The Mandailing People of Sumatra
- An Anthology of South-East Asian Music
Recordings by Margaret J. & H. Kartomi - 1971-79
Musicaphon • Bärenreiter - BM 30 SL 2567 - P.1983
No. 1 Gondang Irama Poncak Kutindik 3'11
No. 2 Gondang Irama Poncak Kutindik 1'34
No. 3 Gondang Irama Jolo-jolo Turun 1'23
No. 4 Gondang Irama Ideng-ideng 1'19
No. 5 Gondang Irama Alap-alap Tondi 2'54
No. 6 Gondang Irama Raja-raja 4'07
No. 7 Gondang Irama Tua 2'27
No. 8 Gondang Irama Mandailing 3'01
No. 9 Gondang Irama Sampedang 3'01
No. 10 Gondang Irama Porang 1'35
No. 11 Momongan Irama Poncak 1'22
No. 12 Momongan Irama Mandailing 0'56
No. 13 Momongan Irama Raja-Raja 0'36
No. 14 Gordang Sembilan Irama Sarama Datu 2'15
No. 15 Gordang Sembilan Irama Pamilihon 1'50
No. 16 Gordang Sembilan Irama Mandailing 2'17
No. 17 Suling Solo 1'12
No. 18 Sordam Solo 1'31
No. 19 Sarune Solo 1'26
No. 20 Salung Solo
No. 21 Gondang Buluh Irama Poncak 1'02
No. 22 Gondang Buluh Irama Mandailing 2'41
No. 23 Gordang Lima Irama Sampuara Batu Magalang 3'12
No. 24 Gondang Irama Roto 1'20
No. 25 Mangandung Hamatian 1'54
It is really high time to start posting this series if we are going to be prepared for sun and hotter climate before summer. I really like the drive and good feeling of this village music. It gives me a feeling of a healthy culture with good and sound traditions. a feeling of people getting along and allows for a more potential daydreaming of belonging and shared joy.
This is the first I post from the Mandailing people from Sumatra, I'll post an other one soon of the Angkole people that are their neighbours and have close traditions. I think they are a good pair to start with. I will post the others in no particular order but hopefully we shall get all 16 of this Anthology of South East Asian Music to appear here in due time!
A shaman and his assistent in a state of trance, in Wele.
A gordang lima ensemble in Medan Gunung Kulabu group.
A review by Artur Simon of this, and the other volume that I am about to post from the same series.
The Mandailing People of Sumatra. Recordings and commentary by Margaret Kartomi. One 12" 33 rpm disc. An Anthology of South-East Asian Music, published by the Institute for Musicology of the University of Basle. Barenreiter. Musicaphon BM 30 SL 2567. Commentary in English and German, 14 p., photos, drawings.
The Angkola People of Sumatra. Recordings and commentary by Margaret Kartomi. One 12" 33 rpm disc. An Anthology of South-East Asian music, published by the Institute for Musicology, Basle. Barenreiter Musicaphon BM 30 SL 2568. Commentary in English and German, 10 p., photos, drawings.
The Batak peoples of North Sumatra (Angkola/Mandailing, Karo, Pakpak, Simalungun, Toba) have only recently aroused the interest of ethnomusicologists. Some field work has been carried out, and the results published here and there. These two records are the first publications of traditional Angkola/Mandailing music on record and a good supplement to earlier articles about the same subject published by Margaret Kartomi. The recordings were made on several field trips between 1971 and 1979. They represent a good cross-section of the most important music genres and ensembles, such as the gordang sembilan (the gordang with nine drums), the gordang lima (the gordang with five drums), the gondang dua-dua (with two
drums), as well as music played on wind instruments, tube zithers (gondang buluh) beaten with sticks, and a xylophone called gambang. Two recordings (Angkola record bands 14 and 15) with zikr-rapano music accompanied by frame drums, show the Islamic influence within this music culture.
While Kartomi distinguishes between Angkola and Mandailing by publishing their music separately on two records most scholars make no clear distinction between the two cultures. This is underlined by Kartomi in the commentary of the Angkola record: ". . .the culture and language of both peoples are so similar that the distinctions between them mean little in terms
of the practical aspects of daily living. Their traditional musical instruments and ensembles, as well as the uses and functions of the music, are similar in both areas. But some items of repertoire, titles of pieces and songs, and some aspects of musical style differ." Indeed, the author intended to publish the material as a 2-disc-in-one-album; but the editor, following the
guidelines of the generally well-made Anthology of South East Asian Music and of the record company itself, converted the double album into two separate discs. This was probably the reason for some of the resulting confusion. A lower Mandailing group of gondang and gordang musicians of Wele I, Padang Sidempuan, is not found on the Mandailing record, although it is mentioned in the commentary. Nine recordings were made in Pakanta, a village in Upper Mandailing, and twelve in Medan, the capital of Sumatera Utara with musicians from Pakantan. On the Angkola record we find 13 recordings from Batunadua, one from Desa Bahal I, a small village at the temple sites of Padang Lawas, and two designated as Wele I, Batunadua. In the latter case, it is not evident whether Wele I (Padang Sidempuan) or Batunadua is meant. Five photos and drawings out of eleven to twelve on each record can be found on both records. For the sake of the documentary value it would have been better to have different pictures on each record sleeve. Much space has also been wasted by printing the same musical transcriptions twice, side by side in both the English and the German texts.
The Mandailing record begins with two gordang sembilan pieces which serve as accompaniment for the art of self-defense @oncak) performed by two men or boys (see illustration 9 of the Angkola record). As is generally done on both records, the musical analysis is supported and supplemented by notations of the basic rhythm patterns played on drums and gongs, and of the approximate scale of the sarune (oboe). The beginnings of the second and third piece are transcribed in a score-like notation. The drumming of the nine drums of the gordang sembilan can be characterized as a combination of individual rhythmic patterns that produces the resultant basic rhythms. In order to show this the transcriptions are helpful to a certain extent, although I doubt that the dense interlocking polyrhythmic structure of the nine drums played by five musicians can be shown clearly in a musical notation like that provided for Band 2.
Most of the following pieces belong to the repertoire of the gondang boru or gondang dua-dua ensemble. Several titles of pieces like "jolo-jolo turun" ("calling for the spirits to come down") show the strong relations of this music with the old (i.e., pre-Islamic) religious ceremonies and beliefs of the Bataks. The title of Band 4," gondang ideng-ideng," does not mean "praying that the spirits settle in" but suggests a lullaby ("to rock a baby") when played at the celebration after the birth of a child. "Gondang alapalap tondi" Band 5) means "gondang for calling or fetching back the tondi" tondi = "soul" or "vital power," which has to be reunited with the
sick person at curing ceremonies). An interesting example of the pre-Islamic tradition is Band 25, mangundung hamatian, a lamentation called andung which can still be found among Christianized and non-converted Bataks. Rhythmic patterns of the momongan gongs are demonstrated in three analytical recordings (Bands 11 to 13) followed by three other gordang sembilan examples (Bands 14 to 16). The suling of no. 17 is not a side-blown flute but an end-blown one as correctly noted in the German text. The solo of Band 18 is played on a free reed instrument (in German: Durchschlagzungeninstrument) and not on an end-blown flute. A similar piece was recorded seven years later by the reviewer when working with the same group of musicians.
As for the recording of the tube zither groups (gondang buluh), it might be added here that these instruments serve musically as a substitute for drums and gongs (cf. Simon 1985: 139). The low sounding "boru gong" can be clearly distinguished on Band 22 when played on the zither's low string, called "boru-boru" (female/mother).
The Angkola recordings, especially those of the ensemble music, seem to have better sound balance than those of the Mandailing record. Most of the recordings were made with a Nagra IV-L mono tape recorder but, unfortunately, at 9.5 cm/sec (3.75 i.p.s.) instead of 19 cm/sec. Eight recordings of the Mandailing record were made with a Nakamichi stereo 500 cassette recorder, and Band 3 (Mandailing) was recorded by Dr. David Goldsworthy with a Tandberg 11 mono tape recorder. There is a great discrepancy in the sound balance between the wind and percussion instruments in the large Mandailing and Pakpak ensembles. The wind instruments are too weak to hold up against the sound cascades of drums and gongs. It seems as if they were introduced into these groups for more or less non-musical reasons. When standing some meters away from the group it is nearly impossible to hear any wind instrument. It is therefore difficult to record this music without manipulating its "natural" sound balance. For scientific purposes, however, one would prefer a stronger recording of the melody on the wind
instrument. The recordings on these records come closer to the natural balance, with a nearly inaudible sarune (cf. Mandailing Band 3).
Another wind instrument is the saleot (Angkola Band 2, and perhaps Band 6). It is defined as double reed in the commentary, while the drawing (ill. 8) seems to show it with one rice stalk reed. The only instrument played by women is the xylophone gambang (Angkola Band 5). However, this instrument seems to play a more marginal role within the traditional music of
The recordings and commentary have great documentary value because they allow us a first glance at a hitherto unknown music. Both are an excellent introduction into this important music culture of the Indonesian archipelago. The ethnographic notes of the commentary indicate the socio-religious role that gondang music had in pre-Islamic times. Considering the fact that this tradition is on its way to becoming a mere onstage folklore performance or a kind of revival activity (like the groups in Medan and Padang Sidempuan) this edition should be appreciated and recommended to all who look for profound information about the musics of South East Asia.
Department of Ethnomusicology Artur Simon
Museum of Ethnography
Simon, Artur 1985 The terminology of Batak instrumental music in Northern Sumatra. Yearbook for
Traditional Music Vol. 17: 113-145.
Ethnomusicology No 30 vol 3 (Autumn, 1986), pp. 543-546