Wednesday Forum: Playing with Men; Female Singers, Porno Lyrics, and the Male Gaze in a Sumatran Vocal Genre

Saluang jo dendang, flute with song, is one of the most important arts of the Minangkabau heartland, celebrated for its refined poetry based on allusion and sad songs that induce tears in a listener. Performed late at night into the wee hours of the morning, two to three singers deliver a series of 40 or so songs according to the requests of the attendees, choosing from a repertoire of hundreds. In this genre, songs are defined by the melodies, not the lyrics, which are variable from one performance to the next. Singers choose texts from stock verses memorized and create them anew in the moment of performance, all delivered in pantun and therefore rhyme with verse lengths varying from 4 to 22 lines. The knowledge, skill, and nimbleness demanded of the performers is considerable.