Jakarta. Indonesian composer and pianist Ananda Sukarlan held a musical collaboration with two Aboriginal musicians from northern Australia in a concert titled "The Voyage to Marege'" at Taman Ismail Marzuki in Central Jakarta on Thursday (31/08).
The 44 members of the orchestra, along with Ananda Sukarlan as conductor, shared the stage with the two Australians, Djakapurra Munyarryun and Kevin Yunupingu.
The 25-minute concert, which featured a cultural collaboration between Australia and Indonesia, opened with the Makassarese folk song "Amma Ciang," and the melody "Gending Sriwijaya" from the ninth-century Sriwijaya Kingdom, followed by a performance by Kevin and Djakapurra, who played the didgeridoo and clap sticks.
Ananda said he chose "Amma Ciang" to add an element of a fictional love story in the concert's repertoire.
"I picked the song because the lyrics are very romantic. It tells about a lover who is willing to cross the sea to see his lover's beauty," Ananda said.
He added that the repertoire is inspired by the book with the same title.
"Before I traveled to Australia for my research, I went to Makassar [in South Sulawesi] to meet Australian Consul Richard Mathews. During the visit, he gave me a book titled 'The Voyage to Marege'' and I used the book as a reference for my concert," the composer said.
The book, written by Campbell Macknight and published in 1976, tells the story of 18th-century Makassarese sailors who landed and stayed in Marege', an area near Arnhem Land in Darwin, Australia, to trade their spices, such as pepper and nutmeg, for sea cucumbers.
"This concert aims to replenish the good relationship between Indonesia and Australia that has been intertwined since the 18th century," Ananda said.
During his visit to Australia two months ago, Ananda said he discovered many interesting things that have enriched him.
"Because I had to mix the two cultures in the musical collaboration, it would have been impossible if I only learned about the musical technique. When I spent time with Djakapurra and Kevin, I found out that the music of the Aborigines tells their life, history and beliefs through song that can't be disconnected from their way of life and thinking. That's why I learned about their culture to perfect this collaboration," Ananda said.
He said working on "The Voyage to Merege'" was a unique experience.
Known for his classical compositions laden with melody and harmony, creating a musical work influenced by Aboriginal culture was an exciting challenge for Ananda.
"In contrast with my previous works, this was quite challenging because Aboriginal music has fewer melodies. Their music is known for texture and rhythm, so I had to learn to adjust," he said. "It took time to work on it, but I love to do things differently anyway. Challenge is good."
The concert was part of the Australian Embassy's year-long #AussieBanget campaign, which loosely translates to "It's So Aussie."
Australian Ambassador Paul Grigson said the campaign aims to foster partnerships between the two countries' creative sectors.
"In the past couple years, we had a couple of cultural collaborations in art, fashion, and I think it's terrific that we are going to have a musical collaboration," Grigson said.
He cited the concert as an example of how the two countries share a very strong culture and history.
"There is a long history between Indonesia and the indigenous people of Australia from trading, which helped build a strong sense of culture between the two countries," the ambassador said.
"This is a very important event for me and I think for Australia and Indonesia, as the cultural collaboration continues between our countries."
The concert will also be staged during the 2018 Darwin Festival and the Makassar International Writers Festival next year.