Timeline - 2023 Reissue

Image of Suarasama - Timeline - 2023 Reissue
Record Label
Drag City

About this item

2023 marks the twenty-eighth year of Suarasama; it is also the first year for this reissue of their 2013 masterpiece, ‘Timeline’.

Irwansyah Harahap and Rithaony Hutajulu, Ethnomusicology lecturers at University of Sumatera Utara, founded Suarasama in 1995 after graduating from the University of Washington Ethnomusicology program. Their music, as expressed on both ‘Timeline’ and ‘Fajar Di Atas Awan’ (first issued in 1998, reissued by Drag City in 2008) is hypnotic and joyful, progressing ancient North Sumatran music concepts while referencing the music of adjacent ethnic traditions. ‘Dukkha’, for example, was written combining Mandailing and Eastern European musical inspirations. Playing this song on African jembe, Indian sruti box and a European lute known as the mandolin, Suarasama instigate a musical synesthesia in the listener that may honestly earn and truly deserve the title of ‘world music’.

Throughout ‘Timeline’, this is largely due to Irwansyah Harahap’s master playing on a variety of stringed instruments, including acoustic guitars, Malaysian gambus, mandolin, and an invention of his own design, the saz-guitar. Suarasama’s spirit and intention is further elevated by Rithaony Hutajulu’s vocals, as well as the skilled rhythm playing of Muhammad Amin and Horas Panjaitan, with additional percussion and singing from several others. The sound of Suarasama is the sound of people engaged in a deeply spiritual, constantly moving recital in open space.

Suarasama’s conception of ‘Timeline’ was a multifaceted one from the start. It grew from the concept of hemiola, a metric rhythmic structure involving the juxtaposition of a 2-beat time signature upon 3-beat time within the same line. The song ‘Timeline’ itself addresses the history of musical lutes around the world as a means of debuting their custom-made lute, the aforementioned saz-guitar.

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, a ‘timeline’ charts the passage of time, and therefore references Suarasama’s musical path over the years of their existence. This is especially significant since founder and leader Irwansyah Harahap passed away in 2021 at the age of 60. As difficult as this loss is for his family, friends and fans alike, the reissue of ‘Timeline’ is seen as a celebration of the vitality and importance of his music career and journey. As a professor, he taught his students about the qualities of North Sumatran traditional music and their relationship to other traditional musics of the world; with the music of Suarasama, he demonstrated the same to listeners across the planet. He worked to preserve the music and the instruments as well, such as the traditional Sumatran taganing, a five-piece set of tuned drums, and hasapi, a lute of the Toba Batak people of North Sumatra. After Irwansyah’s passing, Ritha’s daughter Niesya said that he had always wanted their music studio Rumah Musik Suarasama, in Simpang Selayang, Medan Tuntungan, North Sumatra, to be a centre for music preservation. This dedication to the music was acknowledged in his lifetime through several awards and fellowships around the world, including a recognition from the Ministry of Culture and Education of Indonesia as the pioneer of the World Music genre in Indonesia.

Suarasama mourn the loss of their leader, Irwansyah Harahap, and grieve his passing. They intend to continue his legacy and spread his music to the world. As shall we - with the eternally resonant music of ‘Timeline’, crossing as many borders as possible, to bring Suarasama’s world music to all the people, everywhere.


1. Untukmu Yang Berperang
2. Dukkha
3. Timeline
4. Sea Fish
5. Awesome
6. Journey
7. Kita Berbagi (We Share)

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