Location: Bena, Central Flores
Sound: The Bena Sunday Church Choir (see below)
With most music I record and encounter in Indonesia, I have a sketchy knowledge at best about the music at hand, but in this encounter I'm left with presenting the reader a near total blank. I recorded this track in the village of Bena, one of the most traditional Ngada villages in Flores. It's a fairly popular spot on the backpacking trail, and thus sees a fair amount of visitors, most visiting to see the ancient complex of megaliths at the heart of the village. While nearly all Ngada have been converted to Catholicism, the megaliths betray their animistic past and syncretic present - while the villagers sing "Hallelujah" on Sundays, they also occasionally sacrifice animals to the ancestral spirits and leave them at the megalithic stone altars.
I happened to stop by on a Sunday morning, just in time to catch a Sunday church service in one of the rugged thatched-roof houses for which Bena is famous. The villagers sat on the ground and in plastic picnic chairs and sang sweet hymns about which I know nothing: do they have a special Ngada character to them or are they stock Indonesian hymns? Especially in the second hymn on this recording (which sadly was cut off due to low disc memory on my recorder), I hear harmonies that seem to have a special something: Flores is famous for its polyphonic singing - could there be a connection?
As always, anybody who actually knows what they're talking about, please chime in with a comment! Everyone else, just enjoy the lovely sounds...