The Colonial Musical Inheritance in the Netherlands







An in depth study of the musical inheritance of the former Dutch colonies Indonesia, Surinam and West Papua in the Netherlands from the beginning of sound recording until their independence and in case of West Papua until the Indonesian occupation. After an inventarisation of the recordings in the Dutch audiovisual, ethnographic and university collections and taking into consideration the existing publications on the music history of the above mentioned areas it was decided to split the study in four different parts:

The wax cylinder recordings of Jaap Kunst
These recordings were made by Jaap Kunst and a number of his collaborators in Indonesia in the 1920’s and 1930’s with the aim to collect in sound an overview of all the different music styles, orchestras and instruments that were in use in this area. A kind of building blocks for a music geography of Indonesia which eventually, Jaap Kunst envisioned, would contribute to developing an universal theory of of human music making. Also he wanted to preserve musical styles that were threatened by extinction and promote the at that period little known musics from Indonesia. The wax cylinders not meant for publication but as study-aid and they only circulated among a small group of experts, although transcriptions in western notation were published by Jaap Kunst in his books and articles. Jaap Kunst’s plans to publish 60 discs with an overview of the musics of Indonesia in collaboration with the Nirom were indefinitely postponed because of the Second World War and the subsequent independence struggle in Indonesia. The wax cylinders Jaap Kunst recorded were partly kept in the Berlin Phonogramm Archiv and in the Royal Tropical Institute. The collection of Berlin Phonogramm Archiv was dispersed after the Second World War and only reunited after the German Unification. Recently both collections have been for the major part digitised and thus most recordings of Jaap Kunst are after more than half a century available again for study and publication. The IMS will publish a description of all the tracks on the digitised wax cylinders together with a short biography of Jaap Kunst. A selection of the recordings based on sound quality and the historical importance will be restored and published as a CD.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                The Hobbel collection
Direct disc recordings made just after the Second World War in mainly the Moluccan Islands of Indonesia.
These recordings are the most important collection of early recordings from the Moluccans. It contains as well traditional genres as the local popular music from the era. Many of the songs in the Hobbel collection are still known and played by Moluccan musicians in Indonesia and in exile in the Netherlands. It makes the Hobbel collection an important witness of the musical development and the recent history of the Moluccans. The IMS will restore the collection in its entirety, publish an in depth description of the collection and issue a series of CD’s.

                                                                                                                                                                                                             West Papua
An overview of the history of music recordings made in West Papua from the early twentieth century until the Indonesian occupation in 1963. The main corpus of recordings made in West Papua can be found in archives and private collections in the Netherlands. Only two short tracks of these recordings have ever been published before the IMS started its study. The West Papua part of the colonial musical heritage project will result in an extensive description of the recordings in the Dutch archives and of the context in which these recordings made accompanied by biographies of the people who made these recordings. A selection of the archival recordings will be published in a CD series ‘Anthology of music from West Papua’. Two such CD’s have already been published: Muo Reme, with a selection of the recordings the linguist Anceaux made in the 1950’s in the Northern coastal area of West Papua, and Dema, a selection of the unique recordings of the Marind Anim music genres of South-East West Papua which Jan Verschueren made in 1962.


An overview of the music recordings of this country from the Herskovits wax cylinder recordings from the 1920’s till the independence of the country in 1975. The focus will be on field recordings and less on commercial recordings as the last are rarely found in Dutch public archives. Apart from the Herskovits recordings all other recordings were made after the Second World War. An important part of them are the recordings made by anthropologists and linguists in the 1950’s and 1960’s as part of a larger scientific research programme aimed at documenting the different languages, cultures and ethnic groups of Surinam. Although one can find references to these recordings in several articles and books only Peter Kloos published a selection of his recordings of the Maroni River Caribs on LP – later reissued on CD. Another quantatively important part of the recordings was made by journalists for radio broadcasts and movie documentaries. Especially visits from the Dutch royal family formed an occasion for journalist to record and broadcast Surinam music.
The IMS will publish an inventarisation of Surinam music in Dutch public archives and a number of archives in mainly the United States that have important collections of Surinam music. Also a number of CD’s will be published.

Instituut Multiculturele muziek Studies (IMS)
Elisabeth Wolffstraat 14 huis
1052 RR  Amsterdam
Tel. ++31 (0)20-6124378