Monash University
20170217PalawiThesis.pdf (2.67 MB)

The Identity and the Dilemma of the Malay Music-Culture of the Urang Pulo Islanders of the Banyak Archipelago, Sumatra: An Ethnographic, Socio-Historical and Music-Analytical Study

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Version 2 2019-12-12, 23:38
Version 1 2017-03-02, 03:39
posted on 2019-12-12, 23:38 authored by Ari Palawi
This thesis investigates the music-cultural identity and conservational dilemma of the hitherto un-researched music-culture of the Islanders (Urang Pulo) of the Banyak Archipelago in Aceh-Singkil Regency off the west coast of Aceh, Indonesia. The Islanders’ dominant concept of identity is coloured by their dominant sikambang music, dance and legend, history of cultural contact with west-coastal Sumatran Malay and offshore island area, Niasan and Simeulue immigration to the Islands, the cultural memory of their former court centre at Haloban, the Islanders’ peripheral contact with the Dutch colonial power, and their typically Malay kacokan tendency to combine selective elements of cultures with which they have been in sustained contact. The people’s traditional customs (adat istiadat) and Animist-Muslim worldview shine through their vocal and instrumental music, dances, and bardic story-telling genres at weddings, circumcisions and in daily routine. The thesis’ original contributions to the discipline of ethnomusicology primarily lie in the areas of music-cultural identity, identity and place, vocal quality, culture contact, musical symbols of pre-colonial Malay kingdoms, gender, emotional expression in performance, and music revitalisation theory in recent modernising times. To begin to solve the conservation dilemma, the whole west-coastal population of Sumatra needs to be mobilised to fight for the area’s economic development partly through revitalising their rich sikambang heritage. This is important not only to save the art forms from extinction and expose them to the world but also for the maintenance of the local people's sense of identity and self-confidence.


Principal supervisor

Margaret J. Kartomi

Additional supervisor 1

Aline Scott-Maxwell

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Theatre, Performance and Music


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type


Campus location



Faculty of Arts

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