This is a beautiful collection of recordings made in Yogyakarta in Java, Indonesia between November 1976 and January 1978. Jack Body and Yono Soekarno sought out street musicians and captured their songs to tape. Although they interviewed the musicians about their craft, the names of these artists are unfortunately not provided in the extensive liner notes. The A-side is mostly female musicians and the range of styles is simply amazing. From high pitched and higher paced to a slowed down piece whose vocalist may remind you of Joanna Newsom, it’s an entrancing listen. Guitar, drum, ukelele, soap-box zither, tube gong, 3-stringed cello, and homemade instruments are all utilized. Translations of lyrics in the liner notes show themes of love, flirtation, anxieties (spiritual possession, money woes) and the words can be quite poetic, including:
“The mangoesteen fruit is very black/Its taste also is sweet/Black is truly sweet to behold/And sweet to the character.
The black dove/Even though black, is attractive./the palm sugar is black/Even if black, sweet is the smile.
Smoke Javanese tobacco/Its smoke has the fragrance of flowers/If I may ask/You who are black and sweet, what’s your name?”