Siagian, Rizaldi

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Siagian, Rizaldi

Siagian, Rizaldi, significant Indonesian performer, composer, and ethnomusicologist; b. Medan, North Sumatra, early 1950s. He played drums and guitar, and also sang in urban pop groups in the late 1960s, then became interested in traditional Sumatran music; studied at the Univ. of North Sumatra (B.A., 1982) and at San Diego State Univ. (M.A., 1985, with a thesis on South Indian drumming); then returned to Indonesia to head the ethnomusicology program at Universitas Sumatera Utara (U.S.U., Univ. of North Sumatra). He participated in various independent music groups; in 1981 he appeared at London’s Royal Albert Hall with the group Ansambel Bukit Barisan, and in 1989 directed a performance at the National Palace in Jakarta. In 1987 he served as artistic director for the performance of North Sumatran music for the Cultural Festival Celebration of North Sumatra and in The Hague. In 1991 he was engaged to lead a group of Batak musicians from the Lake Toba area of North Sumatra on a tour of the U.S. as part of its “Festival of Indonesia.” As a composer, Siagian was first active as an arranger of popular music (1970–80); in 1986 he began composing works that combined modern and traditional musical elements, his intent being to reintegrate North Sumatran traditional instruments into the musical life of North Sumatra and Indonesia. An example of such compositional “conservation” is his resurrection of the Gambus (plucked lute), as in his Gambus Menjelang Magrib for Gambus, Voice, Frame Drum, Harmonium, and Violin, and in his Gambus Kehendak in 7 and Gambus Binai, both for Gambus, Malaysian Drum, Taganing, Gong, Lonceng, Harmonium, Violin, Hasapi, Tube Zither, and Voice. He also composed Lebah, a dance accompaniment for Tube Zither, Drum, Shawm, Slit Drum, Cymbal, and Voice.

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire