THE MUSIC OF  SOUTHEAST ASIA:                                                                                                                                                                                                        

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The traditional music of Malaysia
written by Ingo Stoevesandt

1. Diversity
The range of living music in Malaysia is divers, it seems as divers as the different forms of life that the Malaysian people live right beside each other, with well grown modern cities next to stoneage nomads. We meet Western symphonic orchestras right beside Gamelan ensembles, the classical pianist as well as the Keroncong artist, a Chinese orchestra as well as the irritating and fascinating sounds of the divers ethnic groups called Orang Asli.

Religious music is an important part of traditional and actual Malayian music too. Nearly sixty percent of the Malaysian people are Moslems, and like indicated in Indonesia, the Islam shows generosity to the indigenous music by supporting and developing local art forms, not without infiltrating it with own instruments like the lute “Oud” or their own musical theory.  Right beside each other we find the Buddhist temple next to the Moschee and hear the singing and chants of the monks. Traveling outside of the bigger cities, folkloristic music dominates the rural scene, where we hear lullabies and working songs. The vocal tradition is in the center of the folkloristic music, instrumental pieces are more seldom.

Today, Malaysias strong economical situation (compared to other Southeast Asian countries) also involves the increasing numbers of Western visitors, tourists as well as traders and investors. Cities like Kuala Lumpur offer a wide range of Western amusements, including the joy of opera and theater, symphonic concerts as well as chamber music, modern Rock concerts as well as Techno parties.

To put this lovely chaos in order, several attempts have been made to sort the mutliple appearance of music in Malaysia today.
One recommandable
article tries to seperate the Malaysian music into two categories, “litte” and “great tradition”, with the first one covering the folk music. Here, we also find the seperation between notated music and the oraly transmitted music.  It is questionable how much of the actual music performed in Malaysia is written down or not. Nevertheless, nearly ten percent of the Malaysian people surely relate to a non-notated tradition, because they belong to the indigenous people of Malaysia, the “proto-”Malaysian or just simply “first people”, the Orang Asli.

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