Collections: Gini Gorlinski - The EVIA Digital Archive Project

Instrumental and Vocal Performance Genres, Dance Forms, and Ritual Events in Rural Sarawak, Malaysia (1992-2001)

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Kenyah musician Tanyit Paren making some repairs to a sampé' (plucked lute), Long Mekaba, Sarawak, Malaysia, 1992. Image © Gini Gorlinski.

Instrumental and vocal performance genres, dance forms, ritual events, and an array of other video snapshots of life in Sarawak, Malaysia are documented here in footage that spans a 9-year period from 1992-2001. The collection focuses on the traditions of rural, upriver Kenyah peoples and their neighbors, the Penan, Kayan, and Kejaman. Also included are a number of performances by downriver Bidayuh and Chinese peoples, and by ethnically-mixed cultural performance groups in a festival setting.

In the realm of recreational music, the collection features the plucked lute (sampé'; sapé'; sapi') of the Kenyah, Kayan, Penan, and Kejaman; Kenyah mixed ensemble music of sampé', guitar, xylophone, and various wind instruments; and Kejaman performances on the mouth organ (keduri), jew's harp (tuweng), and nose flute (selingut). The recordings also document Penan narrative singing (sinui) with plucked-lute accompaniment, as well as various types of unaccompanied Kenyah vocalization, including oral epic singing (kerintuk), rice wine songs (belian puwé), and songs for line-dancing (belian dadu'). A significant segment of the footage also is devoted to festive group and solo dances performed by the Kenyah, Kejaman, and Penan.

In the domain of ritual and seasonal activities, the videos document Kenyah ceremonial drum (jatung) rhythms and sampe' music for the shaman's spirits, along with makui singing marking the rice-planting season, and rhymed invocations (tebada') of various entities within the adet Bungan spiritual realm. Recordings of other Kenyah ritual activities include a Catholic mass, a re-enactment of a headhunting ritual (mamat), a graded rites ceremony for men (suwen), and a large-scale child-naming ceremony (ngalang anak) that is held about once a decade. Among the non-ritual events documented in the collection are a multi-village river fishing expedition, the process of making a plucked lute, the pounding of rice in a long mortar, and a trek to rocky mountaintop that is the home of the Kenyah story spirits (bali tekena').

This collection is currently in production and is not yet available to the public.

Image © Gini Gorlinski

Gini Gorlinski has spent a number of years since the mid-1980s living and studying music and dance with various communities in Indonesian and Malaysian Borneo. She has studied primarily with Kenyah peoples but also has worked with the Kayan, Penan, and Kejaman. The Kenyah sampé' (plucked lute) tradition was the focus of her master's research, and her doctoral work concerned the social and spiritual contours of Kenyah verse. Her more recent projects have addressed canon formation in oral tradition; commoditization of rural music; links between music and geography; the dual commitment of the ethnographer as a member of both the academy and the field community; and the need for instructional resources that encourage both practice and academic study of the world's music traditions. Gini has published in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Encyclopedia of Popular Musics of the World, Yearbook for Traditional Music, and various other reference works, journals, and anthologies. She also has released extensively annotated audio recordings of Kenyah music.

Gini has taught ethnomusicology and interdisciplinary arts courses at College of William & Mary, California State University-San Marcos, Northwestern University, and Ohio University. She now is a geography editor at Encyclopaedia Britannica in Chicago and teaches occasionally at Northwestern.

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