Anton Danu Saputro (DS)* and his wife Lis relax in comfortable old chairs on the verandah of their Baluwarti home. On the couch nearby two university music students are practising the ukulele under the guidance of an older musician, while further away a young flute player is working on his technique. One by one the musicians arrive on their motor cycles. It’s 9.30 on Monday night and the OK Sahabat community is gathering for a latihan.
OK Sahabat has changed its name several times since the1950s when Anton and a few friends from keroncong backgrounds decided to form a group. ‘We taught each other, experimented and practised a lot because we wanted to play well,’ says Anton. ‘Then we decided to have a musical director.’
Currently the talented Mulyadi* composes and notates complex parts for each instrument, teaches, plays flute and conducts the orchestra. The group has been acknowledged for the high standard of its music: for the distinctive harmonies of its large violin section and the vigorous rhythms of interlocking ukuleles. Mulyadi also coordinates their regular vocalists: Lis, Mulyadi’s wife Murti, and T. whose grandfather was a founding member of the group. Their repertoire includes old favourites, songs by Elvis Presley and The Beatles, and modern songs that they hope will appeal to young people.
The atmosphere is relaxed and comfortable, as if old friends have come together. Anton says the cohesive and supportive community that has grown up around this group is very important. Others agree. T. is happy her children are part of this ‘healthy, happy family environment’; S. says this group ‘promotes good values’; and most people like the fact that young musicians are always welcome to drop in and learn, jam and rap with the old experts. Several people prefer this community to other kampung groups where the latihan is just an excuse to get together and drink alcohol. ‘When this happens the music gets loud and rough and the atmosphere isn’t pleasant,’ says P.
Anton chose not to turn professional, to take out recording contracts or to appear on television, preferring to perform at local private and public functions. He received many awards and acknowledgements in recognition of his service to keroncong.
* Sadly both Anton DS and Mulyadi are no longer with us. Their legacy will live on.
© keronconginsolo 2014