Over the next three weeks we’ll be European capital-hopping, where we have a few days in Budapest, Vienna, and Prague before ending up in Linz, Austria for the 2017 Ars Electronica Festival. Like Riga, we have little time to get to know each city, but hopefully it’s enough to get a feel for what makes it unique.
First up: Budapest, capital of Hungary and the fusion of two prior towns – Buda, and Pest. Stretched across the Danube, the city is a mix of beautiful architecture, verdant parks, and busy car-filled roads. The most beautiful time for photography is dusk, when the city lights up its most iconic buildings.
But here in Yogyakarta, the angklung and its players are under threat. The city’s government has recently banned angklung performances from the streets and at traffic intersections, where people previously busked for a living. The government asserts that this measure is needed to clean up the streets and remove ‘vagrants’. But the angklung players aren’t fading away peacefully. They’re organizing protests and arguing they’ve got a right to a living, and by banning their performances the government of Yogyakarta is violating their human rights. We’ve seen one protest that’s shut down Jl. Maliboro (a main street of Jogja) entirely, with angklung players proudly waving signs saying “We’re artists, not vagrants!”
And then there are the groups choosing to ignore the ban entirely, hosting huge anglkung orchestras on Maliboro’s sidewalk once night falls. The band below was out in force nearly every night we were in Jogja, playing for huge crowds as men danced to the music.
I get that Jogja wants to clean up its streets and make itself look more modern, and that a huge number of angklung players clogging the sidewalks and traffic intersections would be a pain. But the angklung players are trying to make a living and they’re a great-sounding and a unique part of Indoensia’s heritage. Having buskers out in the open means that heritage reaches more people, some of which couldn’t afford the cost of an orchestral ticket, some of which might never hear an angklung otherwise. Stoytcho and I would definitely have never heard or heard of an angklung if these guys hadn’t been playing them on the streets. So isn’t there some kind of peaceful compromise wherein both the city and angklung buskers would be happy?
Now that you’ve heard about it, hear what an angklung sounds like! Here’s some video of the guys above:
Even from afar, the image of the new U.S. president was unmistakable. We encountered the above flyer while walking around Auckland’s downtown, and when we walked across the street to read it we found it was for a protest of Trump’s inauguration. For those of you unsure of what “Aotearoa” is, it’s the widely-accepted Maori name for New Zealand’s North Island.
Though sparse on the details of their discontents on the flyer, the Aotearoa Against Trump group had plastered these flyers along the streets for nearly a mile. On some, people had scribbled a Hitler-like moustache onto Trump’s face. Others had profanity scribbled onto them. And yet others were partly ripped down, either by those angry by Trump’s election or angry at the protesters.
Trump is an unarguably a polarizing figure in the Americas, but his appearance as a protest target here in New Zealand illustrates how global that polarization is. Some people in Auckland took the time to design this flyer, print it out, and put it up all over Auckland’s downtown. People also (ostensibly) showed up for this protest against Trump. Others vented their distaste through profanity or portraying him as Hitler. I wonder if there was also a counter-protest.
You could argue that the opinion of Auckland’s residents on the U.S. President doesn’t really matter. They’re not U.S. citizens and they don’t live in the U.S. It’s none of their business. But Auckland is the capital city of a country that the U.S. will have to work with, as an ally and a trading partner. The dislike of him here is a reminder that harsh rhetoric wins few friends and has ramifications outside of the election, influencing how other countries view the United States, and us as U.S. citizens. And while Trump and his allies may want to “put America first”, anything the U.S. does will have global ramifications and everyone outside the U.S knows it. Our country might find ourselves with fewer allies in the next four years.