Click here to skip to content

World and traditional music: South East Asia

The Sound Archive's world and traditional music collections include music from South East Asia.

Collection overview

The Sound Archive's South East Asian unpublished recordings comprise over 20 separate ethnographic collections including one made in the early twentieth century on wax cylinder in Sarawak (Borneo). Published South East Asian material includes early recordings on 78rpm discs by the large international companies (Gramophone, Pathé, Columbia). Later recordings, mainly on LP, cassette and CD, appear on international and local labels such as the Indonesian Lokananta company.

Published recordings

The collection includes a number of acoustic 78rpm discs from Burma and Malaysia, primarily on the Gramophone label and 78rpm discs from Indonesia on the Pathé, Columbia, and Gramophone labels. CD releases on foreign labels are acquired by the Sound Archive, one notable example being the Smithsonian Folkways series of some 20 discs of music from Indonesia. There is also a large collection of cassettes produced for the Indonesian market by the national company Lokananta, mainly featuring popular forms of gamelan music.

Tom Vater (C799), based in Thailand, periodically donates a batch of audio cassettes, CDs and, more recently, VCDs of various types of Thai music.

Unpublished recordings

The Sound Archive's ethnographic recordings from South East Asia begin with the 80-odd cylinders (C666) recorded in Sarawak and Borneo, 1898-1899, by members (Charles S. Myers, McDougall, C.S. Seligman, Sidney Ray, Haddon and Charles Hose) of the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition returning from the expedition to the Torres Straits. Our next representations from the region date from many decades later with medical doctor Patricia Samson's recordings in the early 1970s in Cambodia, Thailand and Burma, and Jean Jenkins' (C699) work in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia carried out a couple of years later for the Music of the World of Islam festival, 1976.

The Sound Archive's largest collection has been recorded and is still being added to by the recordist Tom Vater (C799). His collection, now totalling roughly 130 items, includes recordings of some very remote populations of Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. His recordings made with a Moken (sea nomad) family on the island of Ko Surin off the coast of Thailand have been published as part of our series of CDs with Topic Records.

Further information

Janet Topp Fargion
Curator, World and Traditional Music
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7427
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7441


PDF files

The links below are to Adobe PDF files. Accessibility solutions and free Reader software are available from Adobe.