Comic opera or theatre was very popular in South East Asia in the late nineteenth century. Troupes known as komedie stambul, or Istanbul-style theatre, toured Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, performing musical versions of ‘One Thousand and One Nights’, European fairy stories and operas, Indian and Persian tales, and regional stories such as Si Pitung, all in Malay language. Between scenes, there were musical intermezzos of marches, polkas, waltzes, opera songs, keroncong and music called stambul. Stambul songs were melancholy, often in a minor key and sung vibrato style.
During the same period small groups of males roamed the streets of Batavia singing romantic and melancholy songs and playing a ukulele-type instrument, called a keroncong. Known as buaya darat (street crocodiles) a reference to their pursuits as petty criminals and womanisers, these gangs readily adopted new musical styles.
They soon adapted the melancholy and emotional stambul melodies to keroncong. This fusion popularised stambul songs and also keroncong music which was a regular component of komedie stambul.
Now part of the keroncong repertoire, stambul melodies are played at a faster tempo than later keroncong songs.
Stambul I: in 4/4 time has 16 bars (A B A B) in the form of a pantun (poem), an improvised introduction and ending.
Examples: Terang Bulang, Potong Padi, Nina Bobo, Sarinande, O Ina Ni Keke (Minahasa, North Sulawesi), Bolelebo (Nusantara Timur).
Stambul II: in 4/4 time has 16 bars (A B) in pantun form, an improvised introduction and ending.
Examples: Si Jampang, Jali-Jali
Stambul III: in 4/4 time has 16 bars (Intro A Interlude B C). Songs such as Kemayoran have a similar form to Keroncong Asli songs and are sometimes called Keroncong Kemayoran.