Sounds of the Indigenous

Anang G Alfian | CRCS | Event

Issues of environmental damage are becoming more pervasive recently. It was just a few months ago we hear the voices of Samin community, indigenous people in the slopes of Mount Kendheng advocating environmental justice against industrialization attack surrounding the mountain, the issue of which inspired Dian Adi M.R., one of CRCS students, to compose instrumental music and conceptualize arts performance at the event called “Sounds of The Indigenous”.

Through his experience in music performance, Dian initiated the event and collaborated with various musicians, environmental activists, and academia of religious and cultural studies. This innovative way of giving collaborative performance is purposively to raise an awareness among various professions to work together on preserving nature.

Held at Taman Budaya Yogyakarta, many visitors crowded the event on the eve of January 25th 2017 to see the performance, which was started by a documentary film about the semen factory against Samin people and other environmental issues happening recently. Some commentaries from local peoples, scholars, and villagers were narrating a number of environmental problems especially in dealing with actors of interests and exploitation of nature. There is a need of consolidation and urgent answer to avoid further consequence of human misconducts toward nature.

As the introduction to the theme was read, a theatrical performance began to tell narratives and stories, and the instrumental music slowly echoed and filled the air of the room. Visitors seemed to enjoy the mystical yet artistic nuances coming out of the cello playing. Throughout the performance, music and theatrical arts were integrated and made a harmonious blend.

Some instruments were used to represent different and rich sounds from different cultures and origins. Besides guitar, violin, and other common instruments, there were also Gambus, a Middle Eastern music instrument played in the end of the session with Arabic vocal. A Dayak instrument called Sape was also used to sing with a children song. It produced a nostalgic scene of happy life when children can play with nature before industrialization has polluted environment and water.

A theatrical narrative called “Hunger” was also enacted to convey indigenous voices demanding justice and prosperity. The story was meant to see how the man’s greed is always the cause of destruction.  “Those local cultures are indeed real guardians of the nature, while ironically many intellectuals go with the interests of those people to build their projects ignoring the locals and the environment,” said Dian commenting on the theme of the performance.

Music can be a means to harmonize the relation between human and nature and awaken the awareness of the shared duty to preserve nature. Justitias Jellita, the Cello player, reflected on music as being in a harmony as she said, “The harmony is not only for musical tunes, but also for the self and the universe. Without harmony, journey of life will lose its meaning, and those who can return to his home is the ones that know where they come from. This Sounds of the Indigenous event is a valuable message and important warning that human will return to his home “Earth” anyway. Therefore, while alive, we’re responsible for our home.”

Indigenous people of Dayak tribe have their own cosmology on their music as what Anang, the Sape player, said, “For Dayak people, they believe an old saying, ‘Sapeh Benutah tulaang to’awah,’ meaning Sape can crush the bones of evil ghosts.”

This event has given us a lesson on how to maintain the relation between man and nature as important elements in the harmony of life. And music is one of the languages the indigenous speak with. Now it is our turn whoever we might be; artists, scholars, or environmental practitioners; to know where we stand on and where we are going to return.

*Anang G Alfian is CRCS student of the 2016 batch

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