Sumatran Sounds is the website for Dr Megan Collins. Contemporary Musicologist and practice-based researcher, Megan is a music theorist, composer and radio documentary maker from Wellington, New Zealand. Born and raised on the eastern coast of New Zealand, Megan was educated at Victoria University, Wellington and Institute Seni Indonesia (ISI) the Tertiary Arts Institute in West Sumatra, Indonesia. She speaks English and Indonesian and works predominantly in the domains of ethnomusicology, radio and cross-cultural composition. Megan performs regularly in New Zealand and Indonesia. Her current academic interests include local knowledge of disasters, individual agency in culture and performing ethnography.



March 2020 – Laurie Anderson, New Zealand Festival 2020 in Wellington. 

What an honour. This week Budi S. Putra, Jo Hilder, Greg Street of Gamelan Wellington, Horomona Horo, taonga puoro artist, and I performed with the legendary New York artist Laurie Anderson, (NZ Festival curator) and her string ensemble. Two sold-out shows, two standing ovations. Laurie Anderson’s generous genius permeated every note, every gesture. Her spoken word art, full of wisdom. In the safe hands of music director and bass player Greg Cohen who has worked with everyone from John Zorn to Tom Waits, David Byrne to Sting, we improvised and collaborated throughout the week, performing, The Calling, a concert dedicated to Laurie Anderson’s niece who sadly passed away in New Zealand and Here Comes the Ocean that was a commentary on among other things, the Climate Emergency and Laurie’s personal loss of her musical archives, which were destroyed in the flood of Hurricane Sandy, when the Hudson River flooded her basement.

Honoured to play a slenthem [gamelan]/cello duet in Here Comes the Ocean’s rendition of the late Lou Reed’s beautiful song ‘Cremation’, with cellist Rubin Kodheli. Thank you, friends. Treasured memories.

Laurie Anderson, Greg Cohen, Eyvand Kang, Shahzard Ismaily, Rubin Kodheli and Stuart Hurwood (USA, Albania, Pakistan). Horomona Horo, Budi Putra, Jo Hilder, Greg Street (Aotearoa/NZ).

“Megan Collins and Budi Putra from Gamelan Wellington collaborated and connected with multi-instrumentalist/percussionist from Anderson’s touring unit Shahzad Ismaily to contribute rhythmic subtleties, as much about energy as demarcating the time.”

Simon Sweetman Off the Tracks

“…if you’ve never heard free jazz played on a gamelan, accompanied by pūkāea and pūtātara, cellos, evocative Egyptian vocals and Anderson’s unique invention, the Tape Violin, then you have not lived.”

Kylie Klein- Nixon Stuff


Night hub concert 22 March 2019

Many months in the planning, this year’s Night Hub concert at Victoria University performed by Gamelan Wellington, became a special opportunity for people to come together, as it fell on Friday 22 March, a week after the horrific attacks on Al Noor mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre, in Christchurch, 15 March 2019.

Ustad Agam Jaya welcomed the audience with an Islamic do’a prayer, which was followed by speeches of condolence and support from myself (as GW manager), Professor Sally-Jane Norman (director of the New Zealand School of Music) and Ibu Adek Triana Yudhaswari  (Indonesia’s cultural attache here in NZ). The Indonesian Ambassador Mr Tantowi Yahya was in Christchurch, supporting victims of the shootings.

Featuring guest dancers from Indonesia accompanied by Gamelan Padhang Moncar and Gamelan Taniwha Jaya the concert began with Umbul Donga, which included a macapat poem sung by music director Budi Putra. This called for all evil to be banished from our performance space. It was paired with lampu obor (torchlight) ritual based choreography from our guest artist, dancer Sri Mulyani, of Mulyojoyo dance group, Surabaya, Indonesia. See Jennifer Shennan’s reviewof the concert.


Photo: Jaques Pirot


October 2018 – Koloborasi

A beautiful kolaborasi with the touring group, Orokaya – The Rythm of Sunda who come from Bandung in Indonesia. What a privilege to perform rabab Pasisia Minangkabau with Pak Fariz who played the bowed tarawangsa from Sunda. Terimakasih!

Orokaya groupOrokaya in Wellington 2018

September 2018 – Auckland Indonesian Festival

Up to the Auckland Indonesian Festival with Gamelan Wellington and Budi Putra to perform in support of the newly established gamelan set at AUT, lead by Ki Joko Susilo. We accompanied the incredibly slow and refined choreography of Ibu Martini Tri Murjoko for the dance Tari Kayungyun – a show stopper.

July 2018 – Tri-lingual conference panel

I’m looking forward to speaking in a panel on Minangkabau music and dance from West Sumatra, Indonesia, with colleagues Dr Susas Rita Loravianti and Dr Nusyrwan. We will attend the Performing Arts of Southeast Asia (PASEA) conference in Sabah Museum, Kota Kinabulu, Malaysia. This is the first time that papers have been accepted in the ASEAN languages of the region. We will present our papers in a mix of Minangkabau, Indonesian and English. This multi-lingual conference is a welcome addition to the predominantly English-language conference circuit and opens networks for those whose first language is not English. See our articles in the PASEA 2018 proceedings.

Lora with AS Sungei pagu ladies at Pagaruyuang VIP table IMG-20180929-WA0000

Dr Susas Rita Loravianti (left) at the coronation of Dr. Sutan Muhammad Farid Thaib as  Rajo Alam Minangkabau Pagaruyung Darul Qoror at Pagaruyuang Palace in Batusangkar, West Sumatra Indonesia. September 2018.

March 2018 – West Sumatran Disaster Risk Reduction experts visit Wellington

Two very informative days with Indonesian guests hosted by GNS Science and the New Zealand/Indonesian collaborative programme called StIRRRD (Strengthening Indonesian Resilience:Reducing Risk from Disasters. Day 1 was a tour of vulnerable Wellington sites, including the Blue Tsunami Lines in Island Bay. These show tsunami safe zones outside the expected inundation areas, in the event of a tsunami. Bapak Edi Hasymi, head of Padang Regional Disaster Management (BPBD), gave a presentation on the second day at Te Papa, explaining how these lines have been adopted in Padang on the West Coast of Sumatra. As the city is situated right near the beach, with hills at a distance, the disaster management teams have added progressive sign posts, showing how much further you need to run, while evacuating.

We discussed my work regarding  rabab Pasisia performers from Padang and the neighbouring Pesisir Selatan (South Coast) district who reference indigenous knowledge about local disaster risks, such as earthquakes and floods, in sung narratives called kaba and paruntuangan.  Bapak Pirin Asmara, Bapak Siril Asmara, Bapak Iye and Bapak Eddie Asmara.

West Sumatrans with Stirrrrd in Wellington Blue Lines

Bapak Edi Hasymi and UGM lead, Bapak Dr Teuku Faisal Fathani in Island Bay, Wellington

March 2018 – Cuba Dupa Wayang Shadow Puppets in Wellington

At Cuab Dupa! Another amazing Javanese puppet show with our friend Ki Joko Susilo, who presented Gathutkaca Gugur (The Fall of Gathutkaca) in English and Javanese accompanied by Gamelan Padhang Moncar, in Wellington. Such an honour to perform music with him.

Brief synopsis of the Mahabarata episode that we performed:  As the war between the royal cousins Pandawa and Korawa rages on, Prince Abimanyo is killed. Furious, Gathutkaca heads into battle, bidding his pregnant wife Pergiwa farewell. Tragically, Gathutkaca is slain by the magic arrow called Wijayan Danu.

CubaDupa-2 (1)

Ki Joko Susilo at Cuba Dupa in Wellington, March 2018.  Photo credit Phillip Collins

July 2017 – Academic Flying 

With collaboration from Sumatran colleagues Dr Susas Rita Loravianti and Ibu Armida Kampai, I co-presented the first semi-virtual panel at the World Conference of The International Council for Traditional Music, 2017 in Limerick, Ireland (ICTM). Our paper “The Plane Truth: Academic Flying, Climate Change, and the Future of Music Research” addressed the issue of frequent air travel by academics for conferences, networking, fieldwork, and other academic activities. We urged academics to reflect on how often they fly and suggested ways to reduce flying. Coming from New Zealand that is a big deal! Dr Catherine Grant in Brisbane and myself  in Wellington used goto meeting to talk to conference attendees, while Dr Aaron Pettigrew presented live and co-ordinated our video presentations. When academic societies include options for virtual presentations, two major issues are addressed.

1. We can all reduce carbon emissions from flying around the globe.

2. Virtual presentations mitigate the considerable costs associated with conference travel that are prohibitive for most academics in many countries around the world.

See our article on the USA based Society for Ethnomusicology’s blog.

The panel was featured on an episode of Culture File on RTE Irish National Radio.


April 2017

Funtimes! – hosting the Indonesian music and dance group Seni Nan Gombang from Painan, West Sumatra. They performed popular and traditional dance and music at the Southeast Asian Night Market on Wellington’s waterfront. They then travelled to Gisborne to share music and theatre performances, which contain indigenous knowledge about natural disasters, with iwi in Ngati Porou.

February 2017

A lot of love for a kiwi rabab Pasisia player as I gave a short impromptu performance of a kaba sung narrative opener and the 1980s pop hit ‘Genyang’, during a trip to Agam, West Sumatra. Journalist Maswir Chaniago’s facebook post went viral with 165,000 views and over 6,000 shares.

Screen Shot 2017-08-21 at 2.40.11 PM

December 2016

My 6 part radio documentary How Hybrid, about popular culture and the globalisation of 5 instruments, was broadcast again on RadioNZ in their Summer Sonic programming.

November 2016

Our Own Odysseys – Indonesian Music

An important interview with Bryan Crump at RadioNZ about how indigenous knowledge that references natural disasters is archived in popular and traditional music in Indonesia. Just a week after our own devastating 7.8 Kaikoura earthquake, during which I was in Sumatra delivering a keynote on this very topic (see below).

Festival Kesenian Indonesia

Screen Shot 2017-08-23 at 11.08.46 AM

I was honoured to give a keynote address for the International Seminar at the 9th Indonesian Arts Festival for tertiary students, which saw the arts institute, Institute Seni Indonesia (ISI) host academics and students from Indonesia’s nine performing arts institutes.

Keynote – “Mengingat Krakatau: Musik, Spiritualitas dan Bencana Alam di Indonesia” (Remembering Krakatau: Music, Spirituality and Natural Disasters in Indonesia).

August 2016

Selemat Pagi Indonesia

Screen Shot 2017-08-23 at 11.15.16 AM

Interview at 01.53 about Gamelan Wellington that was featured on Indonesia’s primetime breakfast show Selamat Pagi Indonesia (good morning Indonesia). With Budi Putra at NZSM, Victoria University (see YouTube NZ Gamelan Metro TV).

October 2015

‘Vigilance in verse, sumatra sounds’ – Jakarta Post

Indonesian English language daily profiles my work in Sumatra and NZ.

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2015/10/02/vigilance-verse-sumatra-sounds.html – by Duncan Graham

Jakarta Post 2/10/2015 Photo Ernalinawati Graham

Jakarta Post 2/10/2015
Photo Ernalinawati Graham

October 2015 – Sumatran contemporary music group Talago Buni –  at Frankfurt Book Fair 2015

Talago Buni at Frankfurt Book Fair 2015

Talago Buni at Frankfurt Book Fair 2015

See also – https://www.uni-muenster.de/Musikhochschule/aktuelles/archiv/talago-buni-10-2015.html

August 2015 – 20 Years of Gamelan in Dunedin

“Sung narratives help reduce disaster risk” Nina Susilo – Kompas.

Indonesian national daily newspaper Kompas reported on Selebrasi 20 Years of Gamelan at Otago University. An honour to travel to Dunedin and deliver the Keynote Address for Joko Susilo and his team. I talked about the prevalence of disaster warnings and messages in the story-lines of Sumatran music. See also Noel Trustram’s multi-media book project ‘Aceh Revives’ and the collaborative project between  Gajah Mada University and GNS science, StiRRRD, on disaster risk reduction in Indonesia.

APRA Awards – Sumatran fiddle and gamelan bali

APRA/AMCOS Silver Scrolls appearance. With Gareth Farr, Johnny Marks and Balinese Gong Kebyar style gamelan group Taniwha Jaya. Megan played Sumatran rabab [fiddle] in the style of the late Pirin Asmara for Gareth’s arrangement of Tami Neilson’s song ‘Walk – back to your arms’. Later in the evening ‘Walk’ earned Tami the Silver Scroll (for top song of the year), which was presented to her by Lorde (Wellington 30 October 2014).

APRA Silver Scrolls Awards at TSB Arena Wellington on 30 October 2014APRA Silver Scrolls Awards at TSB Arena Wellington on 30 October 2014

“In the end, the Silver Scroll went to Tami Neilson, for her blues belter ‘Walk Back to Your Arms’, which also received my favourite cover interpretation on the night, in being performed by a gamelan orchestra with Gareth Farr and the All Seeing Hand’s Johnny Marks, who did part of his vocal as a convincing throat-singer. It really was quite wow.”

Russell Brown – Hard News

“I could hardly believe what I was seeing or hearing, but I knew it was Tami Neilson’s ‘Walk Back To Your Arms’ – a smart slice of honky-tonky retro in a minor key from her great album Dynamite!, released earlier this year – performed by a gamelan orchestra and shaven-headed, tattooed, howling-and-whistling throat-singer Jonny Marks. That was just one of the highlights of the annual APRA Silver Scroll Award, held last week in Wellington.”

Nick Bollinger – Top Ten: October 2014

Listen to our rehearsal process with Johnny earlier in the week, with the team from Radio NZ’s ‘Music 101’.

Past projects

Winter Wayang Shadow Puppet Show (Wellington June 2014). ‘Tinggal’ [Stay] written for Bali gamelan on Naga – New Music for Gamelan, from Rattle (March 2014). Java gamelan sound effects for the film ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’. Watch our rehearsals, lead by Budi Putra at Victoria University, in Peter Jackson’s production diary #14 from 07.00 (Aug 2013). Sumatran rabab in raun sabilik popular music on the south coast, West Sumatra, Ind. (May/June 2013). Sumatran Tiger Puppets at WOMAD Taranaki NZ (March 2012) with Ki Joko Susilo, 8th generation Indonesian shadow puppet master.


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