Kim has just returned from Indonesia where he performed with Aboriginal dancer/singer/didge-player Glen Doyle at the Solo International Ethnic Music Festival and with Madurese group Semut Merah at the East Java Percussion Festival in Surabaya.
“SIEM was great,” said Kim yesterday. “This was its second year, and there were performers from all over Indonesia, which is a seriously culturally diverse place, as well as from overseas. If only Australia had a festival like this! It was good to perform there again and to catch up with old friends who I’ve played with before, like Inisisri, Vicky Sianipar and Rafly, and to meet new ones.
I had a chance to exchange ideas with Yi-Chen Chang from Taiwan. Yi-Chen is a specialist in Uighur music from Western China. Uighurs are Turkic by language and culture, and, being a student of Turkish music it was great to have a chance to have a bit of a yarn and a jam with her.”
There was one problem with the festival: rain. This year the festival was moved from September to avoid a clash with Ramadan. “In Java they have a special guy called a pawang hujan, who does the rain-prevention juju. In this case he had a hard job – it is the rainy season after all! One of our performances got increasingly compressed as the rain got heavier, but the rain held off for the other. As for the sound-check, well, who needs a sound-check…”
The duo also did a couple of workshops, one for the festival and one at the Indonesian College of the Arts (ISI). “I have done workshops at ISI on previous trips, so some people were already familiar with my stuff”, said Kim, “but they were also very interested in what Glen was able to show them about indiginous Australian culture, and he was able to fill them in on certain aspects of Australian that they might not have known about about (sorry, Messrs Howard and Windschuttle!)”
Nasar Bathati of the East Java Arts Council was at the festival and invited Kim to perform in Surabaya the following week. “The Percussion Festival was a bonus. I ended up going to Madura and rehearsing in a village called Gunung Madah with a group called Semut Merah. They were hot!
I mean, most of those guys in the West who go on about how groovy their beats are are deluding themselves. There’s a place called Banyuwangi right on the Eastern tip of Java where the the rhythms are just as intricate and complex as anything I heard in Africa. And there are some pretty hot beats on Madura too.”