Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Cacophony of Commerce...

Following up on my last post on the informal economy in Indonesia, I decided to introduce my readers to some examples in a fun kinda way. For this post I biked around a couple of neighborhoods in Jogja looking for mobile street vendors selling various types of food from bicycles or pushcarts (pedagang kaki lima). Here in Indonesia food vendors circulate through neighborhoods selling their delicacies. They use sounds to attract customers and wake up sleeping foreigners. The sounds are associated with specific food products, so locals instantly know who's coming around the corner. I find this to be an interesting form of communication that really adds to the atmosphere of the kampung (neighborhood), especially when I'm not trying to sleep.

Your task is to match each of the following sounds with the pictures below. Don't scroll down too far, because I put the answers at the bottom of the post. I bought something from each of the vendors in exchange for them allowing me to photograph and record them, so this counts as a culinary adventure as well. They were all very entertained at the notion of some weirdo foreigner recording them.

I uploaded each of the sounds to youtube, so you should be able to listen to them using the embedded players below. I'm sorry about the bulkiness, but I couldn't get any of the html code mp3 players to actually work. The Blogger software makes it very difficult to include audio files in a post. If you know how to embed mp3 files with individual players please let me know. I spent a couple of hours trying, though, and I'm not exactly "gaptek", as the Indonesians say.

This first sound is the only one that is electronically generated. It's pretty gloomy, actually, but it never plays all the way through. I think the recording must be powered by a dynamo driven by the tires of the bicycle. Anyway, this tune sounds like it belongs in the cut scene of one of the original nintendo games where a princess is abducted by evil mushrooms or something like that.

The recording isn't a very good one because I recorded it on a busy street. But it's the sound of a woodblock, which is very distinctive and can be differentiated from the rest of the sounds pretty easily.

The third sound is made by tapping on a ceramic bowl and is instantly recognizable. I saw several pushcarts serving up this food in during my field trip, and they all used the same sound to attract customers.

The sound in the forth clip is made by tapping a metal pot lid with a fork or other utensil. This one also is clearly recognizable by people in the area.

The fifth sound is pretty obviously a gong. Very easy to differentiate from others.

Lastly we have a horn. You can hear this one from a long way off.

Now for the pictures. The first vendor featured below sells bakso, a delicious meatball and noodle stew I described in a previous post. He's found a steady clientele at Wisma Bahasa, so he stops by almost everyday. In the picture you can also see one of my former teachers, the lovely and talented Roro.

Next is the Swiss Roti (bread) vendor. He usually comes through my neighborhood twice daily; once at the crack of dawn and again as the sun is setting. There are several bread vendors that make the rounds.

The third picture is of a rujak vendor. Rujak is a snack of chopped mixed fruit served with a sweet peanut sauce. It's quite delicious, and healthy too.

In the next photo below we have a siomay vendor. Siomay is a popular street food that originates from Bandung in West Java. It's a type of fish dumpling served with peanut sauce, and is usually pretty good. The taste of this particular siomay bore a striking resemblance to dog food, however.

In the fifth picture we've got an ice cream salesman. There are also ice cream salesmen that subcontract with the larger suppliers, like Walls, and they have a music track all their own, but this is a do-it-yourself guy.

Last is the bak pao salesman. Bak pao is a steamed pasty that I assume is an adaptation of a Chinese dish. Here it's generally filled with chicken, green peas, or chocolate. I much prefer the chocolate ones.


Sound 1 Picture 2
Sound 2 Picture 4
Sound 3 Picture 1
Sound 4 Picture 3
Sound 5 Picture 6
Sound 6 Picture 5

Update July 2011:  Below is another video of a putu vendor provided by my friend and fellow geographile at UH, Wendy Miles.  Thanks much Wendy for the awesome video.

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