Sumatra Music Archive

The Sumatra Music Archive contains the world's only field collection of the traditional and kreasi ('newly created') music, dance, martial art and theatre performances, including audio and audio-visual recordings, slides, photographs, musical instruments, textiles and bibliographic materials from all ten provinces of the large island of Sumatra. The collection provides a record of music and music-related activities from a wide range of cultural groups gathered over almost five decades. It constitutes a unique primary resource for research projects by scholars, students, and other interested people on many aspects of the rich cultures of Sumatra.

Sumatra's music traditions vary greatly within and between its provinces. Bronze gong, gong-chime or xylophone and drum ensembles of various kinds are a common sight throughout the island, though vocal music and body percussion are more prominent in the northernmost province of Aceh. Each region includes both Muslim and pre-Muslim traditions, some deriving from Sumatra's former Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms in the first millennium CE.

The collections comprise:

  • 360+ annotated recordings from all provinces (reel-to-reel tapes, cassettes, minidiscs and digital recordings)
  • 2500 colour transparencies
  • Photographs, (colour and black & white)
  • Musical instruments
  • Maps, books, articles and programs.

View the collection

MAMU also holds items from Sumatra's other 4 provinces including:

  • South Sumatrawhere the magnificent network of rivers and tributaries from mountains to the sea have governed its Malay peoples' legends, poetry, musical arts, dances, theatre and worldviews for well over two millennia, including during the great Buddhist Srivijaya empire (7th to 13th centuries) with its centre in the present capital, Palembang.
  • Bengkulu province, located in Sumatra's southwest, is noted for its Malay pantun (quatrain) singing with Malay frame-drum, biola (violin) and harmonium ensembles, the annual tabot Hasan-Husein pageants and the bronze ensemble music and dance of the Rejang-Lebong peoples in the highlands.
  • Bangka-Belitung represents two large islands off the east coast of South Sumatra. Their Malay and Malay-Chinese populations have many unique performing art forms as do their Orang Laut peoples who prefer to live on or near the strands or in houseboats at sea.
  • Jambi province in central Sumatra stretches from the Great Dividing Range in the west down its many great rivers to the east coast. The province's Malay population are especially proud of their powerful krinok singing with texts referring to the former Jambi sultanate and the Orang Rimba (“Forest Dwellers’) veneration of Nature, as well as modern krinok with pop accompaniment.