travel and life with lee mylne

More than a souvenir

Travel writers try their hand at the Angklung. Photo by Alison Plummer.

Audience participation is not really my thing.  So it was that when a strange musical instrument was thrust into my hand on a beach in Indonesia last week I slunk to the back of the crowd and tried to resist efforts to join the crowd…at least for a short time.

The occasion was the evening of the annual Australian Society of Travel Writers‘ Travel Journalism Awards for Excellence, and the instrument in question was an angklung, an Indonesian musical instrument made of bamboo.

This year’s annual travel writers’ conference and awards night were held at the lovely Novotel Lombok, on the white sands of Putri Nyale Beach on the southern shores of Lombok.  The dress code was loosely “black tie” but the beach setting left this open to interpretation – and it was good to feel the sand between our toes!

Novotel Lombok’s genial and generous general manager Brian Townsend and his smiling staff went all-out to ensure a fabulous night (and long weekend) for all. And the angklung “orchestra” was a stroke of genius.

Our angklung teacher had his work cut out for him. Photo by Alison Plummer.

After dinner, each person was handed one, and soon most of us were on our feet in front of the stage while a man in a satin shirt the colour of the sea attempted to teach 80-odd over-excited travel writers and PR professionals how to play them.

The angklung is made of two bamboo tubes suspended in a bamboo frame, bound with rattan cords. The tubes are carefully cut to produce certain notes when the bamboo frame is shaken or tapped. Each angklung produces a single note or chord, so they need to be played together to produce the music.

I was in group 5, playing angklungs in G. In turns, we tapped the ends of the bamboo base and together we made music…um…sort of. There was a lot of laughter and singing as well, and I’m not sure the end result was quite what our instructor had hoped for. But it was a lot of fun.

The angklungs, it turned out, were for us to take home as a souvenir.  And as we packed after a too-short three day-stay in this idyllic spot, some found the angklung was too long to fit in their bag.  It was a dilemma: not wanting to offend our hosts by leaving it behind, but also not wanting to have to hand-carry the angklung while travelling for another four or five days to another part of Indonesia, and then on the plane home to Australia. (I was lucky, mine fitted snugly in my suitcase and made it home intact).

My friend Kris decided to hand-carry hers – at least until she found it too irksome – then, she thought, perhaps there would be someone along the way she could give it to. But a funny thing happened at the airport.  Kris’ angklung drew a lot of attention from Indonesian travellers, who smiled and nodded their approval, stopped her and started conversations about the angklung. For Kris, it was a turning point – the angklung would not be abandoned. Its value was made clear; it was part of Indonesia’s living culture and heritage, not just a souvenir.

It was a lesson for all of us, and the angklung – for me, anyway – will always be a reminder of a wonderful visit to Lombok.  I may not play it again, but I’ll certainly look at it hanging on my wall and remember that night of fun on the beach.

5 Responses to “More than a souvenir”

  1. Christine (FoodWineTravel)

    Hi Lee, The same thing happened to us when we checked into the next hotel with our anklung. It became a real talking point when the young Indonesian blokes on reception saw them poking out of our bag. They were delighted that we had taken an interest in their culture and really warmed to us. Making music together is a great way of breaking down barriers. I’ve experienced it in many countries, including with some very generous Aboriginal people in my own country, and I’ve always thought that if people did more of it, there’d be a lot more understanding and a lot less aggression in the world.

    • Lee

      I agree with you entirely Christine. Music breaks down many barriers – and makes everyone smile! Hope you have seen that great photo of you at your dinner table examining yours when you first got it (it’s on the ASTW website).

  2. eatdrinkandbekerry

    It was a very surprising and successful part of the evening, only eclipsed by the limbo competition.

    • Lee

      Indeed, Kerry. But I think discretion is the better part of valour where the limbo is concerned – not game to post any pics of that!


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