90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
The Roots of World Music

Balinese gamelan musicians in Tabanan, Bali, 1977. (Photo: Michael Tenzer)

Post your comments below

Way before iTunes and iPods and mixing boards and studios, humans all over the world were making amazing music. Traditional music that crystallized and symbolized a way of looking at life.

Today, we’ll hear from two great scholars of music from way beyond the Top 40. From Bali. From central Africa.

We sing about love and loss and gangstas. They tell of elephant hunts, cosmic visions – and maybe gangstas, too.

This Hour, On Point: from Bali to Africa to the heart of traditional music.

Guests:

Simha Arom, ethnomusicologist and director emeritus of research at France’s National Center for Scientific Research. He’s best known for his prize-winning series of musical recordings of the Aka pygmies and other Central African groups from the 1960’s through the 1980’s. His influential book is “African Polyphony and Polyrhythm: Musical Structure and Methodology.”

Michael Tenzer, ethnomusicologist and music professor at the University of British Columbia. He has focused on the musical traditions of Bali, and is author of “Gamelan Gong Kebyar: The Art of Twentieth-Century Balinese Music.” He co-founded the San Francisco-based Balinese music ensemble Gamelan Sekar Jaya, which was awarded the Dharma Kusuma Award for Cultural Service by the Balinese government.

Here are some examples of field recordings by Arom and Tenzer:

“Gamelan Gambuh,” an ensemble of bamboo bass flutes, drums and gongs originating in the 15th century or earlier.  Recorded by Michael Tenzer.

http://audio.wbur.org/storage/2010/02/onpoint_0219_ethno3.mp3

“Hindehu” by the Benzele Pygmies, in which a singer is alternating with a whistle.  Recorded by Simha Arom.

http://audio.wbur.org/storage/2010/02/onpoint_0219_ethno1.mp3

“Ndraje Balendro” by the Banda-Linda in Central Africa (see photo below), an initiation song with 18 wooden trumpets and a pair of bells.  Recorded by Simha Arom.

http://audio.wbur.org/storage/2010/02/onpoint_0219_ethno2.mp3

Wooden trumpets of the Banda-Linda people, 1970s. (Photo: Simha Arom)

Here’s Michael Tenzer, Simha Arom, and Tom Ashbrook in our studio today:

(Photo: Gabrielle Levy)

Several listeners asked where you could get the recordings. Michael Tenzer says:

“Some of the recordings are expensive or specialized or rare. Interested listeners might want to check university libraries or poke around on the web for used sellers.” He pointed listeners to the following Amazon listings:

Central African recordings by Simha Arom:

Anthology of the Music of the Aka Pygmies
Central African Republic: Aka Pygmy Music

Central Africa: Music of the Gbaya, Songs for Reflection
Aka Pygmies: Hunting Love & Mockery Songs

Balinese recordings and compositions:

by Michael Tenzer
Bali: Gamelan Semar Pegulingan: Gamelan of the Love God

Bali South
and Vital Records

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Jan 28, 2015
Vice President Joe Biden speaks at Pellissippi State Community College Friday, Jan. 9, 2015, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP)

The promise of free community college. What it might mean for our economy and our fraying social contract.

Jan 28, 2015
tasty

Did our sense of taste make us human? From evolution to culture, a new book explores the science and perception of flavor.

RECENT
SHOWS
Jan 27, 2015
As any ant knows, building a reliable team can be hard. (Flickr / Guildmn20)

From Silicon Valley to your office, some teams work better – and smarter – than others. We’ll look at the surprising reasons why.

 
Jan 27, 2015
Leader of Syriza left-wing party Alexis Tsipras speaks to his supporters outside Athens University Headquarters, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. A triumphant Alexis Tsipras told Greeks that his radical left Syriza party's win in Sunday's early general election meant an end to austerity and humiliation and that the country's regular and often fraught debt inspections were a thing of the past. (AP)

A leftist victory in Greece, and anti-austerity pushback across Europe. We’ll ask where this goes.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: January 23, 2015
Friday, Jan 23, 2015

New thoughts on Facebook, new analysis of State of the Union twitter activity and new weekend excitement. New! And exciting!

More »
Comment
 
Meet On Point’s Interns: Spring 2015
Friday, Jan 23, 2015

Good news! We have interns, and they are wonderful, and here they are for the spring term. Meet them digitally, right here.

More »
2 Comments
 
Caller To Author Ron Rash: ‘You Cared About People Like Me’
Thursday, Jan 22, 2015

An unexpected caller from South Carolina brings back guest Ron Rash’s years as a community college professor in a movingly real way.

More »
1 Comment