Filed under: Announcements
I’ll be working up some new posts in January as time allows. In the meantime, I want to give a shout out to Hinter records and collector/sound engineer Chris King for the great work on their new lp of Albanian 78s called Don’t Trust Your Neighbors. It’s been awhile since the fantastic Albanian Village Music cd was issued, and the selections on this record are just as amazing, with excellent sound quality. It’s nicely designed and you can’t argue with a cover by Crumb. I’m sure Haji Maji fans will love this record, and since there were only 1000 pressed you should grab it now!
Filed under: Announcements
***UPDATE – the show is no longer available online, but I will be posting some of the records from the radio show at ShellacHead.com***
I’ve always thought of Haji Maji as a sort of (extremely) slow motion radio show. Well, next sunday afternoon Haji Maji will hit the airwaves for real. My pal Tom Diamant, host of KPFA’s venerable Panhandle Country, has invited me to stop by and play some 78s from my collection. “String bands of the world” was mandated to me as a general theme and I’ve more or less stuck to it. We’ll leave the usual Haji Maji territory of the Far East and explore some recordings from the rest of the world; Greece, India, Turkey, Syria, Ukraine, Albania, Japan, Kenya, Bahrain, Persia, Afghanistan, Morocco, Egypt, Norway and probably more. As far as I know, none of these records have been reissued on cd. Yakking will be interspersed, facts dispensed, speculations proffered and one or two upcoming projects might be revealed.
You can listen via old fashioned radio waves or online at the url below. The archive of the show should be available for a limited time about a week after broadcast.
***UPDATE – the archive of the show is no longer available online.***
Sunday, October 30th
3-5pm (Pacific Time)
KPFA (94.1 FM, Berkeley)
In 1905, Beka made it’s first recordings in Indonesia, then called the Dutch East Indies. After first recording in Constantinople, Cairo, Calcutta and Rangoon, the team of Willy Bielefeld, Heinrich Blumb and William Hadert recorded examples of Javanese gamelan and the popular stamboul songs in the Dutch East Indies. Subsequent trips were made up until the outbreak of WWI. During the years before the war, both Beka and Odeon were acquired by the Carl Lindstroem company, with a few smaller labels as well, consolidating German recording activity under one company. Unfortunately, the war severely disrupted the German recording industry. But by the mid-1920s, things were going well and the Lindstroem lables began to recover. Beka had many hits with Miss Riboet and other stamboul stars, and they continued to record Gamelan music from Java as well. In 1928 they made their legendary trip to Bali, along with Odeon, making the only Balinese Gamelan recordings from the era, although the Balinese records were commercial failures at the time. Like all the Lindstroem labels, Beka was included in the mega-merger of 1931 that created EMI.
Max Birkhahn was one of the main recording engineers in Indonesia during this period, and in 1928 he recorded the record presented here. I don’t know much about the music contained herein, but maybe one of our enlightened Haji Maji readers can come to the rescue. The title refers to Indonesian coffee (kopi) made with condensed milk.
Filed under: Announcements
I’m happy to report that Jonathan Ward’s new compilation of African 78s is shipping!
I’m sure most Haji Maji readers are familiar with Ward’s kick ass blog, Excavated Shellac, and this release cranks his blog up to “11″.
Published by Dust-to-Digital, Opika Pende features 100 tracks on 4 cds with a 100+ page hardcover book, plus the detailed research for which Ward is known.
Not only that, my wife designed the entire thing and it looks awesome.
As many of you probably know, the term “gamelan” refers to an entire ensemble of instruments, as well as the music played by said ensemble. A gamelan consists of bronze gongs of different sizes and bronze keyed instruments that look something like a xylophone. Percussion, fiddle, flute and voice may also be included. Each gamelan is a unique set of instruments with it’s own sound, tuning and character. Instruments from one gamelan cannot be interchanged with another ensemble.
Most Balinese, Javanese and Sundanese gamelan are tuned to one of two main scale systems, pelog and slendro. Pelog has seven pitches and is reminiscent of a Western major scale, although notes don’t exactly match up. Slendro (or salendro in Sundanese) is a five note scale in which all the notes are basically equidistant, something not found in western music. It’s important to remember that each gamelan has a unique version of these tuning systems, not to mention the range in which it’s tuned.
The music played by a gamelan is built in layers. Generally speaking, the higher pitched instruments play a denser more elaborate melody, more notes per minute. Lower pitched instruments play versions of the melody that are simpler and sparse. The important thing is that all the instruments land on certain important notes together. This concept of simultaneous variation is common throughout Southeast Asia. Check out the Vietnamese Vong Co recordings on this site for some other striking examples of simultaneous variation. Gamelan music uses interlocking patterns to create a temporal structure. The combination is termed “polyphonic stratification.” An academic term that creates a nice mental picture. As a student at the University of Michigan, 20 years ago, I played in the Javanese gamelan ensemble and my favorite moment was always when the lowest (and largest) gong would sound at the endpoint of each cycle. The effect was monumental as all the instruments concluded their melody and the low gong rippled throughout the room. You feel it more than hear it.
Gamelan music is hundred’s of years old, but the first recording label to venture to Indonesia, which was then called the Dutch East Indies and controlled by the Dutch, was the German label Beka, in 1905. They were followed a year or two later by Odeon. The Gramophone Company lagged behind in entering the Indonesian market. In fact, Odeon had come to dominate the Indonesian market to such an extent that in 1909 Frederick Gaisberg complained, “The business in Java for the Odeon company has been wonderful for the last two years, they being the only company in the field. The Odeon Company, during the last two years, have made two recording trips to Java, and are now starting on a third.” (Paul Vernon, Odeon Records; Their Ethnic Output).
In 1911 Beka was absorbed by Odeon and around the time of this recording, in 1931, both labels were part of the huge EMI merger.
Here’s a piece in the pathet sanga. Pathet is the Indonesian version or modes, raga, maqam, etc. Sanga is one of the three central Javanese modes in slendro. I believe this piece is from Surabaya, in Eastern Java, so the version of pathet differs from the Central Javanese. It’s sung by the pasinden (female singer) M.A Soetinah.
Gamelan records are extremely hard to come by, highly sought after and usually pretty beat up. I’ll post a few of my more listenable records, but you should also check out 78 collector Mike Robertson’s youtube page. Mike has a fantastic collection of gamelan records (and more) which you can hear on youtube.
Somehow, they seem to fall right out of the sky and into Mike’s lap!
One thing that I love about Southeast Asian music is the sense of multiple melodies swirling around each other, weaving in and out, yet always seeming to end up in the right place. This is especially true of gambang kromong.
Gambang kromong is a vernacular music from the outskirts of Jakarta. It is the music of the Betawi, long time inhabitants of the Jakarta area of Java, as well as the Peranakan, people who are a mix of Chinese and Indonesian. The music is often performed at weddings or in musical theater.
The ensemble consists of gambang, an 18 key xylophone and the kromong, a small set of kettle gongs. Other instruments often included are a 2 string fiddle (tehyan) similar to the erhu, suling (flute), an array of percussion instruments and anything from western brass to electric guitar (see Folkway’s Music of Indonesia vol. 3).
Irama was Indonesia’s first independent record label, started in 1954 by Suyoso Karsono. Irama released a wide variety of traditional and popular music.
Here’s a fantastic Tembang Sunda recording from 1935. The featured instruments are the zither called kacapi and suling, a bamboo flute. The singer, Nji Raden Hadji Djoeleha, embodies the old style of singing, higher pitched and nasal. The older style also uses different ornamentation, for example, jenghak, the use of the break between chest and head voice which can be heard on this recording.
Tembang Sunda was originally known as Cianjuran, from Cianjur, the court city in west Java. It’s a form of poetic singing that emerged out of several other Sundanese genres, especially pantun, in the early 19th century and was promoted and enjoyed by the aristocracy. The songs glorify Pajajaran, the legendary Hindu kingdom of the 14th and 15th centuries.
The other side of this record can be heard on Ian Nagoski’s “Black Mirror“, released by Dust-to-Digital.