Is Maluku Still Musicological 'Terra Incognita'? an Overview of the Music-Cultures of the Province of Maluku

By Kartomi, Margaret J. | Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, March 1994 | Go to article overview

Is Maluku Still Musicological 'Terra Incognita'? an Overview of the Music-Cultures of the Province of Maluku


Kartomi, Margaret J., Journal of Southeast Asian Studies


Introduction

The province of Maluku, otherwise known as the Moluccas,(1) is divided into three main regions: the predominantly Muslim north, the mainly Christian central area, and the predominantly Christian southeast.(2) The central region contains the "mother island" (nusa ina) of Seram which Maluku people believe to be the original source of Maluku culture. In some relatively isolated parts of this large island the original inhabitants such as the Nuaulu and the Huaulu ethnic groups (known in colonial times as the Alifuru people) still practise their ancestral rituals including music and dance.

What do we know about the music-cultures: the micromusics(3), subcultures and intercultures(4) of Maluku? What are the lacunae that still need to be addressed? What are the major directions of change at present? How frequently are the different styles in each area performed today?

This paper can only begin to answer these questions. Despite the fact that some data on rituals in parts of the province of Maluku have been published in recent years, very little detailed field research has been carried out to date on the music and its contexts in this large province. Recent research into the rituals has made available valuable data on the ritual music and dance, their socio-cosmic meanings, and the social-morphological aspects of the performing arts.(5) The present article describes the music-cultures in Ternate and Tidore in northern Maluku; Ambon, the Uliase islands, Seram, Buru and Banda islands in central Maluku; and the Kai archipelago, the Aru islands, Tanimbar and the Luang or Babar archipelago in southeast Maluku. Due to a lack of data, this article omits reference to such island groups as Leti and Watubela in the south and Bacan and the Sulu archipelago in the north.(6) Clearly a great deal of fieldwork and primary research into the musical styles, repertoires, objects and social context of the thousand islands in Maluku remains to be carried out if this province is to become musicological terra cognita.

This paper is based on short periods of fieldwork by the author in the three main regions of the province; accounts by early travellers, missionaries and colonial func-tionaries; and some recent studies by anthropologists and ethnomusicologists. It also refers to historical research carried out by Abdurachman, Chauvall and Andaya(7) who based their work on documentation in colonial archives as well as modern sources. Andaya deals most comprehensively with the period of contact between the Malukans, the Portuguese (from 1512) and the Dutch (from 1605) who, with the British and Spanish, vied with each other in the sixteenth century for possession of the lucrative Spice Islands of north and central Maluku.

The earliest source referring to the music-cultures of north and central Maluku was a set of volumes about the Indonesian archipelago by the Dutch clergyman Valentijn.(8) Thereafter the most useful sources include descriptions of the indigenous and European-influenced music and dance in Protestant Ambon by the English writer Wallace.(9) A study in Dutch about some Malay songs and dances in Ambon and the Uliase archipelago (i.e. the islands of Haruku, Saparua and Nusalaut) was published by Joest.(10) An encyclopedia entry on music and musical instruments of Maluku was published by Snelleman in 1918,(11) and a preliminary study of music and dance in the Kai archipelago by the Dutch ethnomusicologist Kunst appeared in 1945.(12) In 1984 a useful introductory book on music and dance in central and southeast Maluku and among Maluku emigrants in Holland, containing transcriptions and texts of children's songs and games, was published.(13) More recently, ethnomusicological studies of parts of the Muslim north, i.e., historical and new music and dance on the twin islands of Ternate and Tidore, have appeared.(14) Susan McKinnon's 1991 ethnography of the Tanimbar islands contains information and photography about the dances. …

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