Peranakan Music: Enjoying the universal language of Mandarina

Imagine hearing Chinese, Indonesian or Malay folk songs played using a combination of traditional instruments such as the guzeng (Chinese harp), kendang (Indonesian drums), suling Sunda (traditional bamboo flute from West Java), the violin, the erhu (Chinese cello) and the ulusi (Chinese pumpkin flute).

Better yet, see for yourself on Anthony's YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/mandarinasia/).

The so-called Peranakan music or Mandarina (Mandarin Indonesia) offers not just a unique mix of sounds, but enjoyable entertainment as well.

Embracing Peranakan culture

"I've released three pop albums in which we play western songs using traditional music, Chinese songs with Indonesian style and Indonesian songs using Chinese style. They were inspired by a trilogy of Mandarina taken from Chinese philosophies: fuk (good luck or good fortune), luk (wealth) and sau (longevity). I used it because I'm sure that it's a philosophy that everyone, not just the Chinese, can apply and take advantage of," said Anthony.

In his studio in Bandung, which is also his hometown, he has a collection of over 100 traditional instruments.

"But We only actively play with about 50 of the instruments," Anthony said. Since he usually performs with 10 to 20 band members, each person will play more than one instrument.

When The Jakarta Post Travel met him, he brought along two of his newest traditional instruments. The first one is a bracelet made of beans.

When he wiggles his wrist, the bracelet produced a one-of-a-kind sound.

"I found it in a traditional market in Bali. I was sort of destined to find it since the beans only grow during particular seasons so the craftsmen rarely make them,” Anthony said. The other instrument comprises a couple of huge and dried petai (bitter beans) from Kalimantan that a friend gave him. The dried beans inside create a singular sound as well when shaken.

Having played music since 1992, Anthony still has many projects in mind to introduce Mandarina to the world. One of them is selling music under Mandarin jazz genre from China to attract the country's young people.

"We have so many products from China in Indonesia. Now I want to sell our music to them," he said, smiling.

Read also: Seven hidden Peranakan dishes