Sir David Attenborough seeks DJ to remix his 63-year-old Bali gamelan gender wayang recording

Left: Sir David Attenborough in 2015. RIght: A young David Attenborough recording Dayak music in a longhouse in Borneo in 1956 ©David Attenborough
Left: Sir David Attenborough in 2015. RIght: A young David Attenborough recording Dayak music in a longhouse in Borneo in 1956 ©David Attenborough

“Sir David Attenborough”, “gamelan” and “remix” are a rather unlikely set of words to find in a single headline, but that’s where we’re at in 2019.

The legendary 93-year-old British broadcaster and natural historian — known as much for his instantly recognizable voice as for his work on award-winning nature documentary series such as Planet Earth and, most recently, the Netflix series Our Planet —  may soon gain new fame in the world of EDM thanks to a recently announced competition challenging music makers to take a 63-year-old field recording he made in Bali of a gamelan gender wayang performance and remix it (into “a club-worthy Ibiza anthem”, according to the BBC).

The competition is being orchestrated by world music magazine Songlines in cooperation with the PRS Foundation, a UK-based charitable funder of new music and talent development.

The gamelan gender wayang recording was made in 1956, when Attenborough came to Indonesia in search of the Komodo dragon for BBC’s Zoo Quest series. It’s one of the tracks on his critically-acclaimed album My Field Recordings from Across the Planet, which was released late last year.

“The villagers will sit down while the leader of the gamelan orchestra will convey his composition, teaching them, one at a time how to play,” recalled Attenborough of the recording, as quoted by BBC. “… they then play this concerted music with extraordinary precision and real zest. So it is haunting music that you hear every night – or you did in those days, in the villages of Bali.”

Although the contest’s rules don’t specify how contestants should remix that haunting music, some of the competition’s judges — include electronic artist and producers Hannah Peel, Gilles Peterson and Matthew Herbert — should give you some idea of what they’re looking for. Sir David himself will also weigh in. 

Unfortunately, the contest is apparently only open to “UK music creators” (seems like Balinese DJs should get a crack too, but …). Entries will be accepted until June 10, after which the judging panel will shortlist six finalists with a winner decided by public vote. The winner will be announced on November 1 and receive an award at this year’s Songlines Music Awards in London on November 30.

You can find more information on the Songlines Remix Competition here.

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