February 17, 2011, 10:11 am
Filed under: Announcements, Thailand

I’m happy to announce Haji Maji’s first official release:
LUK THUNG, Classic & Obscure 78s from the Thai Countryside

UPDATE: This appears to be out of print. There may still be some shops that have copies left or you can try good old Ebay.

I’ve collaborated with Peter Doolan, of the great Thai cassette blog monrakplengthai, on an album of 14 early Luk Thung 78s from Thailand, published by the Grammy Award-winning label Dust-to-Digital on their vinyl imprint Parlortone.

That’s right, VINYL!

No turntable? Don’t worry, it’s available for download on iTunes and Amazon.

It was compiled by me from my collection. Peter researched and wrote the notes while living in Bangkok last year.

The album explores similar ground as Sublime Frequencies’ “Thai Pop Spectacular”, “Thai Beat A Go-Go” from Subliminal Sounds and Soundways’ “Sound of Siam”, but with a focus on the earlier, down-home roots style instead of the rock and pop influenced material found on these other reissues. The garage band/proto-Thai rock stuff is cool, but here at Haji Maji our interest tends toward the raw, rural and traditional sounds.

Here’s a sample track from the album:

Ruedu Haeng Khwam Rak (Season of Love) by Phloen Phromdaen

Included in the album is a 6 page, full-color insert with detailed notes and images of the various record labels.

From the notes:

“Luk Thung is known to many as Thailand’s “Country Music”; it’s a vibrant and syncretic genre of pop song which aims to give voice to a disenfranchised rural population… farmers and migrant workers, as well as gamblers, drug addicts, outlaws and other marginal figures…the strain of Luk Thung captured on this album is one marked by a conscious move away from Western influence and an embrace of traditional musics…”

Special thanks to Jon Ward, Michael Graves, Debbie Berne, Rob Millis and the Dust-to-Digital crew.


February 7, 2011, 10:45 am
Filed under: Indonesia, Java

Miss Riboet’s popularity continued to grow, both on stage and on record. In 1929, the Dardanella theater troupe emerged and soon became rivals with Miss Riboet’s Orion troupe. Dardanella had several big stars in the troupe and in 1931 found themselves in court because one of their stars was also using the name “Miss Riboet.” Dardanella lost the case and their imitator had to switch to “Miss Riboet II.” I’m not sure how many songs she recorded, I’ve only seen one. Here’s Miss Riboet II pictured with another Dardanella star, Miss Dja:

Since this second post about Miss Riboet is about the second Miss Riboet, here’s the second side of the Miss Riboet record.

>Beka B. 15099-I

Thanks to Matthew Isaac Cohen for noticing that I had mistaken Miss Riboet II for the real thing in my previous post.

January 31, 2011, 3:29 pm
Filed under: Indonesia, Java

Miss Riboet was the first huge star of recording in Indonesia and the Malay peninsula.  She was the lead actress of the Orion theatrical company, a tooneel troupe which was founded in 1925 in Batavia (Jakarta). In fact, she was so popular that by the time recording engineer Max Birkhahan made this recording in 1926 she already had her own series of “Miss Riboet Records.”

The label declares this a “Stamboel” recording, a western influenced genre of song that evolved out of the Indonesian theater known as “komedie stamboel.”
Komedie stamboel was a form of musical theater that started in the city of Surabaya in 1891 and quickly became a craze throughout Indonesia. At first, it featured plays of arabesque fantasy (Stamboel = Istanbul), mainly tales from the Arabian Nights, with Ali Baba being a favorite standard. The plays were sung and included musical numbers as in a western musical, using mostly western instruments. They were also influenced by Parsi theater. There is an excellent book by Matthew Isaac Cohen that gives an extremely detailed account of the origin of Komedie Stamboel.

By the mid-20s, when Miss Riboet began recording, komedie stamboel had already given way to the Malay theatrical form called bangsawan, and eventually tooneel, a more realistic form.
Apparently komedie stamboel had developed a somewhat unsavory reputation that led in part to it’s demise, some troupe leaders were accused of doubling as pimps for the actresses!
The music was often labeled as “Stamboel” on record, regardless of whether it was a stamboel, fox trot, tango, krontjong or traditional piece, such as this Javanese poetical form called Pankgkur.

>Beka B. 15099-II

Tip Jar
January 13, 2011, 1:24 pm
Filed under: Announcements

Dear Haji Maji Readers,

The new year began with the death of my computer. fun.
As we move into year four of Haji Maji, I’ve decided to do a little blog fundraising. If you’ve been enjoying the rare, un-reissued recordings over the last few years, please consider supporting Haji Maji by throwing five bucks into the tip jar via the “donate” button on the left. You can rest assured that it will go back into the blog, in the form of records, bandwidth, images, etc.

There’s plenty more good stuff lined up, so stay tuned!


Chinese Wedding Music (Malaysia)
December 30, 2010, 8:45 pm
Filed under: Chinese music, Malaysia, Singapore

Here’s another Pagoda recorded in Singapore, this one in 1938. It features traditional Chinese wedding music played by a seroni ensemble. The typical ensemble consists of seroni (a shwam-like oboe known as suona in China), swilin (bamboo flute) and percussion; a small drum, cymbals and gong. Usually this type of music is used to accompany the bride while she is carried in a sedan and throughout other parts of the wedding. The piece heard on this record is labeled “Siew-Tow”, the most important part of the ceremony when the vows are taken.
A seroni ensemble is also used for funerals and other rituals.

Immigrants from southern China began moving to Malaysia and Indonesia as early as the 15th century. The British later encouraged Chinese immigration to the Straights Settlements in the the 19th and 20th centuries. Chinese, speaking several different dialects, quickly established themselves as traders throughout the region, as in other parts of Southeast Asia.

The label is hard to read, but it says:

lagu Siew-Tow

>Pagoda V3905a (mx-7753 GD)

December 8, 2010, 8:52 pm
Filed under: Malaysia, Singapore

Hello again.

Let’s see….now where was I?

Malaysia! sure…why not?
Malaysia has a wild diversity of music captured on 78 rpm record and a wide range of influences; Malay, Arabic, Hindu, Indonesian, Chinese, Portuguese and more. Lagu Melayu (Malay songs) tend to fall into categories like the Hindu influenced Orkes Harmonium, the Islamic based Orkes Gambus (Gambus is an instrument derived from the oud) and Orkes Melayu (Malay songs with western instruments). Indonesian influenced styles like krontjong, bangsawan and stomboel were also popular. Ultimately these diverse styles gave way to the ubiquitous rock based Dangdut.

Today, after a long break, we present a venerable Malay genre with roots reaching back to the 15th century called Dondang Sayang, literally “to sing with love.” The band is always led by a violinist who weaves in and out of the vocal melody, backed by a rhythm section of rebana (frame drum) and tetawak (gong), accordion was later added to the core ensemble. The singer improvises a kind of classical Malay poetry called pantun, often bantering with a singer of the opposite sex.

Here’s a scratchy, but excellent example of Dondang Sayang sung by Misses Itam & Timah for Singapore’s Pagoda label in 1930. I think each singer does one side of this record, but I have no clue which is which.

>Pagoda V3616a (mx-2260 BD)

April 5, 2010, 2:11 pm
Filed under: Announcements

Yes, Dear Reader, it IS finally available! Fourteen rare 78s of string music from all over the globe on the excellent Dust to Digital label (well, ok, it’s really on Parlortone, D2D’s vinyl imprint.)

Our pal Jonathan Ward, the man behind the famous Excavated Shellac blog, really knows how to bring these records back to life with his inimitable brand of phono-ethnomusicology.

Order it up while supplies last!

more info at Excavated Shellac.

April 1, 2010, 8:47 pm
Filed under: Burma, Pictures

March 28, 2010, 6:38 pm
Filed under: Burma

The modern songs are quite varied, incorporating western musical elements and instruments to different degrees, sometimes shifting between western and Burmese styles within one song. I have examples of songs recorded in a western idiom on one side and continued in a Burmese idiom on the flipside.

Here’s one which is relatively traditional in instrumentation, with hne (oboe), pa’ wain (tuned drum circle), si’ wain (gong circle), patala (xylophone).

Here’s Thet Htar by the singing Htar, a love song dedicated to soldiers on the Padaytha label of the 1940s.

>Padaytha DP117, 1064

Thanks again to Su Wai for translation!

March 17, 2010, 8:58 pm
Filed under: Burma

Here’s a good example of a Burmese “modern song” that shifts back and forth between Burmese and Western instrumentation and style. This record features the well known singer Pyi Hla Pe who was also a member of the Ministry of Culture. The Ministry of Culture was formed in 1952 to promote traditional culture and recently made the unfortunate ruling that Western instruments cannot be in traditional hsain waing ensembles.
Although this song doesn’t feature a hsain waing orchestra (a classical ensemble with gong circle and xylophones), it does include Western instruments such as piano, Hawaiian guitar and violin.
Like many of the mid-century Burmese modern songs, this is a love song called Papa Win, meaning “A Very Special Beauty.”

Since this is a two part song, I’ve included both sides of the record in one mp3 file.

>HMV A1F 160 A and B

Thanks to the excellent Burmese pianist Sandaya Aung Win (Phillip Aung-Win) for help with this post.