Musical Atmospheres and Sea-Nomadic Movement among the Sama Dilaut
Mobile Culture Studies. The Journal
During a traditional wedding parade of the sea-nomadic Sama Dilaut community in insular Southeast Asia, the bride's flotilla of brightly decorated boats sets out to greet the groom's flotilla as it approaches the moorage. On several boats among both parties, gong ensembles play independently, and their music coalesces into a thick, multi-part texture. While the couple ties the knot, all involved in the wedding literally move through the layers of the music, which becomes a sonic manifestation
... nic manifestation of the new multi-family network sealed in the ceremony. The annual Regatta Lepa, a cultural festival in Borneo (Malaysia) dubbed "a celebration of the Sama Dilaut," makes ample use of that same musical practice, sounding out what it might mean to be Sama Dilaut in the 21st century. Drawing on extensive ethnographic materials, I argue that, for the duration of the Regatta Lepa, the gong music is central to the emergence of a shared feeling that manifests as an atmosphere of Sama Dilautness. This atmosphere reverberates with an alternate, distinctly sea-nomadic and Sama Dilaut spatiality that is both intrinsically mobile and intrinsically sonic in nature. I explore the dynamics that transduce structured sound into an atmosphere, rendering this distinct sense of spatiality tangible. In this process of transduction, music, atmosphere, and movement form a relationship that is as triangular as it is circular and dynamic.