Song in the Sumatran Highlands

Getting Oriented

Welcome to Song in the Sumatran Highlands! This digital project involves an interactive, interpretative multimedia ethnography and archive that documents and celebrates saluang, a prominent Minangkabau vocal genre accompanied by flute from the highlands of West Sumatra, Indonesia. 

The site is full of stories and the interpretations of the meanings of this music in the lives of people who engage with it. By sharing lived experiences through sound, visuals, and stories, the site aims to bring users as close as possible to the localized ways of knowing, sensing and experiencing saluang in the highlands of West Sumatra. 

A project like this is not the work of any single person, but a deeply collaborative effort. It involved the incredible generosity of performers and devotees during the research phase, especially the individuals over the years who facilitated the research, taking me to performances or working with me one-on-one to interpret material and texts. It has also involved a team of individuals involved in organizing the data and audiovisual materials and assisting in the construction of the site. Although I, Jennifer Fraser, have penned (or more accurately typed) many of the words that appear here and my voice comes through whenever the user encounters the pronoun “I” or “me,” I cannot make the claim of sole authorship and refuse older models that endorse such a representation. At best, I am a curator: I represent my own experiences and help bring those of all my collaborators to light. I encourage you to explore the roles of key contributors here

The site documents 400+ song titles and their connections to places and performers, all activated in and through specific performances witnessed since 2003. There are over 400 individual renditions of songs and musical items documented with nearly that many audio recordings, 30+ video recordings, and hundreds of images. The site presents a number of interactive digital tools, including maps, timelines, network visualizations, and annotation of audio examples to allow users to learn song structures or find key features. Lyrics to songs are often presented in three languages: the original Minangkabau, and then Indonesian and English translations.   

It is recommended that you start your journey on these pages, with the "Getting Oriented" module, but once you are done with this module, you get to decide where to navigate next. It is deliberately non-linear in construction, offering up instead a multitude of pathways and modalities through which you, the user, may engage the material.  We offer some suggestions on how to navigate the site, pathways that you can follow, and key stories and features within. You can follow these or wander alone and deliberately get lost, following one connection to another, discovering the ways individual songs are enacted through performances or tracing key singers from one performance to the next. This website is built with the assumption that each user will follow a unique path and that no-one will or should visit every single page. Indeed, unlike a book, there is no single, logical path through all the material, but rather a multitude of avenues. 

Finally, it is a work in progress. This is the June 30, 2021 Release. There will be periodic updates and additions of content, along with corrections as necessary. For now, you might encounter some pages not yet finished or connected to other material. Work still to come includes: 

It is obligatory in Minangkabau contexts to ask forgiveness for any mistakes or wrongdoings at the outset of an event, performance, or project. In saluang, this is done in song through the imbauan Singgalang, part of the video segment above, that is delivered at the beginning of the performance and typically after rest periods. I offer my apology here, invoking the phrase "kok ado langkah nan salah, rila jo maaf." Any mistakes or wrongdoings are my responsibility alone, not that of fellow contributors to the project. 

We welcome your feedback and comments at

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