Olympia, WA’s Arrington de Dionyso has been making uncompromising music for years with bands like Old Time Relijun, and more recently, Arrington de Dionyso’s Malaikat dan Singa. The latter is a throbbing, noisy group in which he delivers his vocals using throat singing in Indonesian. But of course! A few months back, he had the opportunity to tour in Indonesia. The following is an interview I did with Arrington about his trip.
So why Indonesian throat singing?
Throat singing is awesome! I think it deserves to be heard in every country and in every language. I thought people in Indonesia might appreciate hearing some good throat singing in their own language.
How long were you in Indonesia for? Were all of your collaborations and performances pre-booked, or did some of them come about once you arrived?
I was there for a month and a half, really not long enough but I was able to travel and perform concerts in about ten different cities. Yes, most of the concerts were booked ahead of time but I jumped into a number of spontaneous situations, including getting kicked off stage at a really shitty tourist bar in Bali. Did you see the video for that one, it’s kind of funny… but there are better clips of actual concerts with the Malaikat dan Singa band…
Even with already having some knowledge of Indonesian music, can I assume you were exposed to a lot of new ideas?
That’s why I went!
How were you received by the other musicians and listeners at the shows?
There is a huge fan base out there that I was able to tap into, I found a lot of support among the various rock and experimental scenes in various cities. Many people who came to our concerts had been waiting a long time for Malaikat dan Singa to finally come to Indonesia, so it was a great moment for all of us. I also played in situations, such as that shitty tourist bar I mentioned before, where we blew some minds but were essentially kicked offstage by the jock idiot who was running the show there.
I played a number of shows that weren’t really “Malaikat dan Singa” at all, just me doing different kinds of collaborations with traditional musicians…in almost all of those situations people were really surprised to see a foreigner playing with traditional musicians. Most younger people look to the West for ideas about what is “cool”, you know? They don’t often think of traditional Indonesian music as fitting into what is “cool” and “hip” at all, so it makes a very big impact on them when they see a Westerner kind of validating their traditional heritage and pointing a way for people to think of traditional music in revitalized ways.
I don’t know if I am in a position to comment on the culture as a whole in any general way. Indonesia is massively huge, there is so much going on there. You know, I have been researching Indonesian music on my own since I was in high school, I had always wanted to go there and experience the music in person. I think it is pretty important to read up on a place and spend some time trying to learn a language before going, it definitely makes for a more enriching experience.
What new things did you learn from the musicians you jammed with?
I kind of feel like a lot of the things I might say in answering this
question come across as a little cliche, I mean, “I learned that we
aren’t so different from each other at the end of the day” you know,
that kind of thing. There are always lots of differences when reaching
across cultures, languages and different traditions, but everyone I
performed with was very open to me and excited to try something
completely new, musically speaking. There were a few situations in
playing with more traditional style musicians that could have been
awkward but really weren’t at all. You have to go into situations like
that remembering to be humble in some regards but also not to be shy.
If you believe that music is a universal language you just have to put
your money where your mouth is, and just jump right in!
What were some favorite food discoveries?
Indonesian street food is always an adventure. Just like eating
anywhere else in the world, there is a wide range of different options
of varying quality. You find many places offering variations of the
standard “fried up bits of stuff” and after a while I had to try and
avoid those kinds of places even though they are sometimes the most
popular places to go according to the people hosting me and showing me
around. My favorite kind of place to go is a cuisine called “Padang”,
that means a Sumatran-style buffet restaurant. There are always lots
of different dishes to choose from at a Padang restaurant, big bowls
with stews of meat, or fish, or different vegetables. There is a curry
made from jack fruit, which is a really great savory fruit that almost
has more of meat-like texture to it, it’s chewy and quite filling.
I also love how popular avocado smoothies are, kind of like in
Vietnamese food but in Indonesia they always put chocolate sauce in
with the avocado!
Check out Arrington de Dionyso’s You Tube Channel