Various Artists – Smithsonian Folkways, Music of Indonesia, Vol. 20: Indonesian Guitars

Chris Nickson

By Chris Nickson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
The guitar. But not as we know it.

Yes, it's the guitar, but not always as we know it. Some of the instruments here are homemade, occasionally fantastic interpretations of the idea of a guitar, while others are the real thing. Either way, it's the music that captivates, whether it's "Stambul Naturil," a surprising song that sounds as if it's been plucked directly from Appalachia, or a tune that's zoomed in from another planet like "Kolo Kot Matani." What it illustrates perfectly is the global ubiquity of the guitar, and this often not only challenges our assumptions about the way it can be played, but offers a fascinating insight into music from the many places that make up Indonesia. It's a record that continually defies preconceptions, throwing the listener firmly and uncompromisingly into another culture. "Sungguh Terpaksa" is almost primitive rock, and "Langgam Di Bawar Bulan Purnama" carries strong, lyrical echoes of Hawaii. Disconcerting? Yes. A joy? Absolutely.