Musical Journeys in Sumatra

Author: Margaret Kartomi
A fascinating ethnographic record of vanishing musical genres, traditions, and practices
Cloth – $62
eBook – $19.95
Publication Date
Cloth: 07/16/2012
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About the Book

Although Sumatra is the sixth largest island in the world and home to an estimated 44 million Indonesians, its musical arts and cultures have not been the subject of a book-length study until now. Documenting and explaining the ethnographic, cultural, and historical contexts of Sumatra's performing arts, Musical Journeys in Sumatra also traces the changes in their style, content, and reception from the early 1970s onward.

Having dedicated almost forty years of scholarship to exploring the rich and varied music of Sumatran provinces, Margaret Kartomi provides a fascinating ethnographic record of vanishing musical genres, traditions, and practices that have become deeply compromised by the pressures of urbanization, rural poverty, and government policy. This deeply informed collection showcases the complex diversity of Indonesian music and includes field observations from six different provinces: Aceh, North Sumatra, Riau, West Sumatra, South Sumatra, and Bangka-Belitung. Featuring photographs and original drawings from Kartomi's field observations of instruments and performances, Musical Journeys in Sumatra provides a comprehensive musical introduction to this neglected, very large island, with its hundreds of ethno-linguistic-musical groups.

About the Author

Margaret Kartomi, AM, Dr Phil, FAHA, is Professor of Music at Monash University and the author of many articles and five books, including On Concepts and Classifications of Musical Instruments and The Gamelan Digul and the Prison Camp Musician Who Built It: An Australian Link with the Indonesian Revolution. She was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 1989 and a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1991, and she received the Australian government's Centenary Medal for service to Australian society and the humanities in 2003. She was elected a Corresponding Member of the American Musicological Society in 2004 and is currently a council member of the Society for Ethnomusicology. In 2011 she received an Order from the government of Lampung for her Sumatra research, with the title Ratu Berlian Sangun Anggun (Beautiful Queen Jewel).


"Kartomi's book reaffirms the value of classic ethnomusicological research. . . . Highly recommended."--Choice"This is a delicious book -- to be savoured, appreciated for its richness of detail and admired for its texture and cohesion. An innovative work, of great significant for describing, categorising and analysing Indonesia's traditional musical arts."--Inside Indonesia

"The first comprehensive text detailing Sumatran music-dance traditions, based on forty years of fieldwork and scholarship, is, above all, a wonderfully encyclopedic collection of fascinating data and careful, honest description--in short, a classic ethnomusicological text."--Journal of the American Musicological Society

"This book deserves credit as a significant contribution in englarging the body of knowledge of Indonesian traditional music."--Indonesia

"Kartomi's impressive compendium of data, combined with engaging scholarship, is an important contribution to Asian studies, one that will likely inspire many students and scholars to think about Sumatra in new ways through its history of expressive culture and performance."--The Journal of Asian Studies

"Rich in both extremely specific detail (in the form of musical transcriptions and artful play-by-play descriptions of events) and extremely broad theoretical musings about history, acculturation, gender,and pan-Sumatran themes and trends. . . . Here (as in person) Kartomi combines genuine warmth and gregariousness, a keen eye and ear for detail, and a disarmingly pragmatic matter-of-factness about potentially surprising or difficult subjects to fully engage her readers. It all makes for extraordinarily entertaining as well as informative reading"--Journal of Folklore Research


"This volume presents a lifetime of writings by a distinguished scholar on the musical arts of Sumatra. Readers get a comprehensive glimpse of the myriad music and dance styles, ritual and religious life, cultural politics, and ecological and gender issues that permeate the island."--David D. Harnish, author of Bridges to the Ancestors: Music, Myth, and Cultural Politics at an Indonesian Festival

"Widely recognized as the expert on the music of Sumatra, Margaret Kartomi provides a wealth of information on the music of various regions of the huge and culturally diverse island of Sumatra in Indonesia. No other book comes close to the treasure trove of descriptive data and detail here."--R. Anderson Sutton, author of Traditions of Gamelan Music in Java: Musical Pluralism and Regional Identity