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Austronesian Soundscapes

Austronesian Soundscapes: Performing Arts in Oceania and Southeast Asia

Edited by Birgit Abels
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Austronesian Soundscapes
    Book Description:

    Austronesian Soundscapes is a collection of essays on Austronesian musics that transcends disciplinary frontiers in the humanities and social sciences. In all of Austronesia, music plays a crucial role in the negotiation of cultural identities; yet research on the diversity of the Austronesian cultural belt's music has hitherto been rather sparse. Responding to this gap, Austronesian Soundscapes offers comprehensive analyses of traditional and contemporary Austronesian musics, investigating how music in the region reflects the 21st century's challenges.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0811-2
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. List of Tables and Illustrations (by Chapter)
    (pp. 7-12)
  4. List of Audio-visual Resources (by Chapter)
    (pp. 13-14)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 15-22)
    Birgit Abels

    In contemporary academic mappings of musical cultures, the term ‘Austronesia’ is far from common currency. It does not seem particularly handy at first glance: The area where people who speak Austronesian languages live covers a huge amount of the globe’s surface from Madagascar to Rapa Nui, making it a seemingly elusive category of reference. Conventionally divided into Taiwan, the Malay Archipelago, Oceania, and Madagascar, Austronesia comprises a huge number of diverse cultural traditions, bound together by their affiliation with the Austronesian expansion and language family, and a shared ancestry. This has restricted the usage of the word mostly to linguistics...


    • 1 Creating Places through the Soundscape: A Kalinga Peace Pact Celebration
      (pp. 25-44)
      Glenn Stallsmith

      Warfare and revenge killings define much of life for the Kalinga of the northern Philippines. Fears of war express themselves in a range of beliefs and values that include appropriate hospitality for visitors, taboos regarding travel and regulations about spirit-world interactions. Even activities as seemingly mundane as planting a rice field and walking on certain trails are affected by tensions between Kalinga sub-groups.¹ The Kalinga are somewhat notorious for violence, and other Filipinos often revert to stereotypes of headhunting mountain dwellers when describing them. Some suggest thatkalingais derived from a word for ‘enemy’ in neighbouring ethnolinguistic groups (Billiet...

    • 2 Sundanese Dance as Practice or Spectacle: It’s All Happening at the Zoo
      (pp. 45-70)
      Henry Spiller

      Despite its scant 30 years of history, for most of that timejaiponganhas been the emblematic ‘traditional’ dance of the province of West Java (Jawa Barat) in Indonesia and of the Sundanese culture that dominates the province. With lively, dynamic drumming accompanying dancers in colourful costumes, when presented on the ‘stages of the state’ (Widodo 1995), jaipongan easily captures the attention of non-Sundanese Indonesians and foreigners alike, yet manages to impart a distinctly Sundanese flavour as well. Jaipongan conformed well to the ideals of Indonesian cultural policy promulgated by Soeharto’s New Order regime (1965–1998), which promoted the compilation...

    • 3 Malay-Islamic Zapin: Dance and Soundscapes from the Straits of Malacca
      (pp. 71-84)
      Mohd Anis Md Nor

      One of the most significant contributions of the confluence of east-west cultures in the Straits of Malacca since the 15th century has been the geo-political recreation of its performative traditions, asserting indigenous supremacy through the processes of syncreticising alien features into hybridised traditions.¹ With the coming of Arab traders from the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, the 805-kilometre narrow stretch of water between the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra, named after the ancient Malay Sultanate of Malacca, became the most important gateway between the Middle East and Southeast Asia. The Arab presence in Southeast Asia became...

    • 4 The Contemporary Musical Culture of the Chinese in Sabah, Malaysia
      (pp. 85-102)
      David T.W. Wong

      Analysing musical culture has been the prime interest of many musicologists and social scientists for many decades. Bennett (2008) outlines early attempts at theorising popular music and culture where music is seen as an ideological way to dominate the masses but also a subversive resource for the working class, a reaction to repression, in other words, a mirror of reality. Since the mid-1990s, a much more convincing approach, led by Frith (1983), dismantled the earlier top-down approach in favour of a dynamic interactive process in which the everyday reception, appropriation and aestheticisation of popular music texts, artefacts and associated resources...

    • 5 To Sing the Rice in Tanjung Bunga (Eastern Flores), Indonesia
      (pp. 103-132)
      Dana Rappoport

      This chapter discusses the place of polyphonic singing in the life of a village in Eastern Flores (Indonesia).² Even today, the people of this area fear starvation: finding food here is more difficult than in other places, as their slash and burn agriculture is dependent on rain that seems to never be sufficient. In the village of Waiklibang (see map, fig. 5.1), people sing during various times of the year. In its course, the agricultural year calls for the performance of prescribed songs directly rooted in the myth of the origin of rice, which includes a recounting of a primordial...


    • 6 Tromba Children, Maresaka, and Postcolonial Malady in Madagascar
      (pp. 135-152)
      Ron Emoff

      Throughout Madagascar, Malagasy people engage performatively in ancestral reverence and spirit possession in a ceremonial practice known astromba.Powerful ancestral spirits, often those of royalty that ruled much of Madagascar prior to French colonial control (officially from 1896 to 1960) are recalled into the present in tromba ceremony, to take human form and to interact with the living. Royal ancestral tromba spirits are coaxed, appeased, even cajoled – in large part musically – into the present, most immediately to heal illness, though they are also called upon for their capacities to resolve disputes, offer advice, alleviate daily problems, and...


    • 7 Fractals in Melanesian Music
      (pp. 155-168)
      Raymond Ammann

      When I was preparing for my first field trip to Papua New Guinea in 1989, I read a short text by Gregory Bateson on the ceremonial flute music¹ from the Sepik River area. Bateson (1936: 158-170) refers to the significance of this music for the freshly initiated young men, who, while learning to play the flutes, also learn – according to Bateson – about the social organisation of their group. Bateson states:

      Two men play together and their flutes are tuned by trimming the length so that flute A is exactly one tone higher in pitch than flute B. Then...

    • 8 ‘Singing Spirits And The Dancing Dead’: Sonic Geography, Music and Ritual Performance in a Melanesian Community
      (pp. 169-192)
      Paul Wolffram

      When I arrived in southern New Ireland, Papua New Guinea, in the Lak linguistic group, in July 2004 for my second period of fieldwork, word had already reached me during my journey that a very large and important ritual was about to take place in the region.¹ The ritual orkastom,as they are commonly known in Melanesia, was to be conducted by a Big Man in the community I was staying in. The prospect of participating in the preparations and performance of the kastom was exciting because, although I’d witnessed this particular rite before, the size of this impending...

    • 9 Breaking the Tikol? Code-switching, Cassette Culture and a Lihirian Song Form
      (pp. 193-204)
      Kirsty Gillespie

      In New Ireland Province, Papua New Guinea, there is a group of islands known as Lihir,¹ which can be seen on a clear day with the naked eye from the northeast coast of ‘mainland’ New Ireland. The Lihir island group is made up of four islands: Aniolam (by far the biggest in the group), Malie (consisting of the island of Malie plus two smaller islands, Sinambiet and Mando), Masahet and Mahur, in order from south to north.

      Lir, or Lihirian as it is known in English, is classified as an Austronesian language. It is spoken throughout the island group, though...

    • 10 Fijian Sigidrigi and the Performance of Social Hierarchies
      (pp. 205-222)
      Jennifer Cattermole

      This chapter discusses how social power is maintained and negotiated via Fijiansigidrigi(derived from the English ‘sing-drink’) performances. This Fijian music genre consists of songs featuring three or four-part vocal harmony, which are accompanied by guitar and/or ukulele. They are mostly performed by groups of men to entertain people during informalyaqona(orkavaas it is known throughout Polynesia)¹ drinking sessions. The repertoire consists of covers of overseas songs, as well as songs composed by Fijians in styles adopted and adapted primarily from North America and Britain (for example, rock, pop, country and blues), as well as the...

    • 11 Tau’a’alo: Paddling Songs as Cultural Metaphor
      (pp. 223-240)
      Adrienne L. Kaeppler

      In the maritime kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific, an important musical genre wastau’a’alo,paddling songs, sung by paddlers to maintain their rhythm while paddling their canoes. Although Tongans now use speedboats or airplanes, the concept embedded in paddling is a metaphor for working together to achieve specific ends. In this chapter, I will examine tau’a’alo in their historic usages and how the tau’a’alo concept has been transformed in the evolution of Tongan music and dance. In keeping with the theme of this volume, I will offer a cultural analysis of their music.

      Tau’a’alo were traditionally sung during...

    • 12 Disconnected Connections: Puerto Rican Diasporic Musical Identity in Hawai’i
      (pp. 241-260)
      Ted Solís

      As part of my ongoing research project in the Hawai’i Puerto Rican community, I recorded two song/dance pieces,‘Un Viaje a Nueva York’(‘A Journey to New York‘), a seis in traditional Puerto RicanJíbarohighland peasant musical style, and‘Pua ‘Olena’(“Olena Flower’), a popular Hawai’ian song set to Cubanbolerotreatment. The first embodies the highest degree of traditional Puerto Rican ‘mother culture’ symbolic imagery for Hawai’i Puerto Ricans. The second displays a very high degree of overt diasporic cultural linkage with Hawai’i, the host society. In actuality, neither completely typifies contemporary Hawai’i Puerto Rican musical reality. Together,...

    • 13 Performing Austronesia in the Twenty-first Century: A Rapa Nui Perspective on Shared Culture and Contact
      (pp. 261-276)
      Dan Bendrups

      Easter Island (Rapa Nui) represents the southeast corner of the ‘Polynesian triangle’ serving as a boundary marker in the conceptualisation of Austronesia as a geo-cultural space. It is an island with a contested history in global literatures, serving as the basis for a range of credible and incredible theories about human society, culture and conduct, and its megalithic stonework pervades global popular culture. Up until the mid-20th century, the antiquity of Polynesian settlement on Rapa Nui was questioned, with comparisons drawn more to the material cultures of the Americas (cf. Heyerdahl 1989). While more recent research has confirmed the Polynesian...

    • 14 ‘To Sing is to be Happy’: The Dynamics of Contemporary Maori Musical Practices
      (pp. 277-294)
      Toon van Meijl

      Maori music is well known throughout the world. Indeed, who is not familiar with thehaka,a dance of defiance accompanied by a rhythmically recited chant, which has become the trademark of the New Zealand national rugby team, also known as the All Blacks? The haka has become an icon of Maori culture since receiving ample attention in the media, even being used in Scottish whiskey advertisements, but it is important to establish that it is far from characteristic of Maori music. The indigenous population of New Zealand has a much more extensive repertoire of chants and songs, not all...

    • 15 Australian Indigenous Choices of Repertoire in Community CDs/DVDs: Recording and Reclaiming Torres Strait Islander Sacred and Secular Music
      (pp. 295-318)
      Karl Neuenfeldt

      The Torres Strait region of far northeastern Australia is not only a major Austronesian maritime passageway that links the Pacific and Indian Oceans, it is also a cultural crossroads. Beginning in the mid-19th century, a multicultural workforce employed in the maritime industries (Mullins 1995; Ganter 1994) brought with them music and performance cultures from Oceania, Southeast Asia, the Americas and Europe (Neuenfeldt 2004; Mullins 2001; 2005; Costigan 2007). Over the past 125 years, these influences have met, mingled and mutated along with local Indigenous influences into the unique musical culture circulating today (Neuenfeldt 2008), both in the Torres Strait region...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 319-322)
  10. Index
    (pp. 323-336)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 337-339)