Rare find, total joy: Tell only the Cool Kids
Jesse Kornbluth | New York | 12/11/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Few things are more fun than having something terrific that no one has --- or even knows about.
A Shaquille O'Neil pre-rookie card? Very few were made. My stepson has one.
A first edition of David Leavitt's novel, "While England Sleeps", which had to be withdrawn and re-edited because of Stephen Spender's objections? Sealed in plastic, waiting to be sold.
Fajar di Atas Awan? Playing right now. In my home only in this city, I'd bet, and, more likely, in all of my state. It's that far off the radar.
And, of course, it's light years better --- by which I mean: more original, harmonious, lovely, moving, even inspiring --- than most of what the big labels are pushing.
Luckily for you, I was present in kindergarten the day they taught sharing, and so it's my thrill to tell you about this remarkable music, recorded a decade ago and now released with modest push from Drag City, a label unknown to all.
Suarasama is an Indonesian group led by ethnomusicologists Irwansyah Harahap and Rithaony Hutajulu. It's not, however, "Indonesian" music; don't forget, Indonesia is a vast nation of 300 ethnic groups on 3,000 islands. Suarasama --- the name means "equal sounds" --- was formed in 1995 to draw on those diverse influences, and many more.
If you listen to lots of World Music, you will hear strains from African, Middle Eastern, Indian, Sufi, Pakistani, Easter European and Southeast Asian traditions. I hear traces of Sandy Bull and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Ravi Shankar and Radio Tarifa. That's a very broad range of music.
What you'll hear: many stringed instruments, including the oud and a gambus, a Malaysian lute. A female singer, Rianthony Hutajulu. Tablas and other non-Western percussion. Together, they create a vast tableaux: call-and-response hymns, almost-familiar folk melodies, toe-tapping melodies.
What it feels like: One minute you're in a meditation room, the next in a souk. If you see a flying carpet, it's a cliché --- but get on board. Sexy? Only a lot. Druggy? If you insist. Ecstatic visions? Holy union with the Divine? Well, why else would I have this music playing at midnight?
In case you're asked: "Fajar di Atas Awan" --- it means "dawn over the clouds" --- was originally recorded in 1997 for the Smithsonian. It was first released by Radio France Internationale. Now, for the first time, it's easily accessible.
There are no videos. I can't find any sound files. You'll have to buy it blind.
Later, if you must, share this music with people you love a lot.