For the roughly three years I’ve been running Aural Archipelago, my method of sharing Indonesian music with the world has been fairly simple: research, record, film, post. While the website and the popular Facebook page has been a great way to expose this music to new audiences, I’ve always felt that there were even more interesting avenues to explore. How else could I act as an ambassador for this music that I love?
An amazing opportunity has come in the form of the Europalia International Arts Festival. Europalia is a massive Brussels-based event spanning four months, many countries, and hundreds of artists. With the festival centered entirely around the theme of Indonesia, this country has an unprecedented opportunity to share its rich culture and heritage with a vast new audience.
Aural Archipelago is involved on two fronts: in early December, a series of curated Aural Archipelago events will go down across Belgium with a handful of my favorite musicians from Indonesia. Music from Sulawesi, Kalimantan, and Sumba will be played on stages across the land of waffles and frites, some of it never before played outside of Indonesia. It’s a truly exciting concert series, but I’ll rave more about it soon enough.
For now, the other front, which has been in the works for quite a while. To deepen the cultural exchange at the heart of this festival, Europalia sent musicians from all over Europe to immerse themselves in Indonesian musical cultures through field recording expeditions and direct collaborations. Using my relationships with musicians and knowledge of the musical landscape as a jumping off point, I had the privilege to act as an ambassador for these visiting artists, helping them get in touch with some of the amazing musical worlds Indonesia has to offer.
Starting this week, I’ll be sharing the results of these unorthodox residencies just as I would with a typical Aural Archipelago post, complete with recordings, video, and some peeks behind the scenes. First, we’ll be following German DJ and electronic musician Jan Schulte (aka Wolf Müller) as he treks through Indonesian Borneo in search of mouth harps and jungle sounds, trading exotic visions of headhunter-filled jungles for a journey which aims towards the real Kalimantan.
Next we’ll join Berlin-based Lebanese producer Rabih Beaini (aka Morphosis) as he teams up with Bandungites Tarawangselas (Teguh Permana and Wisnu Ridwana) to reimagine the sacred, looping sounds of Sundanese tarawangsa music.
Later, we’ll follow Belgian musician and producer Dijf Sanders as he treks through West and Central Java, exploring Sundanese and Javanese soundworlds through a microphone. That journey will take us from the bamboo instrument shops of Bandung to the gurgling frog-filled rice paddies of Banyumas, all fueled by Dijf’s curious approach to sound and music.
Finally, we’ll join the ambitious Moondog for Gamelan project of Bandung-based composer Iwan Gunawan and Moondog acolyte Stefan Lakatos. In this unprecedented collaboration, the percussive compositions of famed minimalist outsider Moondog will be interpreted through Iwan Gunawan’s bespoke bamboo gamelan.
While the musical meetings of these residencies were exciting enough, there’s more: in addition to new albums from Wolf Muller, Dijf Sanders, and Tarawangsawelas, these Indonesian explorations will culminate in a series of international performances across the Europalia lineup. With each post I’ll share the details on how to see the musical results for yourself in cities across Europe.
Let the Road to Europalia begin!