According to many people a group of students plays keroncong at a timlo warung near the Mangkunegaran palace. It’s June 2006 and we search for weeks but do not find them, so decide to go out around midnight for one final search. And there, in front of Samudra Electronics, Jalan Diponegoro, is a large banner promoting Warung Timlo Maestro. It’s one of the many lesehan eateries that pop up on the streets after dark when owners spread out rattan mats and serve their specialties to the locals, many of whom sit and socialise until early morning.
Despite finding the venue, we haven’t found the keroncong, so we are quite surprised when one of the waiters says he knows where the boys practise. He leads us down a dark narrow lane beside the warung. It’s very quiet until we turn a corner and find an unexpected scene. A large crowd of people is sitting on mats in dim lamp light listening to a young female vocalist and a keroncong orchestra.
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One of the men invites us to sit, offering glasses of hot sweet tea and snacks of boiled peanuts and bananas as he explains that the older violin and flute players are teaching the young boys about keroncong.
The students usually play keroncong rohani (spiritual) at religious services at the Christian Junior High School (SMPK) they attend. Although they enjoy this, they also like to play other forms of keroncong, so three years ago they started busking. Slamet Subagyo, the owner of Warung Timlo Maestro, was impressed with their initiative and enthusiasm and asked them to join a few older musicians, vocalists and friends at a latihan. He hoped to set up the sharing of skills at a night of his favourite music. It was so successful that three years later they continue to meet.
The latihan is very lively. There’s lots of chatter and laughter and the noise level rises when some women dance the poco-poco (line dance) to a keroncong cha-cha rhythm.
Co-organiser, Bagong Bayuaji, observes that everyone benefits from the latihan: the young develop understanding and technique, older musicians enjoy the opportunity to share their knowledge and to perform regularly; vocalists practise singing in public; audience members have fun.
He praises the friendly, relaxed atmosphere of the latihan, adding that a large and cohesive community has developed because the love of keroncong has united their hearts.
© keronconginsolo 2014