Thursday, December 5, 2013

Jaipong Kalangenan Rumaja: Naon Margina - Group: Rineka Swara... (Dian Records)

Released in 1980 on the great Sundanese Dian Records label, this cassette delivers some excellent smoldering jaipong workouts. Both group Rineka Swara and pesinden Itoh Masyitoh were well recorded back in the day (check the vast and amazing Madrotter blog for other releases featuring these exceptional musicians). It's hard not to get carried away with the energy captured here.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

"Prana Asmara" (KGD-022 Kusuma)

Here's a classic tape from the essential Kusuma label featuring Ki Nartosabdo's super gamelan group Condong Raos. There's really no way to consider contemporary Central Javanese karawitan without factoring in the legacy of Ki Nartosabdo (1925-1985).  Born in Klaten, a large sprawling area that connects the cities of Yogyakarta and Surakarta, he grew up situated between two deeply rich yet distinct cultural centers. Nartosabdo was first and foremost a wayang kulit dhalang, but his creative genius went beyond shadow puppetry. He was a painter, kroncong violinist, master gamelan musician, and, most notably, a proficient composer of gendhing. He also formed and led the gamelan group Condong Raos. Under his leadership Condong Raos reached amazing heights of virtuosity. When this cassette was recorded, karawitan Jawi was experiencing a golden era of popularity - campursari had yet to take hold, klenengan were way more abundant, and, as an actively performing gamelan, Condong Raos reigned supreme. This tape captures a group of extraordinary Javanese musicians at the height of their game, performing classic gendhing with total dedication. It's all effortless flowing energy and expression. Great music and worth a listen. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ponglaang Kalasin: North-East (Esan) Melody (2252)

Really great tape of rollicking pong lang. Lots of cool instrumental Isan grooves here but it's the appearance of familiar classics like 500 MILES and YOU CHEA-IN HEART (Khun Hank!) that nudge things into an especially unique dimension. Both electric organ and wah guitar show up to add their energy. Music for the good times.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Festival Gong Keybar '98 "Sanggar Manggala Sami" (Aneka 1152)

Very nice collection of kebyar tracks from the Universitas Warmadewa's gamelan "Sanggar Manggala Sami", released as a result of their participation in the 1998 Bali Arts Festival. The lelambatan piece on side B is a favorite with it's exquisitely evolving long-form structure that's so characteristic of the repertoire.

Thai Classic Vol. 1 and Vol. 2

These two endearing cassettes were among the first tapes that I bought in Thailand way back when. Both volumes contain a number of excellent classical and traditional tunes, but note that the music does cut in suddenly at the beginning on several sides. I have very fond memories of playing these on my cheap walkman while walking around in southern Thailand, and, having had very little listening experience with any Thai music up until that point, really digging the new and strange sounds. Beautiful music.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Thai Orchestra: THO-RA-NEE-KAN-SAENG (T.106)

Thai museum aficionados may recognize the image that's on the cover of this tape. It comes from the Thai Human Imagery Museum. Located on the outskirts of Bangkok, this is THE place in Thailand to see uncanny fibreglass human replicas. The online caption for the scene depicted on the tape cover reads:

Slavery in Thailand existed as early as in the Ayuthaya Period. It was accepted as a way of life at all levels of society. Slaves were considered an asset of the master and classified into 7 categories, one category being babies born of slave parents. The old law stipulated that slaves could not gain their freedom until they paid their prices. If they fled for their freedom they would be executed.

I have no idea how the history of Thai slavery relates to the music on this tape (if directly at all) but after a number of listens I have to say that the overall vibe of sorrow and grief seems perfectly fitting. The instrumental title track that takes up all of side A is an epic in mournful form cycles. The B side is also all instrumental, containing a half-dozen tracks that further evoke the heavy feelings. I'd say "enjoy!" but it's not quite appropriate... so, here you go...