I always have to stop myself when I say I like “all kinds of music”. Because, honestly, that just isn’t true, there is really only one kind of music I like. No, not [just] Black Metal, I’m talking about music in a minor key. I mean, I’m a pretty happy guy, but there is something about sad, sad songs that just does it for me. I don’t dislike Vivaldi’s “Spring” and “Fall”, but I far prefer “Summer” and “Winter” (guess which seasons he writes in a minor key). “Satisfaction” is a fine song, but I’d rather listen to “Paint it Black” any day…you get the idea. Basically, it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that sting [of soul crushing sorrow and sadness]
This month on Minor Key Monday I talk about my favorite female Indonesian singer:
I don’t tend to like the music of east Asia all that much, but I make an exception for Sundanese classical music. They use the same kind of pentatonic scales (think of trying to write a song using the black keys of a piano only), but the bell/gong heavy orchestras that are used (called gamelans) supply an aural background that is surprisingly modern (and possibly a bit dark) despite its strong classical roots.
Today’s song comes from a style of music and dance called Jaipongan, a response to Indonesian president Sukarno’s ban on foreign pop music in 1961. Created by Gugum Gumbira and debuting in 1974, Jaipongan, musically, borrowed heavily from traditional Javanese court gamelan music, while incorporating a more modern style of singing into the mix. Today’s song is an excellent example of the style.
As the song starts, you might be thinking to yourself, “well this sure doesn’t sound as dark as I would expect a Minor Key Monday pick to sound like!” And granted, it doesn’t initially sound as soul crushingly dark as something like last month’s song. But then the vocals come in. I’ve always been a sucker for female vocals. I mean, Dead Can Dance could have been one of my favorite bands…if I didn’t loathe every single song the dude in that band touched. Marty Balin was fine…Grace Slick was better. In my time I’ve been known to listen to some Madonna, Britney, Kylie (even, sometimes, some Xtina)…but I wouldn’t be caught dead listening to anything that might remotely be called a “boy band.” You get the idea, anyway, Komariah’s vocals here really make the song. Somehow mournful and sensual at the same time, they really exploit every ounce of minor key melancholy inherent in Jaipongan music.
It’s a strange style with the random nonsense male vocals, the circular rhythmically repeated melodies, and the bizarre instrumentation. But for me it is the vocals that really take it over the top. Just like the way that Kylie says “Love…in us,” Euis really nails the phrasing, making her CD Jaipongan Java one of my all time favorites.
Oh, and in case you thought I was blowing smoke out my ass about Komariah being my “favorite” Indonesian singer, I wasn’t. Idjah Hadidjah is my second favorite (in fact, I like this song better and the vocals less, thus, it didn’t quite make the cut this week):
Just don’t ask me who my third favorite is…