In the World Music class I teach at South Dakota State University, my students are required to write a research paper. The topic they have to explore is the country of Indonesia, and they have to look beyond the musical traditions. It’s a good opportunity for them to learn about a country they usually have very little knowledge of and determine how the music fits into a broader cultural context. Because I’m always trying to increase my own knowledge of these World Music topics, I picked up this book:
Besides being a fantastically-interesting adventure story, it also highlighted the fact that Indonesia, while existing as one country, really comprises many different cultural practices and values. It is difficult, if not impossible, to talk about something as being “Indonesian” and applying to the entire country. After traveling for over a year and several thousand miles, hopping from island to island, Elizabeth Pisani takes the reader off the beaten track and gives what seems to be a good sense of both urban and rural Indonesia.
There are mentions of the music culture of Indonesia but not enough for me to assign the entire book to my World Music class, as we cover many other music cultures over the course of a short semester. However, it is available in our library and will be a good resource for them as they research Indonesia. There is also an excellent list of resources for further exploration at the end.