Whether you're familiar with Indonesia's rich resources and thorny political struggles, or if the country’s name simply conjures up the images of Nike tennis shoe sweatshops, there’s still plenty to learn about this South Asian nation. Spanning more than 17,500 islands and over 3000 miles, Indonesia has a variety of cultures and religions developing its fantastic fine arts. Cultivating the sounds of neighboring countries, as well as reaching to the West for an occasional six-stringed instrument, the Indonesian musical scene is one of liveliness and adoration that also salutes its own rich tradition. However, being the suburban TV junkie that you are, you may be blankly staring at the screen, wondering where one would start if he or she wished to enjoy the colorful musical institutions of Indonesia.
Enter the World Music Network and the Rough Guide folks, who have consistently proven that they're willing to do the research and carefully plan out each release in their series of worldly musical offerings. Strike up one more success for this association, as The Rough Guide to the Music of Indonesia shows how tradition and modern day musical evolution have fused into unique and passionate artistic forms that retain an exotic, otherworldly feel.
The journey begins with one of the most recognizable sounds of Indonesia, the gamelan. The Guide starts off on steady footing with CBMW's percussion-intensive "Sambasunda", which combines delicate zither playing and pulsing bamboo gamelan that takes a bow to the nation's conventional sounds, yet pushes forward, incorporating gambang kromong and Brazilian samba. One of the reigning Indonesian styles, dangdut, is adequately explored on this compilation, demonstrating the style's distinct pop and Indian film music influences as well as the inclusion of Western instruments. The "Queen of Dangdut", Elvy Sukaesih, bounces through a faintly pop-tinged tune that's impulsive and full of girlish charm, making it obvious why dangdut is so wildly adored. Islamic pop takes center stage next as the all-female nine-piece, Nasida Ria, places guitar, mandolin and Arabic epics together for an inspiring taste of the melting pot that's modern day Indonesian music.
Hankering for a world music fix, Indonesian style, or just looking to expand your musical roots? This Rough Guide is a stirring introduction to the styles and nuances of Indonesian music, with the filled methodically filtered-out, leaving you with a variety of engaging artists and unique genres, all from this cluster of South Asian islands.