Musical Journeys in Sumatra

Despite being the sixth largest island in the world and home to an estimated 44 million Indonesians, Sumatra’s musical arts and cultures have not been the subject of a book-length study until now. Documenting and explaining the ethnographic, cultural, and historical contexts of Sumatra’s performing arts, Musical Journeys in Sumatra also traces the changes in their style, content, and reception from the early 1970s onward.

Musical Journeys in Sumatra
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Having dedicated nearly forty years of scholarship to exploring the rich and varied music of Sumatran provinces, Margaret Kartomi provides a fascinating ethnographic record of vanishing musical genres, traditions, and practices that have become deeply compromised by the pressures of urbanisation, rural poverty, and government policy.

This first book on music of the great island of Sumatra showcases the complex diversity of Indonesian music and includes field-based accounts from six different provinces of Sumatra: Aceh, North Sumatra, Riau, West Sumatra, South Sumatra and Bangka-Belitung.

Featuring unique photographs and original drawings from Kartomi’s field observations of instruments and performances, Musical Journeys in Sumatra provides a comprehensive musical introduction to this neglected, very large island, with its hundreds of ethno-linguistic-musical groups.

“This volume presents a lifetime of writings by a distinguished scholar on the musical arts of Sumatra. Readers get a comprehensive glimpse of the myriad music and dance styles, ritual and religious life, cultural politics, and ecological and gender issues that permeate throughout the island.”

–David D. Harnish, author of Bridges to the Ancestors: Music, Myth, And Cultural Politics at an Indonesian Festival.

“Widely recognized as the expert on the music of Sumatra, Margaret Kartomi provides a wealth of information on the music of various regions of the huge and culturally diverse island of Sumatra in Indonesia. No other book comes close to the treasure trove of descriptive data and detail here.”

–R. Anderson Sutton, author of Traditions of Gamelan Music in Java: Musical Pluralism and Regional Identity.

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