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Be Not Afraid to Strike the Gong:
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Lombok is located between Bali and Sumbawa in the Lesser Sunda chain of islands in Indonesia, and the indigenous people of Lombok are the Sasak. The recording Be Not Afraid to Strike the Gong: The Music of Lombok contains examples of music from Lombok as performed by three different types of ensembles: a gong Sasak group playing music to accompany dance, procession and martial arts, a wayang Sasak group performing music to accompany the shadow puppet theatre, and a rebana tuned-drum ensemble performing pieces played at weddings, circumcision ceremonies, and other festive occasions.
The title "Be Not Afraid to Strike the Gong" is a translation of the Sasak proverb Kendek ipuh pantok gong. The idea is to "express yourself," and to do so just as you would strike a gong - confidently, clearly and at the right time. On a more literal level, this proverb can be taken as a reminder to maintain indigenous Sasak traditions. Gongs and bronze instruments in general are historically associated with pre-Islamic Sasak culture and as a result, "striking the gong" is opposed by some orthodox Muslim leaders on the island. This has led to a decline of the traditional performing arts in some areas of Lombok.
Islam came to Lombok via Java during the 15th to 17th centuries. A few Sasak resisted conversion, and it is said that there are still pockets of these Bodha Sasak in some isolated areas of the highlands of North Lombok. The overwhelming majority of the population accepted the new faith, and a syncretic form of Islam developed called Waktu Tiga, which combined a belief in Allah and Mohammed as His prophet with Sasak tradition. It is in the now rapidly diminishing Waktu Tiga communities that traditional Sasak music, dance and theatre forms have the strongest hold. Among orthodox Muslim Sasak, called Waktu Lima, the pan-Islamic rebana ensemble is the preferred means of interpreting Sasak music, as other musical instruments and art forms in Lombok are associated with pre-Islamic Sasak culture.
While Lombok's music, dance and theatre are rooted in local Sasak culture and are stylistically distinctive from elsewhere in Indonesia, they have also been influenced by the performing arts of neighbouring islands, especially Java and Bali. Javanese influence is, for example, evident in the form of the Sasak shadow puppets and in the use of Middle Javanese by refined characters, and is also evident in some Sasak dance forms. During the 18th and 19th centuries much of Lombok was under Balinese control, and today ethnic Balinese comprise a significant minority in West Lombok. As a result, the influence of the Balinese performing arts has also been great in Lombok. For example, the musical ensemble which accompanies wayang Sasak, so different from its counterparts in the shadow plays of Java and Bali, seems to have been influenced by the archaic Balinese gamelan gambuh. And the music of the gong Sasak group, and even of the Sasak rebana ensemble, have both been influenced by gong kebyar, the dominant, Balinese 20th century musical style.
The musical arts associated with each of the three major social groups in Lombok, the Waktu Lima orthodox Muslims, the Waktu Tiga syncretic Muslims, and the Lombok Balinese Hindus (a syncretic form of Balinese Hinduism, incorporating some Sasak traditions) are represented by the three ensembles on this recording. Formally, all three musical genres have in common an emphasis on carefully modulated group tempo and dynamic changes, the use of interlocking parts so that figurations played on two or more instruments are combined to produce a single line, and the punctuation of rhythmic cycles with gongs (or, in the case of rebana, with drums functioning as gongs). These general musical characteristics are common to many music cultures in Indonesia, but they are realised in Lombok in distinct and unique ways.
Includes a 20-page booklet with notes, translations and 16 colour photos. Recordings, production, notes, translations by Christopher Basile. Photos by Husnus Sawab (cover, pp 8, 13 & 16) and Christopher Basile.
The album Be Not Afraid to Strike the Gong: The Music of Lombok was produced in collaboration with the performers and profits from CD sales are shared equally between the producer and the artists. Please read more about how and why this recording was produced.
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