During the past three weeks in Solo we saw groups innovating their keroncong with humour, dance and American country music; strong support for young musicians; latihan and performances day and night.
A focal point for many keroncongers is HAMKRI (Himpunan Artis Musik Keroncong Indonesia) headquarters. This association of keroncong artists works out of a small lock up shed beside the pendopo at Sriwedari. The space is crammed full of instruments, music stands, photos, trophies, paperwork, paraphernalia and the relatively new sound system. The crackly, erratic old system that had inefficiently competed with the sounds of dangdut and pop and the funfair activities in Sriwedari has now been replaced. A kind supporter has loaned them equipment which provides balanced sounds and, importantly, drowns out the competition.
On Sunday evenings, as the HAMKRI seniors arrive on their motorbikes a couple of younger members set up the sound system in the shed, spread out the mats in the pendopo and scout around among the fans for vocalists. The crowd of mainly older males also includes females, young couples and family groups, many of whom know each other. Several of them relax at the nearby wedangan warung which does a consistent trade in drinks, boiled peanuts and fried snacks.
The MC calls for volunteers to play the instruments and after a polite lull seven musicians go into the shed, select an instrument and tune up. They’re soon joined by one of the eager vocalists who discusses the starting note for a well-rehearsed song. The the music begins.
The Friday night performances take place on the stage in the pendopo. Groups offer or are invited to perform a bracket of songs. HAMKRI chairman, Wartono, visits local latihan regularly, encouraging musicians to continue playing keroncong, establishing support networks and also inviting them to take part in the Sunday concerts. Well- known artists such as Waldjinah have performed here, as have keroncongers from Jakarta, Yogyakarta and New Zealand, villages, cities, schools and universities.The evening concludes with a ‘jam session’ which gives local musicians another chance to play and sing together.