Gamelan is traditionalensemble music of Java and Bali in Indonesia, made up predominantly of percussive instruments. The most common instruments are metallophones played by mallets as well as a set of hand-played drums called kendhang which registers the beat. It also includes xylophones, bamboo flutes, bowed instrument called rebab, and even female vocalists called sindhen.
The popularity of gamelan has declined since modern pop music, though gamelan is still commonly played at formal occasions and in many traditional ceremonies. For most Indonesians, gamelan is an integral part and a symbol of Indonesian culture.
They are distinguished by their collection of instruments and use of voice, tunings, repertoire, style, and cultural context. In general, no two gamelan ensembles are the same, and those that arose in prestigious courts are often considered to have their own style. Certain styles may also be shared by nearby ensembles, leading to a regional style. The varieties are grouped geographically, with the principal division between the styles favoured by the Balinese, Javanese, and Sundanese peoples.
Typically, players in the gamelan will be familiar with dance moves, poetry, while dancers are able to play (along) in the ensemble. In wayang, the dalang (puppeteer) must have a thorough knowledge of gamelan, as he gives the cues for the music.
Certain gamelans are associated with specific rituals, such as the Gamelan Sekaten, which is used in the celebration of Mawlid an-Nabi (Muhammad‘s birthday), other pieces are also believed to possess magic powers, and can be used to ward off evil spirits!
The gamelan has been appreciated by several western composers (Colin McPhee, Béla Bartók, Francis Poulenc, Olivier Messiaen, Pierre Boulez, Benjamin Britten, Steve Reich, Phillip Glass, György Ligeti and John Cage), most famously Claude Debussy who heard a Javanese gamelan in the premiere of Louis-Albert Bourgault-Ducoudray‘sRapsodie Cambodgienne at the Paris Exposition World’s Fair of 1889.
The gamelan that Debussy heard in it was in the slendro scale and its equal-tempered whole tone scale appears in his music. A Javanese gamelan-like heterophonic texture is emulated on occasion, particularly in Pagodes, from Estampes (solo piano, 1903), in which the great gong‘s cyclic punctuation is symbolized by a prominent perfect fifth.
There is a famous Javanese saying that sums up Gamelan’s role importance in Indonesian habitual daily life: ‘It is not official until the gong is hung’. (!)
Let’s go to our artist:
Chrismansyah Rahadi(16 September 1949 – 30 March 2007) was born in Jakarta, as the second of three brothers from Laurens Rahadi and Hana. He graduated from high school in 1967 and had the opportunity of studying Architectural Engineering in APP Trisakti, but he dropped out on its third year. Chrisye initiated his career in music by joining the Sabda Nada Band in 1968, the short-lived group morphed into Gipsy (later famous Guruh Gipsy) in 1969 along with some change of personnel.
Gipsy became a well-respected band from Jakarta and had the most luxuriousequipment of the day. In 1971/1972 they flew to New York and played in the Ramayana Restaurant for about a year. Back to Indonesia, Chrisye managed to popularize the song Lilin-Lilin Kecil (Small Candles) winning the Youth Contest Prambors Songwriting Contest in 1977. His first albums Badai Pasti Berlalu and Sabda Alam managed to be very popular and successful in the domestic market.
This would only be the beginning of a highly consolidated career through the ’80s and ’90s, he’s merely one of the biggest record sellers from all-time in Indonesia!
Let’s go to our album:
In May 1978 Chrisye began work on his first (solo) album Sabda Alam (Nature’s Order), incorporating several songs by other artists and some written by himself, including the title song, which he recorded it after locking himself in the studio. The album, greatly influenced by Badai Pasti Berlalu(OST Lp) and drawing on the double-tracking technique (the vocals are recorded twice to achieve fuller sound), was released in August that year. Heavily promoted in a campaign during which Chrisye was interviewed on the national television station TVRI and on the radio.
The album eventually sold more than 400,000 copies! (phew)
This renowned artist(still) remains unknown to most of the Western public, today we exclusively present one of his greatest releases, full of melodic and harmonic beauty, Chrisye’s soulfulinterpretation is quite something. Supported by a sharp band withthe always welcome participation of Yockie on keyboards, once more splitting the arrangements with Chrisye, the Lp got prog ballads, folk, disco, a fantastic version of Smaradhana (Guruh Gipsy’s song), female chorus, and one of the greatest Indonesian songs in my opinion, Anak Jalanan, this album is no joke!
The ‘IM’ highlights are Cita Secinta and Anak Jalanan.
The culture of Indonesia has been shaped by long interaction between original indigenous customs and multiple foreign influences. Centrally-located along ancient trading routes between the Far East, South Asia, and the Middle East, resulting in many cultural practices being strongly influenced by a multitude of religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam, and Christianity. The result is a complex cultural mixture very different from the originalindigenous cultures.
Balinese dances have stories about ancient Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms, while Islamic art forms and architecture are present in Sumatra, especially in the Minangkabau and Aceh regions. Traditional art, music, and sport are combined in a martial art form called Pencak Silat, for example. Western culture has greatly influenced Indonesia in science, technology and modern entertainment such as television shows, film, and music, as well as political systemand issues.
India has notably influenced Indonesian songs and movies, a popular type of song is the Indian-rhythmical dangdut, which is often mixed with Arab and Malay folk music. Despite the influences of foreign culture, some remote Indonesian regions still preserve uniquely indigenous culture, ethnic groups like Mentawai, Asmat, Dani, Dayak, Sasak are still practicing their ethnic rituals, customs and wearing traditional clothes. Examples of cultural fusion include the fusion of Islam with Hindu in Javanese Abangan belief, the fusion of Hinduism, Buddhism and animism in Bodha, and the fusion of Hinduism and animism in Kaharingan, can be cited.
Let’s go to our artist:
Today’s album presents us a duo that worked together throughout its careers, Christian Rahadi (16 September 1949 – 30 March 2007) and Jockie Soerjoprajogo areconsidered the brainchild of the revolution in Indonesia’s pop music.
Born in Jakarta of mixed Chinese-Indonesian descent, Chrisye became interested in music at an early age, at high school he played bass guitar in a band he formed with his brother, Joris. In the late 60’s he joined Sabda Nada (later Gipsy), a band led by his neighbors, the Nasutions. In 1973, after a short hiatus, he rejoined the band to play in New York for a year, he briefly returned to Indonesia and then went back to New York with another band, the Pro’s. After returning to Indonesia, he collaborated with Gipsy and Guruh Sukarnoputra to record the 1976 legendary indie album Guruh Gipsy.
Following the success of Guruh Gipsy, in 1977 Chrisye recorded two of his most critically acclaimed works: Lilin-Lilin Kecil, which eventually became his signature song, and the soundtrack album Badai Pasti Berlalu (w/ Eros Djarot and Jockie), with impressive 9-million copies sold up to date! Their success landed him a recording contract with Musica Studios, with whom he released his first solo album, Sabda Alam, in 1978. Over his almost 40-year career he recorded a further twenty albums.
Chrisye died in his home in Jakarta (2007) after a long battle with lung cancer.
Rolling Stone Indonesia declared him the third-greatest Indonesian musician of all time in 2011. Thanks to his successful career, he received two-lifetime achievement awards: BASF Awards in1993 and SCTV (Indonesia TV), posthumously in 2007. (RIP)
Jockie was born in Demak, Central Java on 14 September 1954. Most of his musical skills were self-taught, although he did study composition under Muchtar Embut and musical notation under Idris Sardi (famous arranger). After middle school, Jockie moved to Jakarta and joined with several acts there, in 1973, he joined with Ahmad Albar, Donny Fattah, and Ludwig Leeman to form God Bless (as keyboardist).
He split from the band for a brief time to found the bands Giant Step in Bandung and Double Zero in Malang, but returned in early 1975. During this period he was heavily into drugs, once stealing and selling a ring belonging to Harry Roesli to fuel his habit!
In 1976 Jockie joined the committee for Prambors FM’sTeenage Song Writing Competition, he approached Chrisye to ask him to sing the song Lilin-Lilin Kecil, when Chrisye was finally convinced to record, Jockie handled the arrangement.
His first solo album Musik Saya Adalah Saya, came out in 1978, this was followed by four more albums over the next 15 years. Meanwhile, with God Bless he released Cermin (1980), Semut Hitam (1988), and Raksasa (1989), along with many tours.
Jockie joined with Chrisye and Djarot once again in the ’80s to produce a trilogy of albums, Resesi, Metropolitan, and Nona, all three went platinum. He is still on active duty and recently organized a famous series of concerts in tribute to Chrisye. (!)
Let’s go to our album:
Jurang Pemisah is an Indonesian pop-prog album, it was Chrisye’s first album, produced and released by Pramaqua Records. Chrisye performed the vocals on seven tracks and played the bass, while Jockie played the keyboards, guitar and drums.
Ian Antono and Teddy Sujaya played the guitar and drums respectively for the songs Mesin Kota and Dia. Jurang Pemisah was a portrait of social reality, dealing with themes such as the environment and politics, the eponymous song, was about class discrimination causing a divide between the different social strata. The other single, Jeritan Sebrang was a portrait of supporters of the Republic of South Maluku.
This astonishing album reveals us a more melodic pop side of what we saw in our previous mixtape, Chrisye’s soft timbre and Jockie’s splendid keys translate the ambitious goals of this masterpiece. Different from Guruh Gipsy’s work, the Lp got no gamelan or traditional influences, nevertheless, do not be intimidated by the language, the beautiful songs showed here will capture the most universal feelings.
With folk, prog and rock tinge the ‘IM’ highlights are: Dendam, a ballad to hear over and over, with acoustic base, minor harmonics and light synths that will take you to some nostalgic place. And Mesin Kota, a hard organ-driven, with uptempo pace, joyous chorus, and some nice guitar work. Lastly, I would like to know a little more of the language and further understand the lyrics, will anyone could help us?
Indonesia. Fossilized remains of Homo Erectus and his tools, popularly known as the Java Man, suggest the Indonesian archipelago was inhabited by at least 1.5 million years ago. Austronesian People who form the majority of the modern population, are thought to have originally been from Taiwan and arrived in Indonesia around 2000 BCE. The earliest evidence of Islamised populations in Indonesia dates to the 13th century in northern Sumatra; for the most part, Islam is overlaid and mixed with existing cultural and (curious tolerant)multiple religious influences.
Europeans arrived in Indonesia from the 16th century seeking to monopolize the sources of nutmeg, cloves, and cubeb pepper in Maluku. In 1602 the Dutch East India Company (VOC) was established and became the dominant European power. Following bankruptcy, the VOC was formally dissolved in 1800, and the Netherlands government created the Dutch East Indies under government control. (sic)
By the early 20th century, Dutch dominance extended to the current boundaries. The Japanese invasion and subsequent occupations in 1942-45 during WWII ended Dutch rule and encouraged the previously suppressed Indonesian independence movement. Two days after the surrender of Japan on August 1945, nationalist leader (future leader), Sukarno, declared independence and became president.
While the West and many other western-styled democratic countries reveled in rock music, the left-leaning government of Sukarno took a dim view of western influence in the early days of the Indonesian Republic,restricting the purchase and sale of Beatles, Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, Tom Jones,as well as those of homegrown artists performing western-style rock music. This could be accredited to a rejection of Western culture after three centuries under Dutch colonial rule and was argued to help Indonesian artists create their own form of Indonesian pop music. (!)
Sukarno’s government insisted on Indonesia producing its own brand of pop music, yet many of these groups still showed western musical influences in their arrangements shown either by the crooner styled vocals or R&B flavored guitars for rhythm. Indonesia’s more popular groups, most notably Koes Bersaudara, later renamed Koes Plus found life increasingly difficult under Sukarno frequent queries from the authorities for performing western rock, while other Indonesian rock n’ roll pioneers like the Tielman Brothers had to make their name in Europe.
These were the early beat, garage and pop scene.
Let’s go to our history:
Sukarno’s anti-imperial ideology saw Indonesia increasingly dependent on Soviet and then communist China. By 1965, the PKI was the largest communist party, outside the Soviet Union or China. Penetrating all levels of government, the party increasingly gained influence at the large expense of the army.
On September 30, 1965, six of the most senior generals within the military and other officers were executed in an attempted coup. This fact prompted a violent army-led communist purge, aided by CIA and British Foreign Office, over a million people were killed in a year, a year and a half, throughout the country. (!!)
General Suharto politically outmaneuvered President Sukarno, and became president in March 1968. When he finally opened the floodgates for western culture, Suharto’s new order regime’s friendly stance towards western powers allowed the emerging rock music scene to flourish. With the country entering open relations with the western, many Anglo-American artists like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Genesis, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, King Crimson, Janis Joplin and Black Sabbath flooded Indonesia’s radio waves while its fresh new sound helped create many of Indonesia’s best-known artists of the ’70s, be it directly or indirectly. The decade also provided numerous bands and household rock starsstill active on today’s musical charts.
Thanks to Now Again’s fantastic compilation (2011) of Indonesian rock, Those Shocking Shaking Days, people worldwide were able to taste the greatest bands from the Indorock scene. With a tumultuous historical background, led by a 33-year dictatorship, Rock music was a real exhaust valve in a land of fear, death, and corruption. We’re talking about a place where a right-wing paramilitary organization Pemuda Pancasila grew out of the death squads to reach maximum popularity as national heroes! They got strictly bonds with the government and more than 3 million members throughout Indonesia! With no trials or official recognition, this frightening aspect it’s shown on Joshua Oppenheimer documentary, The Act of Killing.
Let’s go to our mixtape:
A Mixtape it’s a personal choice that usually ranges a certain time or era, serving as a gateway for new listeners. Today we’ll focus on 70’s scene, therefore, some brilliant Indonesian bands will be out of our first selection, such as Koes Plus, AKA, Shark Move, Super Kid, Panbers, Duo Kribo, etc. Their complete biography and developments will be left for an exclusively dedicated post, there will be many, don’t worry! This is just warming for Indonesian rock, phew, let’s to them!?
Dara Puspita ~ Tabah & Cobalah (1971)
Harapan Kosong /// Did You Know That?
Dara Puspita(Flower Girls) was Indonesia’s most successful girl band of the 1960s. The girls were one of the few groups who actually played their own music. Hailed from the city of Surabaya in East Java and first formed in 1964, on 1965 the band relocated to Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, and soon gained a reputation as a sensational live act, bashing away their instruments, jumping and screaming out their songs.
Riding on the beat garage, in 1968 they took the almost unprecedented move for an Indonesian band of trying their luck in Europe and spent the next few years touring in England, Holland, France, Belgium, Spain, Germany, and Hungary. They even played in Turkey and Iran! In late 1971 the girls returned to Indonesia and played a number of concerts, and on April 1972 they played their last show.
The selected songs are from their last era, a real psychedelic issue with less girlie posture, serious fuzz, and organ. Words in English and Indonesian, some soul swing and no political themes on lyrics. By the way, the band was much used in Suharto’s years as a nationalist flag of Indonesia’s greatness (sic). Their 71′ released are also on Hans Pokora’s book, that’s why is so difficult to find any good transfer.
Harry Roesli Gang ~ Philosophy Gang (1973)
Peacock Dog //// Roda Angin
Harry Roesli has been a well-known artist in Indonesia, who pioneered contemporary music with consistent delivery of social and humanity critics in a straight forward and transparent way. He was born in Bandung and passed away on December 11, 2004.
During early’70s, Harry formed a band called Gang of Harry Roesliwith his friends: Albert Warnerin, Indra Rivai, and Iwan A Rachman. Five years later the group was disbanded. Harry was then granted a scholarship by Cultuur, Recreatie en Maatschapelijk Werk (CRM), to study in Rotterdam Conservatorium, Netherlands. To support his life while studying and expressing his musical talent, he played piano at Indonesian restaurants, achieving Ph.D. in Music (1981) and then lecturing at the department of music at Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia (UPI).
This is his first release, words in English and Indonesian, fabulous keys timbres, small Latin accent with a pop-psych overall. Harry lyrics suffered constant boycotts and a blacklist agenda by the military government. He’s certainly the most restless author from all, with dozens of records and few acknowledgments worldwide.
The Indonesian Hendrix, the self-proclaimed founder of the private press scene, Benny Soebardja is one of the most important figures from the Indonesian music industry. Having been a member of three of the biggest bands in Indonesia: The Peels, Shark Move and Giant Step. Backed by the almost unknown Lizard band.
He got some problems due to its first solo release, with a banned cover and government intimidation who saw too much freedom of speech on its lyrics. The words in English were made with the help of British poet Bob Dook. With psychedelic nature, organ, reeds, light/heavy guitar work, and harmonic soulful chorus, some social criticism themes are included. He’s still on the run!
God Bless ~ God Bless (1976)
Sesat /// Eleanor Rigby
God Bless pioneered the birth of rock music in Indonesia dated back in early ’70s. The band’s central figure vocalist Ahmad Albar, previously formed Take Five (1966-1967), and later Clover Leaf (1967-1972). When he returned to Indonesia, Fuad Hassan (drums), Donny Fatah (bass) and Deddy Dores (keyboard) were invited to form with him, God Bless. They dominated rock music performance during the decade, even though they did cover versions of Deep Purple, Genesis, Kin Ping Meh, Queen.
God Bless also performed as the opening act for a spectacular show (with 120,000 crowds!) featuring Deep Purple live in Stadion Utama, Jakarta, 1975. The band released its self-titled debut album in 1976, by Indonesian label Pramaqua. With a major hit: Huma di Atas Bukit the album remarked the birth of Indo rock scene.
Classic Rock at it’s the best definition, words in Indonesian with a tuned rock band. They’re the best selling rock band from Indonesia history and are still on the run!
Giant Step ~ Kukuh Nan Teguh (1977)
Mekar //// Alam Bebas
One of the legendary Indonesian progressive rock acts of the ’70s, with influences from the American/British prog legends, they established their own sound with great originality. They went through a series of line-up changes with the omnipresent figure of Benny Soebardja, plus the best musicians from Bandung: Deddy Stanzah(Rollies), Deddy Dores(Freedom of Rhapsodia), Albert Warnerin(Philosophy Gang).
They managed to release several albums with great commercial success before finally breaking up in 1986. Sung in Indonesian, strong moogs and synths, nice guitars, flutes, broken signature, and beautiful rock ballads. Altogether, you can call them true prog heroes, with no influences from traditional music or social criticism themes.
Guruh Gipsy ~ Guruh Gipsy (1977)
Janger 1897 Saka /// Geger Gelgel
The only album released by the band (with Chrisye), it’s the second greatest from all time according to Rolling Stone Indonesia (!). We’ll make a complete post with biography and info members in the near future, this is no ordinary record! After sixteen months of production, as the two musical elements have different spectrum in terms of notes and chords progression, Guruh spent a lot of time outside the studio to learn the subtleties of western music as well as Bali traditional music. They strived to find the harmony that blended prog rock withBali traditional gamelan music.
With a rock combo (guitar, bass, drums, organ), orchestra, female backing vocals, heavy moogs, and traditional instruments, this is probably the greatest mix between traditional and modern anglo music I’ve ever seen, at least in Indonesia!
A symphonic prog with outstanding arrangements, full-length songs, heavenly chorus and many different climates throughout the record, a must-see.