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Performers

Group: Isi Zitheran Group and Siteran Morosuko
Siter: Narto Sahono
Siter: Harjo Supono
Vocals: Ngatiyam
Vocals: Welas Asih
Kendang: Narto Sahono

Recorded at Isi Traditional Indonesian Arts School in Yogyakarta,
& RRI Radio Studio in Bandung, & Studio Blas in Yogyakarta by Electrophoria
(Kai Riedl / Producer, Suny Lyons / Engineer)

Indonesia’s hyperactive musicality often finds itself spilling out onto the streets in beautifully unexpected and inventive ways. These musicians may pass the hat or not, but one thing is sure: they can provide passers-by an immediate escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. This recording captures a zither-based couple singing classical love songs to each other and their random audiences. Roaming the streets of Yogyakarta, they’ve enchanted the people for decades — come hear why!

One can find some of the most impassioned music in Java on the streets amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life. A wide range of musical styles can be heard mixing in with sounds of traffic, cellphones, and calls to prayer. Musicians of all kinds, with different skill levels, take to the streets. They carry instruments, their voices, and a range of hopes and needs anywhere there are possible listeners. Some just want to be heard. Others are working hard to make ends meet. Either way, many of these performances provide intimate encounters with the passion, skill, and individual creativity that lies at the heart of music in Java.

Street musicians are constrained by what they can carry. This limitation often leads to a simplified and creative version of popular songs that are normally instrumentally complex. Many of the songs heard on the streets of Java are interpretations of songs that have traditionally been performed with full 30-piece gamelan orchestras, or at least larger ensembles.

This album captures one of Java’s most portable instruments, the siter (from the Dutch citer/English zither), which can be found resonating solo in the streets or as one voice in the enormous gamelan orchestras of Java. The siter is a thumb-plucked zither. It can be found in three different sizes and octaves ranging from 2-4 feet long. Siters are tuned to one of the two main scales in Javanese music, slendro (a five note scale) or pelog (a seven note scale). They are also the most popular plucked string instruments in the region of central Java.

This album features a variety of performances and arrangements of what is known as Gamelan siteran, traditional gamelan pieces performed on a siter or siters of varying sizes, most often accompanied by drums and vocals.