Journal article

Strings across the ocean: practices, traditions, and histories of the Cocos Malay biola in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Indian Ocean

David Irving

Ethnomusicology Forum | Taylor & Francis (Routledge) | Published : 2020


The biola (violin) is an emblematic musical instrument of the Cocos Malay community, who have been based on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands – part of Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories – since 1826. In Cocos Malay culture, the biola accompanies local dance genres and occasional performances of bangsawan theatre. Malay melodies constitute the bulk of the repertoire; there are also melodies exhibiting Scottish characteristics. The latter are often attributed to the influence of the Clunies-Ross family, who maintained a commanding presence on the islands from 1827 to 1978. Since the mid-twentieth century, biola playing has been the preserve of two families on the islands and in Western Australia...

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