01 June 2006

Jogja: Indonesia's New Orleans

Postings have been thin this week, in part because of a busy schedule, in part because celebrating world music seemed shallow in light of the devastation at the cultural heart of Java.

The earthquake in Indonesia hit me hard, not just because I feel for that nation which is still recovering from the tsunami, but also because I've been there. I met the people, heard the music, ate the food, even learned a little of the language. I found Indonesians to be friendly, open, curious, and full of creativity.

Jogja might be compared to New Orleans, both in its cultural impact, and in the impact its devastation could have on the whole nation.

More than half the houses, shops and galleries lining the small streets of the village of Kasongan were destroyed in the earthquake on Saturday. The hundreds of artists who live in this district of Bantul have survived for generations by selling the pottery to tourists. The region affected by the quake is part of the ancient kingdom of Yogyakarta, which was the center of Javanese art and culture. It was also one of the most popular tourist destinations in Indonesia. The Indonesian Social Welfare Ministry said nearly 6,000 people had died in the quake. It has also left more than 130,000 homeless. (AHN)

boroboudour stupa
One of the Indonesian cultural curiosities I've always found fascinating is the fuzzy line between religions, particularly in Jogja. While Bali is mostly Hindu, the rest of Indonesia is predominantly Muslim. But that doesn't stop them from dipping into Hindu traditions, as with the Ketjak or Monkey chant (hear mp3), a retelling of the Hindu epic Ramayana that's often performed for tourists. Or from taking pride in Borobudur stupa, one of the most amazing Buddhist sites in the world.

I've lost touch with the Indonesians I met, so I can only hope and pray they're okay. And that other nations will again see it to be in their own interests to help this great island nation full of diversity and resiliance.

For more on the Yogyakarta region, check out the excellent article at altmuslim.com or yogyes.com -- For quake updates, see indonesiahelp.blogspot.com or just donate to UNICEF

-->Tomorrow's Spin the Globe will feature Indonesian music -- 10am-noon Pacific time on 89.3 FM or streaming at kaosradio.org.

We just received confirmation that Tuvan throat-singers Chirgilchin will be performing at the Capitol Theater here in Olympia on July 28 at 8:30 p.m. For more northwest "world music" performances, see our calendar.

[mp3] Chirgilchin: "Igor's Solo"
you can find Chirgilchin's album Collectible and the band's complete tour schedule at tuvatrader.com
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