Report on the ICTM Study Group for Performing Arts of Southeast Asia

By Matusky, Patricia | Bulletin of the International Council for Traditional Music, October 2010 | Go to article overview

Report on the ICTM Study Group for Performing Arts of Southeast Asia


Matusky, Patricia, Bulletin of the International Council for Traditional Music


The 1st Symposium of the ICTM Study Group on Performing Arts of Southeast Asia took place at the Republic Polytechnic in Singapore on 10-13 June 2010. This Symposium saw some 57 delegates from Australia, Austria, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the USA come together to hear and discuss some 43 paper presentations, video documentaries, demonstrations, and dance and music performances.

The Symposium began with a short opening welcome and encouraging remarks from Dr. Victor Valbuena, Director of the School of Technology for the Arts, Republic Polytechnic, the host for this Symposium. Welcoming comments also came from Dr. Tan Sooi Beng of the ICTM Board, Ms. Joyce Teo, Assistant Director of the School of Technology for the Arts and Chair of the Local Arrangements Committee for this Symposium and from Dr. Patricia Matusky, Chair of the Study Group and Program Chair. Also attending this symposium from the ICTM Board was Dr. Larry Witzleben.

The main themes for the 1st Symposium of this ICTM Study Group were Hybridity in the Performing Arts of Southeast Asia, Silat (martial arts) of Southeast Asia, Archiving and Documentation, and New Research by graduate students and experienced scholars alike. In addition, a Roundtable session was planned.

The theme of Hybridity in the performing arts, addressed in some 16 papers, was seen across national and cultural boundaries as a means of creating and sustaining cultural identity, creating new traditions, authenticating tradition, creating new styles within a given tradition, and even as loss and demise of tradition. The Symposium opened with two papers focusing on the 'ethnomusicology of the individual' and the creation of identity, firstly in the gamelan/jazz/heavy metal-infused music and performance of the contemporary Balinese jazz guitarist I Wayan Balawan by David Harnish (Bowling Green State University), and secondly in the Western classical-based music of the mid-20th century composer in Malaysia, Gus Steyn by Jim Chopyak (California State University at Sacramento). Other papers on hybridity and creating identity dealt with the Straits Chinese in Melaka at the close of the colonial era richly illustrated in photographs in a presentation by Margaret Sarkissian (Smith College), and the emergence of accordions and harmonicas from China into Singapore presented by Shzr Ee Tan (University of London). The use of rodat song/dance and the rebana drum in Muslim Balinese communities was presented by Ako Mashino (Tokyo University of the Arts & Kunitachi College of Music), asserting Cordillera identity among the indigenous peoples of the Northern Philippines was presented by Felicidad Prudente (University of The Philippines), and the recreation of local identity in the Thai Menora dance theater in Penang, Malaysia in a paper was presented by Tan Sooi Beng (Universiti Sains Malaysia).

The hybridity theme also drew attention to the creation of new traditions among a number of communities throughout Southeast Asia. Jennifer Fraser (Oberlin College) discussed emergent traditions and Talempong Kreasi in West Sumatra, while Mohd. Anis Md. Nor (University of Malaya) explained the emergence of Indonesian dance styles developed by Minangkabau women choreographers and based on silat martial arts from that community. In addition, Susan Ang Ngar Jiu (Universiti Putra Malaysia) spoke about the emergence of lullaby styles of the Dusun Labuk who live in Sabah, Malaysia, and Lawrence Ross (City University of New York) discussed the hybrid melodies and song lyrics of the Rong Ngeng Tanyong of Southwest Thailand. The topic of creating new traditions and 'new technology' processes was addressed by Joe Peters ((Sonicasia, Singapore) in his discussion of hybridity, seen as 'onloading' and 'inloading' trajectories in current computer applications.

The hybridity theme continued with papers that addressed the question of authenticity in a given tradition. …

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