Why write about keroncong in Solo?
There are three main reasons: the keroncong scene in Surakarta (Solo) is active and vibrant, the biggest names in keroncong come from Solo, and this music is part of the local culture and identity.
Keroncong is played in kampungs and small communities, streets, cafes, eateries and shopping malls, at schools and places of work. It’s a form of leisure and entertainment.
The names of local identities Gesang Martohardjono, Anjar Any and Waldjinah are synonymous with keroncong.
Musician and composer Gesang composed probably the most well known keroncong song, ‘Bengawan Solo’, about the legendary local river. Poetic and nostalgic, it was one of the first keroncong songs to be written in Indonesian language and aroused feelings of pride and nationalism throughout the archipelago, particularly in Solo.
Composer Andjar Any and vocalist Waldjinah formed a partnership that produced thousands of keroncong songs and popularised this music. Their romantic Javanese song ‘Yen Ing Tawang Ono Lintang’ (If there are Stars in the Sky) was a national hit. Waldjinah, the Queen of Keroncong, is still active in the keroncong scene.
Keroncong is part of Solonese culture and tradition. It was in Solo that the music became Javanised when it adopted characteristics of gamelan music, including the tones, tunings and technique of interlocking, the Javanese language, and the songs and style of singing.
The music is strongly supported and promoted locally by Himpunan Artis Musik Keroncong Indonesia (HAMKRI), radio and television stations, the media and local government, which promotes Solo as ‘Keroncong City’. Solo is home to the annual Surakarta Keroncong Festival.
It is indeed a centre of keroncong.