“Authentic” Islamic Sound? Orkes Gambus Music, the Arab Idiom, and Sonic Symbols in Indonesian Islamic Musical Arts
This chapter discusses the unique and conflicting positions of Arabic music and language in Indonesia. The study was conducted among the settlements of ethnic Arabs in the Gorontalo region of Sulawesi. For these ethnic Arab communities, orkes gambus music—small ensemble music featuring Arab-derived instruments including the gambus lute—is a celebratory and ethnic tradition. Throughout most of the archipelago, however, this music is performed and consumed within Islamic settings and considered Islamic, partially because of the instrumentation, the ethnicity of the performers, and the use of Arabic, the language of the Qur'an and the Prophet. Critics, who object to the claim that Arab vernacular popular music is anything more than just that, make a sharp distinction between orkes gambus, on the one hand, and musik islami on the other. The chapter focuses on the power of sonic symbolism and aesthetics in the context of global and local religious affiliations and communities, and reveals the trends and tensions in religious expression and identity in a modern non-Arab Islamic nation.
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