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World Music CD Reviews South Asia

Elvy Sukaesih

By Robert Kaye
Published April 24, 2007

The Dangdut Queen
Rice Records

Dangdut, a subgenre of Asian popular music, combines elements of Bollywood film music with Middle Eastern and Western instrumentation and styles. The alluring, versatile Indonesian vocalist Elvy Sukaesih released over 100 albums in the 1970s and ’80s. So while upon initial listening, this album may sound a little retro, its overt synthesized string sounds and at times relatively simplistic production possibly even making it seem clichéd, hearing/appreciating it as a historical landmark helps put things in perspective. Tracks such as “Karen Pengalaman,” which combines such disparate instruments as classical piano and bansuri in its intro, show how innovative Sukaesih was in her day. “Mandi Madu” features rock and blues licks, along with some tricky rhythmic syncopation. “Gersang” sounds very contemporary, even by today’s standards, proving that the immensely popular Sukaesih was ahead of her time. While it certainly won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, this CD celebrates a remarkable talent.