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Marsada are a dynamic group of young musicians from Sumatra, Indonesia. Part of the Toba-Batak indigenous group, their native home and source of inspiration for their music is the beautiful tropical island of Samosir in Lake Toba, the largest volcanic lake in the world. Marsada means together in Batak, an apt name for a group who have known each other and performed together for most of their lives. Initially formed as a musical trio in 1990, Marsada extended the group in 1999 to become what they are today. The Batak are renowned across Indonesia for their musical ability and consequently Marsada have grown up surrounded by music. Keen to sustain their musical traditions as well as draw on their modern day influences Marsada have developed their own arrangements of both the Batak ceremonial music and Batak folksongs. Using traditional instruments alongside modern acoustic guitars, Marsada broaden their musical accessibility by weaving together traditional rhythms with those that have evolved from contact with Europe and the west. The traditional Batak instruments used by Marsada are the hasapi (2-stringed plucked lute), sulim (bamboo flute), garantung (wooden xylophone), taganing (set of 5 wooden drums stretched with cow skin) and hesek (common glass bottle struck with metal beater)The traditional ceremonial music of the Batak is called gondang, of which there are different types. Large scale ensembles played outdoors, normally at weddings, funerals and social gatherings, play gondang sabangunan, whereas indoor ensembles, more closely related to spirit belief, play gondang hasapi. Ever since Christianity was introduced to the Toba region in the 19th century there has had to be a level of musical accommodation as Christianity would not tolerate music played in rituals relating to spirit belief. As part of this accommodation, uning-uningan music evolved as a 20th century secular variation of the gondang hasapi. Uning-uningan was most famously used to accompany the now very rare Opera Batak, pioneered by Tilhang Oberlin Gultom in the 1920s. This was a travelling theatre which toured around the Toba region performing loosely scripted plays with both instrumental and vocal accompaniment. It is their own contemporary arrangement of uning-uningan which Marsada now regularly performs at weddings, funerals, festivals and parties in the Toba region.In addition to the ceremonial music are the more recent Batak folksongs. These date back to the late 19th century and the characteristic close harmony vocals are thought to have originally been inspired by the congregational singing introduced by western missionaries. Written largely about life in and around the Toba region it is unsurprising perhaps, due to the predominance of male musicians, that many of the songs refer to beautiful women! Today Batak folksongs are made famous throughout Indonesia by male vocal trios supported by modern electronic instrumental backing. Despite obvious influence from western rhythms and style which they have been exposed to, Marsada steer clear of electronic keyboards sticking to their sensitive mix of traditional Batak instruments and guitars. The result is essentially a rootsy and acoustic sound which puts emphasis on their powerful and evocative vocals so characteristic of the modern day Batak.Marsada are well known in the Toba region but in the last few years they have taken their music further a field within Indonesia. Notable performances have included the cultural festival in Medan, Sumatra, the Festival Orang Batak Bernyanyi (Singing Batak People Festival) in Sulawesi and the Batak festival in Bandung, Java. They have also enjoyed successful residencies performing at the Maduma pub in Jakarta and the Bonit pub in Bandung.Marsadas new album: Pulo Samosir was recorded in Medan, Sumatra in May 2003 and will be released on the 21st June 2004 by Dug Up Music. The group now look forward to visiting the UK in their debut overseas tour in July 2004.