting the cultural “laws” (hukum adat) to the participants so they can learn and understand it.  After going through the mopopoadat ceremony the participants are considered to be under the cultural law and must abide by its rules and regulations. 

This singing starts at sundown (about 6:15pm here), goes until dawn the next day (about 6:00am), and the participants continue to process in a circle as the leaders sing all night with only short breaks to rest their legs.  This video is only 4 1/2 minutes long; I decided to be kind to you all and just pick a few highlights!

There is so much more for me to learn about this especially since it lies at the heart of this culture.  I was very thankful to have a good shotgun mic on my video camera, otherwise with the noise of the crowd I never could have picked up the singing.  Shotgun mics are amazing tools; without my headphones on I couldn’t hear the singing at all, but when I put them on it was as if I was just a few feet away.  I’m hoping for an opportunity to meet with the singers again and get a better quality audio recording of just the singing.

Pendau Kayori Singing

Something you might notice is that the singers appear to be off from each other; they aren’t singing together but rather some of them always sound “behind the beat.”  I’ve only had the chance to record this singing on two occasions, but I don’t think it’s coincidence that this “echo” effect happened both times.  We still have a lot to learn about the arts here!

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