KITLV presents a streamable free collection of popular music from Indonesia

KITLV / Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies has put online a substantial collection of popular music from Indonesia. Thousands of songs from the 20th century – traditional, popular and locally inspired – are freely available and can be streamed through a renewed media library. The added contextual data and images of the original records make a collection that was previously hard to find, into a unique source for contemporary and cultural history of Indonesia. Click here to try out this music collection.


Vidya Vandana & Shankar Tucker: ‘Rang Lo’ (a song in the spirit of Holi)

The rough translation of the song:
“This is the story of a girl, restless in thought, who wants to take the road less traveled. A girl who refuses to let her feet touch the ground and desires independence from the path that was chosen for her. She packs her belongings and wants to fly, away from her constraints and bonds. She wants to let her thoughts fly with her through a path like the one a kite takes in the wind. On her journey, she sees the world shimmering with color and all things living, dancing and singing to the tune of freedom.”


‘Stink’, a blues-rock classic

The album Stink by Canadian band McKenna Mendelson Mainline, released in 1969, is a classic. It’s been one of my favourite blues-rock albums since my high school days. The songs are full of energy and some of them are very straightforward* in evry way. On YouTube I’ve tracked them all down and put them one after another below here, in the same order as on the album. Enjoy! 🙂


* Let me add that the word ‘straightforward’ might be interchangeable here with ‘sexist’ or perhaps even ‘male chauvinist’, choose as you like. Also, when I started liking this music, as a 14 year old in 1978, I never could have imagined writing a footnote like this some 35 years later. 🙂


Kala Ramnath Full Concert (April 23rd, 2006 – Utrecht, The Netherlands) – Enjoy!

On 23 April 2006 I filmed Kala Ramnath’s concert at RASA in Utrecht/The Netherlands. Since then I published a lot of this concert in separate parts. Finally I’ve now uploaded the complete concert on my YouTubechannel.

Kala Ramnath/violin; Satyajit Talwalkar/tabla; Celine Wadier/tanpura

00:00 – 57:48 Raag Madhuvanti
58:13 – 1:27:40 Raag Dinki Puriya
1:27:54 – 1:39:45 Composition in Raag Des

It’s great to be able now to play this fabulous concert in one go! (Yes, fans/admirers of Kala, you should really thank me for this upload 🙂 ) And for the first time you can now enjoy Kala’s complete Madhuvanti in this concert, which is a great bonus!


“Once you’re all done with writing, can we play this section?” – Notities bij een ragaklasje

Bovenstaande video toont een ragaworkshop in New York, verzorgd door topvioliste Kala Ramnath. Westers klassiek geschoolde muzikanten brengt zij wat beginselen bij van de alap, de openingssectie van een ragaperformance. De workshopdeelnemers dienen door haar gespeelde frasen op het gehoor na te spelen. Wat de muzikanten te doen staat is duidelijk: goed luisteren en dan op je instrument imiteren wat je hebt gehoord.

Niet wat we horen, maar vooral wat we zien vind ik opmerkelijk. De muziekstandaard, het attribuut voor de neus van de deelnemers, wordt nadrukkelijk in het proces van luisteren en spelen betrokken. Stilzwijgend dirigeert de lessenaar het klasje telkens naar het papier, naar lege notenbalken die uitnodigen tot noteren-vastleggen-lezen wat men hoort. Voor de workshopdeelnemers is de muziekstandaard een zwijgzame bondgenoot die een interventie mogelijk maakt tussen wat ze te horen krijgen en wat ze vervolgens gaan spelen.

De muzikanten pogen steeds te noteren wat ze horen, zoals zij dat blijkbaar gewend zijn in een muzikaal leerproces. Deze schriftgerichte benadering ‘wringt’ met de voornamelijk op orale overdracht gerichte methodiek binnen Kala Ramnath’s Indiase ragatraditie.

Dit ragaklasje vertoont een zekere fixatie op notatie en klampt zich zo vast aan vertrouwde mores en (Westerse) methodieken. Is dat verkeerd of een probleem? Nee hoor, helemaal niet, maar – zoals gezegd – er wringt wel iets: een zo sterke drang tot noteren en lezen valt niet alleen op, maar doet in een ragasetting nogal wezensvreemd aan. Tegelijkertijd levert het natuurlijk ook wel weer een boeiend kijkspel op.


A ‘dutchie’ with Alan Lomax in Spain

In an interesting blog Dutch musicologist Evert Bisschop Boele wonders about a not by name mentioned ‘dutchie’ in John Szwed’s biography of ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax. It concerns a person from The Netherlands who was travelling with the famous American songhunter to Spain in a period “just after the war”.

Alan Lomax in 1952, with a local from Aragon/Spain

The exact date isn’t mentioned, but I presume “just after the war” means 1952 or 1953, being the years when Lomax visited Spain and recorded there. I didn’t know about a Dutch person travelling to Spain with Lomax at the time. Very interesting!
After concluding it wasn’t and couldn’t have been Jaap Kunst (1891-1960) Bisschop Boele ends his blog asking “Who is he? Who?” Well, I’d like to give it a shot. I think the person involved here might be Bernard IJzerdraat (1926-1986). In fact, I can’t think of anyone else. Let me try to explain this.
In the early fifties Bernard IJzerdraat was in his twenties and a well known figure in the Dutch gamelan scene. His group Babar Layar was very popular in Holland. The group played Javanese gamelan music for radio and television, recorded an LP on the Philips label and toured succesfully throughout Europe.

Bernard IJzerdraat on kendang (drum), leading his group Babar Layar

In his writings Lomax refers only twice briefly to his companion, first as “a young man who specialized in Javanese gamelan music” and then he writes: “I did not know that my Dutch travelling companion was the son of the man who had headed the underground in Holland during the German occupation.” This quote immediately reminds me of Bernard IJzerdraat’s father, Bernardus IJzerdraat (1891-1941). In the early stages of World War II Bernardus IJzerdraat was one of Holland’s prominent figures of the Dutch resistance. He’s known as the founder of De Geuzen, the first Dutch resistance group. He was arrested and shot by the Germans in 1941, together with 17 others, including three Communists involved in the February Strike.

Bernard’s father Bernardus IJzerdraat, famous man of Dutch resistance

Knowing these facts and reading what Lomax says about his young Dutch fellow traveller without revealing a name, I think the unknown ‘dutchie’ could be Bernard IJzerdraat, gamelan specialist and son of a war hero.

So far my educated guess. I might be wrong here of course. Anyone else having thougths on this? If so, please let me know.


Anoushka’s great blend of Hindustani & Flamenco

Despite the fact that flamenco, the fiery song and dance genre from Andalusia/Spain, is a well known genre all over the world, it’s still not common knowledge that the genre’s ancient roots lie in gypsy music from Rajashtan/India. A great and awarded album exploring this India-flamenco connection is Traveller by renowned sitar player Anoushka Shankar. On this album – I quote from her website – “she finds her way into the nuances of modern flamenco through the vivid lens of Hindustani technique. In essence, Traveller charts the spiritual link across time and space of two highly evolved forms of musical expression, from their ancient gestation to their modern zenith.” On her homepage Anoushka Shankar adds: “I’ve always loved flamenco and had a fascination for it. There’s always been that pull towards something I find very similar in flamenco to what I cherish in Indian classical music: a kind of uninhibited musicality in expression, whether it’s a solo voice, a sitar or a guitar. Of course there were common roots and technical similarities to explore, and when you start to play with those, you can really delve down in very delicious ways. However the desire came from simply being an admirer of the music, and wanting to learn about it through making music.”
The album release in 2011 was followed by a world tour, and from this tour the inspiring and well recorded concert below is a joy for watching and listening. So, without further ado, enjoy the great musicianship and temperament of Anoushka Shankar and her fellow travellers on stage!

Anoushka Shankar’s Traveller concert at Festival Les Nuits de Fourviere (Lyon/France), July 13th, 2012


Coimbatore Thayi struck a chord in Paris

I came across an interesting article by Subha J. Rao in The Hindu about one of the first and most popular recorded female carnatic singers: Coimbatore Thayi (1872-1917). In the article, author-biographer Vikram Sampath tells about his work on reviving Coimbatore Thayi’s legacy as part of a book on female singers.

The British Gramophone Company set foot in South India in 1904 and started recording many artists, among them Coimbatore Thayi, who was one of the most popular singers in Madras. Thayi became a bestselling artist, but she died young – in her mid-forties – in 1917. On approximately 300 discs, “she recorded” – writes Rao – “a rich repertoire of songs, including the compositions of Tyagaraja, Shyama Sastri and Dikshithar, padams, javalis, the Thirupugazh… Sadly, most of them are lost to time. However, some of them can be heard on YouTube and Vikram’s Archive of Indian Music.”

The article in The Hindu takes an interesting turn when the story of Thayi moves to Europe: “She was popular abroad too. In 1911, a French musician Maurice Delage heard her soft, bhakti-filled voice in Paris and was smitten. He wrote to his teacher, Maurice Ravel, about her microtonal effects and variations (gamakas) and voice. “It sent chills up and down my spine”, he wrote. He met Thayi in Madras and even composed two sets of Western music pieces— Quatre Poèmes Hindous, one each dedicated to the cities of Madras, Banaras, Lahore and Jaipur; and a Ragamalika said to be inspired by Thayi’s rendering of an arutpa.”

Martha Angelici sings Maurice Delage’s Quatre Poèmes Hindous

Janet Baker sings Maurice Delage’s Quatre Poèmes Hindous

Today there are some recordings and photos left of Coimbatore Thayi, though very little is known of what her life was like and how she spend her childhood.

Biographer Vikram Sampath summarizes: “Thanks to some existing recordings, we know that she sang her heart out into the horn. And that she had a voice which touched a chord even in faraway Paris.”


Maati Baani, funky mingling of Hindustani & Folk

Maati Baani is a group from India centred around Nirali Kartik, a Hindustani classical trained singer. As stated on Facebook Maati Baani is “a world music band combining elements of Hindustani Classical with various styles of Folk music and New age sounds; we are like mad people set loose!! No rules, no boundaries, we simply create the sound that we love to hear with our different styles of music.” Influences they mention are: Michael Jackson, Pt. Jasraj, A.R. Rahman, Shankar Tucker, Indian Ocean, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Sting, Ustad Rashid Khan, Jack Johnson, and Coldplay. The band has done some exciting and succesful collaborations with a.o. American clarinet player Shankar Tucker and with folk singer Mooralala Marwada. I just like to add one word to characterize Maati Baani: Fun! 🙂