Saturday’s Endangered Music: Sunda and the Indonesian Chamber Traditions

Years ago, a Dutch lady loaned me an lp of music from Indonesia. While I had already heard and admired the island nation’s complex orchestral music — the “gamelan” — I was unprepared for the soft and exquisite chamber music of the Sundanese people, which immediately captured my heart and enraptured my ears.

Sundanese music of West Java

Along with all the rest of Indonesia, Sunda is in the crosshairs of climate change, facing increasingly uncertain food supplies, disrupted ecosystems, and all the collateral damage we have come to expect from intensified storm activity and unpredictable weather patterns. Which means that this utterly gorgeous music is going to lose its natural habitat.

Jakarta, June 4, 2007 – Indonesia is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change including prolonged droughts and floods raising serious food security and health threats while endangering the habitats and livelihoods of coastal communities…


…global warming could increase temperatures, shorten the rainy season and intensify rainfall. These conditions may lead to changes in water conditions and soil moisture which have effects on agriculture and thus food security. Climate change will likely reduce soil fertility by 2 to 8 percent, resulting in projected decreases of rice yield. A simulation has projected a significant decrease in crop harvest in West and East Java due to climate change, the report added.

Global warming will also make sea levels rise, the report said, inundating productive coastal zones and reducing farming in such communities. For instance, in West Java province’s Karawang region, a huge reduction in local rice supply is estimated as a result of inundation and loss in fish and prawn production could go over 7,000 tons. If such predictions come true, thousands of farmers in that area alone would have to look for other sources of income.


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