Originally posted on June 4, 2008
The island of Sunda in West Java, Indonesia, was and probably still is the site of a form of music and dance called jaipong. Between 1979 and 1986, female vocalist Idjah Hadidjah and a small group of gamelan instrumentalists went into the studio to record an updated version of this musical genre.
Those recordings have been re-released on Nonesuch Explorer as Sundanese Jaipong and Other Popular Music. The cuts were hits in Indonesia at the time, but to Western ears they don’t sound at all like pop. The musical language follows the basic path of the modes and rhythms of Javanese gamelan, but the forms are shorter and vocalist Hadidjah is at the forefront, as are often the drummers. It’s a graceful sound simultaneously charged with Eros, which fits with the tradition. I found the whole CD very easy on my years, but nonetheless filled with musical substance. And the vocals are stunning.