My name's Palmer Keen. I'm a guy who's obsessed with music in a corner of the world that most people never even think about, Indonesia. Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world and also perhaps the most musically diverse country on the planet, but so much of this music is unknown or unavailable outside the country. My mission is to share this stuff with the world.

For more than four years I've been traveling around Indonesia researching and recording dozens of Indonesian music styles and sharing it all for free on my website, Aural Archipelago. Without a formal background in ethnomusicology, I've figured it all out as I go: becoming fluent in Indonesian, learning how to do fieldwork, and making connections with musicians and communities across the thousands of islands in the archipelago. I travel with all my gear in a backpack, staying with musicians in their homes, going to remote villages that have never seen foreigners, and finding music that's never been heard outside of these islands. There have been lots of adventures along the way and so, so much great music.

A few notes to answer FAQ:

How do I make money?/Is this my job?: This isn't my job. For most of the time I've been doing this I was supporting myself and the project by teaching English full time. My description may have been a bit misleading, I travel often but it is not a constant thing. This is a passion project, but I don't make a living from this. I receive donations on my site occasionally, but these are forwarded to musicians. I now also do occasional work as a fixer and guide for others looking for music in Indonesia.

How did you get into this field?: To be clear, I have no academic background in ethnomusicology. I studied the traditional music called gamelan as an extracurricular in university, then decided to move to Indonesia to teach English and learn more about the gamelan that I'd fallen in love with. Since then everything I know about ethnomusicology I've figured out along the way. It's a fascinating field for anyone interested in music, but for those who want to make it their career (again, this is not my career, just a passion project!), it has the same pitfalls of any other job in academia.

Do you pay the musicians?/Aren't you exploiting them?: Yes, I always pay musicians a reasonable fee for performances that I commission. I'm not releasing whole albums of their music for free, just a track or two to get people interested, something the musicians are very much on board with. The idea is that rather than put this music on albums that won't be affordable for everyone (especially Indonesians themselves), the music is available online for everyone, especially Indonesians and people from these communities who couldn't afford a proper album.

Ask me anything :)

If you're interested, check out:

The site: Aural Archipelago

Aural Archipelago on Facebook

Instagram: @auralarchipelago

YouTube: Aural Archipelago on YouTube

Proof: https://imgur.com/a/j75Ldii

EDIT: Okay guys, it's been fun, but it's late here in Indonesia and I've got to go to sleep. If I have time I'll try to get to the rest of the questions tomorrow. I hope those who are interested will go to the site and maybe fall in love with some of this music just as I have. If there's a particular group or artist that you like, you can leave a comment and I will relay it to the musicians, almost all of whom I'm still in touch with. Terima kasih!

Comments: 892 • Responses: 54  • Date: 

iHadou739 karma

How do the musicians feel about their music going online for free? I assume mostly positive or your campaign wouldnt seem so successful. Have you ever been denied by musicians who did not want their performance recorded and shared for free? Have any at all requested some sort of compensation? Thank you

auralarchipelago1416 karma

I was asked a similar question elsewhere so I'll quote that here first:

This is something I try to be careful about. Not all music "should" be shared with the world, and I never want to seem entitled to do so. When meeting with musicians, I always explain what my objectives are and very explicitly ask permission to share their music the way that I do. Almost every single time the musicians have enthusiastically agreed. They are rightfully proud of their music, and are happy to have their music heard and awareness raised about something they care about.

Surprisingly, I can think of only one time that a musician said they didn't want me to record their music. It was a musician in Cianjur, West Java who played a kind of zither called kecapi. His town has a very specific style of playing the kecapi, and he didn't want me recording the piece and sharing it, as then people in other cities in the area would hear it and copy it. That said, he did play it for me, just told me to keep it between us :)

As for compensation, I always try to compensate each musician whose performance I commission. Some even refuse my money, saying they're happy just to play, in which case I play it by ear - I don't want to offend somebody by forcing money into a situation where they don't want it.

iHadou307 karma

Very interesting. Thank you. Sounds like an exciting, adventurous life.

Sploitspiller112 karma

You’re very welcome. I love you so much and I’m glad you’re feeling better. Thanks for everything you’ve done for ourselves.

iHadou171 karma

Im not sure you replied to your intended target. Nonetheless, I love you too.

Jahkral76 karma

Can I get involved in this? I love you guys too!

HAL-Over-900170 karma

Oh man I love you guys. EVERYBODY LOVE EVERYBODY!

auralarchipelago87 karma

I love you guys :)

zazzyzulu607 karma

How much time have you spent waiting around in Indonesia?

auralarchipelago712 karma

This guy's been to Indonesia.

kamenstoned48 karma

Do you occasionally (accidentally)have a brother Dennis Keen? Edit the wrong used word

auralarchipelago47 karma

Only occasionally.

kamenstoned14 karma

He is just well-known in my home country, and I don't know English, so sorry again lol. You look very similar :D

auralarchipelago18 karma

Oh that's awesome, I was just kidding - he's my twin (actually, quadruplet) brother!

HowToComplicate45 karma

someone explain please?

PM_ME_YOUR_INDOMIE183 karma

Indonesians are known for being late.

Source: I'm an Indonesian and I don't know how to be on time.

thornstein6 karma

In Fiji there's a saying when running late: "Don't worry, we're on Fiji time". Is there an Indonesian equivalent?

auralarchipelago7 karma

Someone mentioned it above - we call it "jam karet" or rubber time :)

Aegonis269 karma

Hi, thanks for doing this.

There's an artist from where I live who went to Indonesia and used samples he created there to build this cool album. I'm not affiliated with him, but thought I'd share for obvious reasons.

One of the things he mentioned in an interview once, was how he experienced the difference in the motivation of making music. Western pop and rock music is quite egocentric as it often originates from an individual or some individuals who feel the need to share some feeling or story - it's why we call them artists. According to him, what he saw in Indonesia was different in what drives people to create music: it comes from the sense of being part of a community. That's why music is often made in very large groups.

What's your take on this? Did/Do you experience the same nuance in the urge for creating music?

auralarchipelago409 karma

Funny story, Dijf Sanders made that album...with me :) I was his guide and fixer on his recording trip through Java. I later joined him in a few cities in Belgium as I invited some of my favorite musicians from Indonesia to play some shows with him, this was last December.

biskuit83255 karma

Is this music played by these people for ritual/ceremonial purposes, or enjoyment?

auralarchipelago393 karma

One of the neat things about ethnomusicology is exploring all the different contexts in which music is played. In Indonesia, as elsewhere, there are all sorts of contexts, but definitely ritual is a main one. For example, there is a kind of music called tarawangsa played in an annual ritual called ngalaksa to celebrate the annual rice harvest and give thanks to the rice goddess, Nyi Pohaci. The elders of the village gather and men and women take turns dancing to the music, becoming possessed by spirits and entering a kind of trance. The music goes on for hours and hours with people going in and out of trance. Some of the most beautiful experiences I've had here has been joining these ceremonies, dancing with the possessed, feeling the beauty of the music and the depth of the traditions.

Music that's played just for enjoyment is also common, but somehow often overlooked as somehow unimportant by academics. I love this stuff, like rinding, a kind of bamboo mouth harp that is played in Central Java to while away the time in the rice fields. Just beautiful, simple music without an audience.

djspacebunny90 karma

You have my dream job! I didn't know this was a thing... I should have done that instead of going to college to be a music teacher.

auralarchipelago225 karma

To be clear, I'm not really making any money doing this. I've gotten some donations and been sponsored a few times, but I've spend thousands of dollars of my own money doing this, just because I love it. It is possible to make a living as an academic, but that's not my style!

DigiMagic-56 karma

By Occam's razor, they were not possessed by spirits and were intentionally lying to you. Obviously, out of the many people you met, statistically most must be normal good people. So they were lying to you out of fear of social expectations or religious pressure or something like that. Were you able to do anything about that, to relieve them of that fear?

auralarchipelago34 karma

I tend to think of myself as a fairly rational, non-superstitious person, but I try to respect people's beliefs here - if they say they were possessed by spirits, that's fine by me. I also don't think "they were possessed' and "they were lying" are the only options, far from it. This is not something that happened just because I was there, in fact possession and trance rituals happen across Indonesia every day...and I'm not there! Trance is a complex thing, and even for those who don't believe in spirits, there are convincing psychosocial and neurological explanations for what occurs. If you're interested, I recommend checking out Judith Becker's Deep Listeners: Music, Emotion, and Trancing, which explores this subject very deeply and convincingly.

itsacalamity226 karma

How do you feel about Alan Lomax and what he and his brother did?

auralarchipelago224 karma

Alan Lomax is a really interesting character, and I really admire what he and his brother did. I don't know a huge amount about him, and I know that some have looked back on his work and found some elements of it problematic, but I do know that he travelled America and the world looking for music because he truly loved and cared about it, and that I can definitely relate to and respect.

AmorDeCosmos97136 karma

What’s always fascinated me about gamelan, is that there is no orchestra tuning. They’re supposed to all have a slightly different tuning. Can you discuss some other differences like that between European and Asian music?

auralarchipelago247 karma

Yeah, that's something super neat about gamelan. In the past literally every village gamelan "orchestra" had its own tuning, though there are standard scales that are common. Interestingly in the 20th century this started to change with recording technology, as people started requesting gamelan instruments made to match the tunings they heard on records or cassettes.

It's hard to talk about Indonesian music in generalities, let alone Asian music, but definitely there are some important differences. One is the way that musical pieces are organized. Western music is linear - in the case of pop or even much of Western folk music, for example, there is a structure that moves a song from point A to point b, something like verse/pre-chorus/chorus/verse/bridge etc. Much of the music I encounter in Indonesia is not linear but cyclical, so the music is structured around something like loops. A piece might have an opener, but after that elements in the piece may be looped, repeated for as long as necessary, until the band brings it to an end. The funny consequence of this is that musicians are often super sloppy with the beginnings and endings of pieces, as in their minds, the songs are kind of infinite - you just slide in and slide out of that eternal loop.

psychedelicsexfunk96 karma

As an Indonesian, terima kasih! You brought up a very interesting point about Indonesian music being cyclical and loop-based, because I have a theory that linear structure doesn’t seem to matter as much in music as we think, the prime example being how popular hip-hop music relies heavily on loop and less so on linear development. Anyway, my question would be - have you seen that dance in East Java where the dancer is under so much trance he actually eats raw glass? Crazy, right?

auralarchipelago17 karma

Yeah, I've seen trance dance across Java, from Sundanese reak around Bandung to some pretty wild ebeg in Central Java. Other than eating glass, the possessed young men are often whipped and have roof tiles smashed over their heads to demonstrate their invulnerability to pain. The craziest thing I saw was at a reak show in Bandung, where a guy possessed by the spirit of a tiger tore the head off the body of a live chicken with his teeth.

vandebay116 karma

Selamat malam. How did the villagers treat you as they have never seen foreigners before? Let me know when you'll be passing Jakarta and I'll treat you something. Terima kasih.

auralarchipelago186 karma

Malam! Honestly being a "bule" ("foreigner" for others reading this) often works to my benefit in doing this kind of work. Indonesians are so curious and friendly towards bules, and when they find that I can speak Indonesian people are even more eager to chat. I meet people all the time who have never seen foreigners or at least have never been able to talk to one, so I become kind of an ambassador, telling them about life where I'm from (California) and explaining that yes, we also eat rice in America :) A funny aspect of this is with children - some are terrified, and others are curious. Even adults sometimes can't help their curiosity - recently I was in a village and found a woman stroking my arm hair in amazement!

Dulu saya tinggal di Bandung jadi saya cukup sering ke Jakarta, tapi sekarang saya pindah ke Jogja (istri saya orang sini) jadi agak jauh. Tapi pasti kalau di Jakarta, I'll hit you up :)

honeygotchi81 karma

As an Indonesian, my 2 cents.

  1. We don't live in huts like monkeys with no Internet. Though some people still live traditionally, many cities and towns have Internet and mobile phones, as well as water and television and electricity/modern lights.

  2. There are THOUSANDS of tribes in Indonesia, with differing cultures, stories, and languages--that means, yes, the songs can also be very different. Even as an Indonesian, I can't name more than ten or twenty tribes.

  3. Many of the songs that Palmer records have incredible cultural significance. They are not performed to make money. Many traditional cultures and songs are dying out due to a somewhat forced shift to Islam, and I personally am concerned about the erasure of traditional Indonesian cultures across the archipelago (though that is only one aspect of cultural erasure, and a balance needs to be maintained between preserving culture + forcing our own ideas onto it).

  4. Because these songs are not performed for money or for the sake of performance (rather, to worship a deity or celebrate a particular seasonal event, or simply for pleasure), many Indonesian people view the sharing of our culture as an overwhelming positive thing. This is different from indie musicians who are trying to make money. In many cases, accepting money for these songs (many of which are religious in nature) would be akin to blasphemy. Other songs and instruments are used to simply pass the time, and commodifying depictions of everyday life is exactly what we don't need happening.

  5. As long as Palmer isn't trying to sell these songs, and instead is using aural archipelago as a free online resource for people to learn more about our peoples' incredibly rich history and culture, then why not? Some comments are pointing blame to him, as if he's a typical whitey trying to make money off of poor Indonesian people. And from what I've seen as I've followed his journey, that's not at all true. Don't get so concerned about social justice that you fail to see the situation from actual Indonesian people's perspectives. This is a gift of preservation of traditions that one day soon may no longer exist. This is absolutely a gift and a blessing.

auralarchipelago9 karma

Thanks for providing some context from an Indonesian perspective. You explained some things a lot better than I ever could have. Makasih banyak ya :)

fannyfox70 karma

Where in Indonesia are you? I met a girl in my hostel in Jogjakarta a week ago who is doing the same thing and doing a conference on this.

auralarchipelago62 karma

I'm in Jogjakarta actually! Maybe I know her? If you want, PM me, I'm curious now!

StinkFingerPete60 karma

are you connecting with some universities or cultural heritage preservation sites?

auralarchipelago109 karma

Always happy to work with any institutions who are willing to have me. I recently joined a symposium on bundengan, a rare Javanese instrument, at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and plan on giving some talks in universities back home in California later this year. I'm not affiliated with an institution and haven't studied ethnomusicology formally, so my relationship with academies is informal, but I've been surprised by the support I've received from other Indonesianist ethnomusicologists (it's a niche world so after a while you get to know them all!)

infpsoup20 karma

Which universitites in California! Will the talks be open to the public?

auralarchipelago52 karma

I have friends at UC Santa Barbara and UCLA who have invited me to give talks, and my family is in LA so those are the easiest. Nothing is confirmed yet but I'm sure when they do happen they would be open to anyone who's interested. I could keep you updated if you live nearby?

Funkimonster5 karma

I'm seconding what /u/pandasgorawr said. The gamelan teacher (who is a wayang and gamelan master from Java) would definitely love to have your insight! I took that class very recently. He always talked about how we should travel to Indonesia and throw ourselves into the culture and learn gamelan at the source. If you're interested in stopping by Berkeley, PM me and I can send you contact info.

auralarchipelago6 karma

I'd love to if I ever make it up that way. I studied gamelan Sunda and gamelan Bali at UC Santa Cruz, which is what started me on my journey to Indonesia :) You should definitely come here if you ever have the chance!

JiveTurkey100049 karma

How did you get the funding for such an endeavour?

auralarchipelago98 karma

I'm almost totally self-funded, with most of the work I've done funded from my former job teaching English. In American terms, the pay was tiny, but in Indonesian terms, more than enough to live (things are VERY cheap here), so I was able to live comfortably and do this work in my spare time. These days I get the occasional donation on my website, where you can donate through Paypal, and I've also started doing work in the past work as a fixer and guide for others who are interested in going to Indonesia, meeting musicians, and doing similar work.

eastmaven36 karma

Are you ever worried about money running out?

auralarchipelago113 karma

For sure, I'm always looking for ways to do this sustainably. Most of the time I've been doing this work, I was teaching English as a living, and using my decent-for-Indonesia salary to do this work. For a while now though I've been doing the work on savings and donations from a handful of generous patrons who support what I do. My style is very low-cost though, as I stay with people who invite me into their homes, travel around myself on motorbike, and don't use extremely expensive equipment. The biggest costs are for paying the musicians as much as I can when I commission performances.

Ineznoir34 karma

This is interesting. As a student in this field myself, I'm wondering how you go about creating ethical safeguards in what you do. When you're attached to a university there is IRB human subjects research training, regulations and certification requirements, but those still haven't been well tailored to suit humanities well. Do you: consider how your race and nationality impact your interactions with people and have ways to give back to the communities that share their music and culture with you?

auralarchipelago60 karma

Because I'm not academically trained, doing this work ethically is something that I've had to intuitively navigate, while listening in to the methods that academic ethnomusicologists use to keep things fair and ethical. I'm very much concerned with the movement towards "decolonizing ethnomusicology," and recognize that in some ways what I'm doing is inherently colonial. As a starting point, I always try to recognize my (massive) privilege and to enact this work from a place of respect. With my limited resources, it's hard if not impossible to give back hugely to every musician or community who so graciously shares their music with me, but I do compensate the musicians I record, and hope that in doing this work and raising awareness about their art they are benefiting, if indirectly. Do you have any advice?

craigfwynne33 karma

Sounds like an incredible experience! I have 2 questions.

  1. Have you run across music that is difficult for you to understand due to its developement being so isolated from the rest of the musical world?

  2. Music and food are so often paired culturally, and I really enjoy thinking about music and cooking as kindred art forms, i.e. learning basics, then moving on to be able to improvise by using elements from previously learned pieces/dishes to build something new.

Have you gotten to experience any unique events where both the music and the food were essential elements? Bonus question: What is the most unique thing you've been fed?

auralarchipelago85 karma

  1. I could study music here for years and never have the same intuitive understanding of the music that a local would have, but music varies in complexity - some stuff really just blows my mind, and I have a hard time wrapping my mind around how people can play it with such ease. It's not necessarily a matter of isolation from the world though, either - no music exists in a vacuum, and culture is a fluid thing, especially in a country like Indonesia which has influences from all over -India, China, The Netherlands, Portugal, to name a few.

  2. Not sure if this is what you had in mind, but here's something that I immediately thought of: on the island of Lombok, there are cotton candy salesmen who roam the villages on foot, and just like an ice cream truck, they have a jingle to attract customers. The music comes from the cotton candy receptacle itself, an instrument called gule gending, or "cotton candy drum." It's got these metal tins on the outside on which the salesmen beat out melodies inspired by the traditional music there. I went to Lombok, searched out these guys, and hung out with them for a bit, watching as they made cotton candy by hand at home and learning how to play the instrument. I even bought one for myself, which they were confused by, as they asked if I planned to sell cotton candy myself! I spent the next week going around the island looking for other music, and as I did I brought the gule gending everywhere, playing it as I walked around. Little kids would come up to me and try to order cotton candy, and I'd have to disappoint them, explaining that I was all out (but I could play them a song!)

izeasklapaucius27 karma

Appreciate the work! I'm a student on a university near Sumedang and I've never even heard reak or tarawangsa. Kinda ashamed but more things to learn I guess.

Have some questions.

  1. Of all the instruments you've encountered, which one has the most "pop" sensibilities? Which instrument that wouldn't sound too far off if they were used on pop music?

  2. Any best/worst experience?

Thanks for doing this AMA and godspeed!

auralarchipelago40 karma

Are you in Jatinangor? There's tons of great reak music happening in that area, both in Sumedang and in Ujung Berung, Cibiru, and Cileunyi nearby. Check it out!

  1. It's hard to say which instruments would fit into pop, at least Western pop. The musical systems most Indonesian instruments are designed to play in are just so different that often it just wouldn't work. And that's not a bad thing, I think :) That said, I love the sound of Sundanese kendang, and think it would sound pretty neat in a hip hop or experimental track!

  2. The best experience so far has maybe been being invited to curate an event for the Europalia International Arts Festival in Belgium last year. I was able to invite some of my favorite musicians to play a few special shows, something that was really incredible for all of us. My mission is always to get Indonesian music out there for anyone who wants to hear it, and that was a whole other way of doing it, something that was really rewarding.

izeasklapaucius19 karma

Yes, studying library science so the aspect of cultural documentation and preservation on your project piqued my interest.

Your goal is much appreciated. Keep striving!

auralarchipelago23 karma

Wow, I've never met an Indonesian studying library science. Asyik! Libraries are so important. You keep striving too!

Jurary23 karma

How much of a hipster are you on a scale of 10 to 10?

auralarchipelago48 karma

Oh, for sure a 10.

sublimesam22 karma

Have you done any study whatsoever into indigenous intellectual property rights? Do you have any reservation about controlling how people's music gets shared with others? Do they want their music publicly available for free to everyone in the world?

auralarchipelago30 karma

Good questions. This is something I try to be careful about. Not all music "should" be shared with the world, and I never want to seem entitled to do so. When meeting with musicians, I always explain what my objectives are and very explicitly ask permission to share their music the way that I do. Almost every single time the musicians have enthusiastically agreed. They are rightfully proud of their music, and are happy to have their music heard and awareness raised about something they care about.

nasigorengkimchi19 karma

Have you heard about this traditional instrument called "Bundengan"?

auralarchipelago30 karma

Oh have I! Together with Rosie Cook, a conservator from Monash University in Australia, I was one of the first researchers to study the instrument in depth, and earlier this year I traveled to Sydney and Melbourne with bundengan musicians and scholars from Java to give talks and join an international symposium on the instrument. The instrument is actually behind me in my "proof" picture in this post! How did you hear about bundengan? ...do I know you?

nasigorengkimchi17 karma

Ah, I'm sorry I don't see the picture, haha. I heard about the instrument because the scholars you mentioned are actually from my department at Universitas Gadjah Mada (Dr. Gea). I leave the university to pursue graduate study abroad when they start the Bundengan project. Best of luck mate, I know that the symposium (and performance in Tembi Music festival, if I'm not mistaken) is just the beginning of something wonderful. Always love the collaboration between art and science

auralarchipelago15 karma

Nice, salam buat Mas Gea :)

mrblister4218 karma

Favourite artist?

auralarchipelago28 karma

In the world, or in Indonesia?

itsacalamity23 karma

Both!

auralarchipelago78 karma

Oh man, that's tough. My favorite in Indonesia might be Ata Ratu. She's an incredible singer and musician from Sumba, an island in Southeast Indonesia. She plays a homemade guitar-like instrument called a jungga and sings with the most beautiful voice, improvising poetic verse about her audience as she goes along. Last year I had the privilege of inviting her to play at the Europalia Festival in Belgium, which was a crazy experience - she'd never left her part of Indonesia before, and doesn't speak a word of English. Still, she did amazing, and I grew to respect her even more as an incredible, strong woman.

fraac14 karma

How much do you get into the music you're documenting? Have you had life-changing experiences at the Fijian equivalent of a rave, for example?

Relatedly, how much do you feel the music is inextricable from the culture?

auralarchipelago29 karma

Never been to Fiji, but I've had some truly amazing, life-changing experiences doing this work, for sure. I mentioned one above, attending Sundanese harvest rituals where I joined dancers in trance as they were possessed by the spirits of their ancestors...those have been some of the most profound experiences of my life. I rarely have the opportunity to deeply study how to play the music I find as I'm trying to cover a lot of ground, but each musician I've met has made a mark. More than the music, even, is the kindness and generosity of the strangers I've met across this country. I have little to give, but people are so eager to share their music with me and the world, going above and beyond - driving me around their islands, sharing their homes with me, feeding me local food.

No music is truly inextricable from culture. Nothing exists, of course, in a vacuum, and any music, whether traditional or pop, is a product of the environment in which it is created.

dudamello12 karma

Why is gamelan such a source of fascination to ethnomusicologists? I'm a music major, and when I took world music cultures it took up a good quarter of the semester, and all the ethnomusicologists I've met seem to be into it significantly more than almost any other culture.

auralarchipelago22 karma

That's a good question, I think it comes down to the history of ethnomusicology's relationship to gamelan. From what I understand, it was Mantle Hood who helped bring one of the first gamelans over to America, and helped start popularizing the notion of bimusicality, the idea that ethnomusicologists should become "fluent" in the music that they're studying by directly learning to play the music just as a language student would unquestionably have to be fluent in the language they chose to focus on! Gamelan took off, I think, because it is easy to pick up even for non-musicians (this was definitely my experience), but it is also a rich, complex tradition. I also think there is a kind of bias behind it, this idea that "classical" traditions (such as the court traditions of Yogyakarta and Solo which so much study has been focused on) are somehow more interesting or legitimate than "folk" traditions. I love gamelan, but since my gamelan days I've fallen in love with so much other music in this country :)

RRRaaaacinnng6911 karma

Do you play modern/western music to them?

auralarchipelago50 karma

I don't have to play modern/Western music for them - they hear it all the time anyway on TV and radio, or on the internet. It's a misconception that people living in developing countries are living away from all Western influence in a hut in the forest or something (not suggesting you think that, just a common trope.) Most of the musicians I met, while holding on to their local traditions, are keyed into the global media-scape to varying degrees. Almost everybody has a smartphone and Facebook, even farmers in remote villages. Things are changing fast in this part of the world.

standswithpencil4 karma

I wouldn't overlook the idea of reciprocity and the sharing of yourself to those you study. So, maybe if you can play, then you could play with them . It doesn't have to be recorded. It could just be a form of giving yourself to them and building repore . So it's not about exposing them to your culture, although that's happening, but about connecting with people

auralarchipelago5 karma

Oh for sure, I always bring a few instruments and share with the people I meet. I mostly play kalimba and a few different kinds of Indonesian mouth harps.

R0binSage9 karma

Can you roll this research into a college degree?

auralarchipelago31 karma

I definitely could if I wanted to! Plenty of the ethnomusicologists I've met have encouraged me to look into getting a master's or PhD, as a lot of the work I'm doing already is pretty similar to academic work. On the other hand, I've had others tell me to just keep doing things that way I'm doing them, with some even admitting a bit of jealousy! The fact is that just as the average archaeologist is not out there playing Indiana Jones most of the time, most ethnomusicologists spend their time not doing fieldwork (the fun part!), but doing...academia stuff - teaching, attending and leading seminars, grading papers, creating syllabi...some of its surely rewarding, but I've always been way more into the fieldwork side of things than formal academia. The downside is that doing things independently means I have to essentially be self-funded, as grants for this kind of work is almost exclusively for academics.

disposable-name8 karma

Are you a fan of Deep Forest? That was my introduction to world music.

auralarchipelago27 karma

I appreciate anything that can get people interested in non-Western music, definitely. As you may have heard before though, Deep Forest's sampling practices can be seen as a bit problematic. There was a controversy when their track "Sweet Lullaby" sampled a field recording from Solomon Islands but was misattributed by the group as African pygmy music. The original singer in the field recording received nothing from the sample despite Deep Forest surely making a decent profit from the track.

Because of that, I've been wary when musicians ask if they can sample the recordings I share online. When I record musicians, I always ask their permission to share their work on my site, but it would require extra permission to see if they're willing to have their work remixed or used in another artist's work, especially if that artist wanted to make a profit.

the_comeup4 karma

What did you do with people wanting to sample your recordings? I wanted to ask that myself.

auralarchipelago6 karma

It's only happened a few times - I simply asked the musicians what they thought, and the few times it happened, they said yes, they had no issues with it as long as they weren't making a profit off of it.

G8r8 karma

What recording gear do you use? Have you considered approaching any of them with the idea of sponsorship?

auralarchipelago10 karma

Always open to any sponsorship deals! I've never been a techie but have upgraded my gear as I go along. For the first few years I recorded everything with a Sony PCM-M10, a digital recorder you could fit in your pocket. Still love that thing, but I've moved on to a ZOOM H5, with recent additions of some external mics (a Rode NT5 stereo pair.)

Theandric8 karma

Got some good Gamelan tracks?

auralarchipelago20 karma

I moved here initially after having studied gamelan in university and falling in love with it, but I've found that mostly it is well enough documented that I tend to stick to other styles that are less explored. That said...for sure I've got some gamelan for you, just obscure varities! Here's some klentang, a rare kind of gamelan from Lombok where each instrument plays just one note, requiring a whole lot of teamwork to play melodies (similar concept at play in typical gamelan, but this is that interlocking idea taken to an extreme!). Here's okol, a Madurese form of gamelan with giant wooden slit drums imitating drums and gong. ...and here's some East Javanese gamelan with a dancing bird for good measure.

CarinasHere8 karma

I’m sure you’ve read Tilman Seebass?

auralarchipelago16 karma

I know his work! I've followed up on some of the initial surveys he did on music in Lombok in the 80's. I'm obsessed with mouth harps, and Seebass was the only ethnomusicologist I'd read who'd said anything about a rare variety called selober. I tracked the instrument down and made some of the first recordings and video of the music.

I'm not affiliated with a university so its sometimes hard to get access to academic resources like that, though. Do you know him?

G3ntleman7 karma

Are you self funded or do you have sponsors? How did you get started on such a fantastic journey?

auralarchipelago23 karma

I'm almost totally self-funded. For most of the almost five years I've been doing this, I was teaching English as a day job and using most of my salary to go around the country doing this. Only recently have I added a donate page to my website, and have gotten a decent amount of support that way from people who follow Aural Archipelago. Finding funding is tough, as I'm not an academic, which is the typical context for doing this kind of work and seeking grants.

My journey started in college, when I studied traditional Sundanese and Balinese gamelan music as an extra-curricular. I'd always been fascinated by music around the world, but the experience of getting deep into those styles really changed my life. After graduating with a literature degree, I decided to move to Indonesia to teach English and learn what I could about the music here. Only upon arriving did I realize that there is a whole world of music outside of gamelan (which is itself fairly obscure) that is almost unknown outside of Indonesia, but so much of it is really beautiful, unique stuff. After a year teaching, I went on a backpacking trip from Bali to Timor and decided to look for music along the way just for fun, and found that people were surprisingly eager to share their music with me if I just asked and was friendly, polite, and interested. That was the seed for creating Aural Archipelago, and now I've been to almost every corner of the country (there's 15,000 islands, so maybe not every one!) and recorded and researched dozens and dozens of different styles. It's become a true passion and something like my life's work, and I love every minute of it.

southpawshuffle7 karma

For someone with no background in this kind of music, what can I hear on the internet that’s similar to the kind of music you’re studying?

auralarchipelago10 karma

Just take a dig through Aural Archipelago, where there are dozens of examples for you to hear from across the archipelago. Even if you've never heard Indonesian music before, you're bound to find something you like. My most recent post is on a music called yanger, super accessible and pretty hard not to like :)

CaptainBowdrill6 karma

Best SoundCloud rappers you have encountered?

auralarchipelago12 karma

Not sure if joking but soundcloud hasn't really caught on in Indonesia, surprisingly. YouTube is where its at for discovering music here, at least the traditional stuff. I've met so many musicians just by trawling amateur videos on YouTube and asking the uploaders if they could help me find the music for myself!

Lurk6r5 karma

sooooooooooo, how do you make money?

auralarchipelago4 karma

Covered in the description, but I teach English and work as a guide. This is just a passion project I do on the side :)

PrideoftheAllFather5 karma

What do you enjoy most about this vocation? Is it that you share music with everyone that most people would never get a chance to experience if you didn't? That you're able to get a record of musical history or tradition so it won't be lost to the ages? That you get to meet a wide variety of people and artists on your travels? Or another reason, if not all of those? Haha

auralarchipelago16 karma

For sure, all of those things! A huge issue is the endangerment of music - people are aware of and concerned about endangered animals like the panda, even endangered languages, but not much thought is given to traditional music that is often very close to dying out. There's an argument to made that the death of a music is a natural thing, and that we shouldn't fight it, but I see the diversity of music to be just as important as ecological diversity - imagine a world where the only music that existed was commercial or Western music, how homogeneous that would be. Sustaining musical traditions is up to the musicians and their communities, but I try to play my part by raising awareness about these musics not only for outsiders but for Indonesians themselves and the communities who carry these traditions.

Even more than those lofty ideals though, I also just love the people I meet along the way. I have friends all across the archipelago now, people I stay in touch with through social media, people who invited me into their homes, took me around their islands, and shared what's important to them. It's funny as in America I'm a total introvert, but Indonesians are so kind, welcoming, and funny that they just bring me out of my shell, and I end up having a lot of fun with everybody I meet.

oakXXIII5 karma

Apa Kabar?

auralarchipelago10 karma

Baik baik, apa kabar? Dari mana?

macboot4 karma

Do you speak the language?

auralarchipelago8 karma

Yep, I'm fluent in Indonesian and starting to work on Javanese.

HolyShitzurei3 karma

Are you planning to go to Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival this year? I think it would be held on 13-15 July 2018.

Edit: insert more words

auralarchipelago8 karma

I've been to Sarawak but never to the festival. I'm not super into the concept of "world music" as a commercial construct, but I do appreciate anything that gets non-commercial and traditional music out there into the world.

TheLittleOdd1sOut2 karma

What do you think about the name of your work? Ethnomusicologist seems hard to pronounce, much less spell.

auralarchipelago5 karma

It's not an ideal name, and a lot of ethnomusicologists have talked about changing the name of the discipline for decades now. It's so deeply used now, though, that it would be hard to change things.