RECORDING THE LOCALS: THE SONGS OF THE FISHERMEN

Music always takes you to the right place. The people of Gili Meno make a living out of 3 things; coconut, fishing and tourism. Everybody loves music here, and some of the fishermen play and sing, both old Indonesian songs and their own original compositions. Sometimes they are hired to play at resorts or parties, but as the only music that generates some real business is dance music, they can’t get much work. I decided to record as many songs as possible, in order for them to be able to sell some cd during the big season.

IMG_7648Jun, one of the youngest of this community of musicians, is a sort of a leader in the village. He’s the first one i’ve tried to record. He sung few songs using my acoustic guitar, while we were drinking palm wine on a hot tropical night.

IMG_7681He was very happy with the recordings so he’s asked me to bring the equipment to the village in order to record more stuff.

IMG_8051These guys were storing a full sound system in the back of the house: a quite modern mixer, some big speakers, few old amps and a case full of cables plus an array of handmade instruments.

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IMG_8053Jun prepared the set for his grandfather to record some of the traditional songs he’s been playing since he was young.

IMG_8067Once everything was set up, this old gentleman started playing and singing. beautiful old melodies came out of his mouth: his fingers strumming the old guitar made of jackfruit wood and his eyes lost between the notes, while behind him the full moon was providing the most amazing light. I felt like something very special was happening.

IMG_8076After few takes he wanted to have a break to smoke a cigarette. Jun asked him about the meaning of the lyrics: pretty much the ingredients of any perfect popular song, love, loss, distance and joy. These people belong to the tribe of the Bugis, original people from Sulawesi, who came to meno 60 years ago to barter fish with rice. Once they decided to settle down they made the island their new home, but for decades they have been sailing on canoes, sometimes sailing the sea for weeks, with little food and water, and playing love songs was the only entertainement available on board.

IMG_8079I asked the grandfather wether he ever listened to himself recorded. He said that was the very first time he’s done a recording. So i gave him the headphones and he just sat down carefully listening to all the tracks, nodding at me while enjoying in silence.

IMG_8093Then the uncle turned up: he wanted to recorded few track as well. His fingers were massive, but on the guitar they looked incredibly fast and flexible.

IMG_8099He really enjoyed listening back to his voice: he kept nodding and smiling at me while enjoying the recordings.

IMG_8106Some of the young kids play the drums in the big band and they all came down to join in with the group, wearing the traditional blue dress, and waiting for their session while smoking cigarettes.

IMG_8109The 2 singers joined the band for some extra recording: we plugged few instruments in the PA system and the volume got quite loud, so the recording sessions turned into a sort of garden gig.

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IMG_8120Coffee and rambutan were served during the sessions.

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IMG_8137Finally, Jun joined in at the bass and another young musician sat at the tablas and we recorded few danlud songs. This is a sort of remix of the old tradiotional acoustic music: electric bass and percussions are added to the original ryhitms, addind strenght and edge to the old songs.

IMG_8139I had a great time recording the locals; i felt i was doing something very important, either for them as a community and for me as a musician and music lover. Hopefully they will be able to sell some CD’s to tourists during the busy season and those traditional songs will not be forgotten. Follow me on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/miserableman: soon there will be some song uploaded.

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