HAMKRI chairman, Wartono, works tirelessly to motivate and encourage musicians to continue playing keroncong. ‘It’s my obsession,’ he says.
‘I try to attend two latihan every night. I just arrive, greet everyone, drink tea and watch. I don’t even need to talk – just the fact that I come shows respect. Sometimes they ask for help, and if it’s possible I do something. I like to revisit them each month.
Sometimes I push them.
One group had lost interest and only met for the social gathering. They tried to start playing again but stopped after three latihan. I told them I knew of a group that was looking to start up and needed instruments.
“You’re not using your instruments. Do you want to sell them?” I asked.
They were angry. “Who said we want to sell? We’re still using them and we’ve got a latihan next week.” They resumed playing.
Many groups can’t afford to hold latihan: they don’t have the money for instruments, snacks, cigarettes and petrol. Often they can’t do paid performances because they can’t afford to rehearse. The performances and jam sessions at HAMKRI are good because everyone can take part.
We support young people: we encourage them to innovate, to sing any song they like with the keroncong style accompaniment; and we include them in the Surakarta Keroncong Festival. The audience always applauds them strongly, so then they become self-motivated and want to keep playing.’
HAMKRI committee members are volunteers. ‘The meagre HAMKRI funding wouldn’t cover paying staff. What’s important is that we work together for the sake of keroncong.’ The organisation is actively supported by local musicians who are full of praise for Wartono’s commitment.
In a recent two week period, Wartono made four trips to Yogyakarta to watch performances and latihan and to talk to a researcher; went to Bandung, Jakarta and Semarang; interviewed performers; was interviewed for national media; visited Waljinah; and maintained a constant communication of messages and photos for his more than 2000 Facebook followers. (Interviews 2014, 2015)