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from Madagascar (Malagasy Republic)

September 2001
Millennium Stage, Kennedy Center
Washington, DC


Personnel: Hanitra Rasoanaivo, her sister, Noro, Donné, Ny Ony, and Solo

Tarika In September, 1999, Hanitra visited Sulawesi (one of the major islands of the Indonesian archipelago) to explore some of the cultural roots of Madagascar. (1500 years ago, the first settlers of Madagascar came from that region of Southeast Asia and were of Malayo/Polynesian ancestry.)
Her trip resulted in the album, Soul Makassar (2001 release in U.S.). Many, if not all, of the songs performed at this D.C. concert were from that album.

Tarika One of the songs on the album urges respect for traditional culture and warns of its demise by a disease called globalization. In the album booklet, Hanitra explains:

It was disappointing to not find traditional music very easily in Indonesia. I thought that as it was a much bigger and older country than Madagascar they would have kept their tradion thriving. But everything you see is geared for tourists, well arranged to attract Westerners and mainly performed by amateur groups of children. Everywhere we went, there was only loud, bad pop music...
I felt that a disease has spread. I first found it in Madagascar, now in Indonesia, and everywhere on the travels I made so far. Pop music has taken over other people's culture. They are ashamed of their own music since it doesn't represent the flashy Western style of life and MTV. This is now a major problem caused by the global music industry which afects not only the underdeveloped world, but also places like Paris, London, Monaco...

But, perhaps, the situation is not as simple as Hanitra suggests. Ethnomusicologist R. Anderson Sutton has been visiting South Sulawesi since 1993. In his book, Calling Back the Spirit; Music, Dance, and Cultural Politics in Lowland South Sulawesi (Oxford U. Press, 2002), he explores the ways that the local and regional performing arts have had to negotiate between various forces (Western, Javanese*, economic, etc.):

Guiding the journeys has been an ongoing concern with the different ways that the practices of music and dance in South Sulawesi, and of South Sulawesi when presented elsewhere, have engaged with power, in many senses of the word. Local performers, intellectuals, and bureaucrats have sought to shape performance in response to expectations from a remote and Javanese-dominated national center. Artists from one district are coerced to perform in provincial festivals and to invent and compromise to conform to demands from the provincial center, replicating the hegemonic imbalance at a more local level. The saturation by Western-dominated popular culture and Indonesian derivatives through the mass media has produced an environment in which viable local forms of popular music appropriate much from the very forms from which they seek to distinguish themselves.

* Refering to the Javanese ethnic group that dominates the national government of Indonesia, and by extension, the policies and practices of officials and organizations in the capitol, Jakarta.


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