Max Baihaqi: Alternative keroncong

Read how Max Baihaqi from OK Plasu Minimal infuses keroncong with modern rhythms that ‘prompt spectators to shake their bodies’.

Max Baihaqi: Alternative ‘keroncong’ & musicalized poetry | The Jakarta Post.


2013 Festival

The 2013 Surakarta Keroncong Festival featured very talented musicians playing different styles of keroncong. One of the more innovative groups was Orkes Keroncong (OK) Plasu Minimal.

Dressed in scout, army officer, prisoner, school student and Arabic dancer outfits, they made a noisy rollicking entrance and presented an operetta: a snapshot of Indonesian history to a backdrop of keroncong songs and dance. Their slick semi-political commentary touched on the meaning of freedom and independence and on the rights of female workers in Saudi Arabia. A humorous flag saluting ceremony was accompanied by shouted, almost slapstick dialogue, Arabic dancing and the sounds of Javanese gamelan. The audience roared with laughter, clapped and cheered its approval.
© keronconginsolo 2014  
click photo to enlarge                                        

OK Plasu Minimal keroncong operetta

saluting the flag

Sruti Respati

Sruti Respati also performed at the keroncong festival. In glamorous lace blouse and batik skirt, she glided onto the stage and stood serenely, almost beatifically, while the flautist played a long and haunting introduction to ‘Kidung Surgawi’, a recent composition by keroncong icon Koko Thole from Jakarta. Her voice then flowed into a slow smooth melody and the penetrating power as she reached the high notes, virtually hypnotised the audience. Sruti, performs jazz, keroncong and traditional Javanese songs. 

Click here to enjoy her wonderful voice.

Keroncong Rocks

Mel Shandy is a famous Indonesian rock singer. At the 2013 Keroncong Festival, she wore red leather jacket, t-shirt, wide low-slung belt, patterned tights and knee high boots and she sang with a rich throaty voice to a vibrant rock and roll beat. The fans grooved, sang along and demanded an encore when her short bracket was over. According to an article in the SoloPos, the combination of keroncong and rock which is called congrok, was Mel’s first experience of keroncong. While she enjoys the music she is not so keen on the clothing that is usually worn by performers: ‘As long as I don’t have to wear batik skirt and lace blouse it’s ok. Those clothes would restrict my spirit and performance style’ (Ahmad Mufid Aryono, SoloPos 15 September 2013).

Click on these photos and compare the traditional style clothing with the rock style of Mel Shandy.

Rock style Photo Gunug Nugroho Adi The Jakarta Post

Rock style
Photo Gunug Nugroho Adi
The Jakarta Post

Female wearing batik skirt and lace blouse

Traditional style

Endah Laras: Bunga Anggrek

Endah Laras, accompanied by Orkes Keroncong Swastika, thrilled the crowd at the 2013 Surakarta Keroncong Festival. She came on stage singing and strumming a small ukulele and in a performance of contrasts she moved, danced, laughed and sang like a bird. You could hear a pin drop when her clear voice soared lyrically in this absorbing and mesmerising rendition of ‘Bunga Anggrek’ (The Orchid). Then the mood changed as she light-heartedly joked and urged the audience to sing the humorous ‘Ayo Ngguyu’ (Let’s Laugh). With her full voice and huge pitch range, Endah is spoken of as a successor to Waljinah.

Keroncong Grooves

Keroncong is undergoing a revival!
The romantic and nostalgic music usually associated with retirees is now being taken up enthusiastically by the young, and they are putting their own stamp on it. At the 2013 Surakarta Keroncong Festival young performers grooved to keroncong which had been adapted to pop, rock and African sounds and rhythms. The result was vibrant, new and entertaining.

Over two nights thousands of enthusiasts crowded onto the lawns of City Hall where fifteen groups performed on a stage, decorated with plants, silhouettes of ukuleles, flashing lights and large television screens.

More than half of the musicians were school and university students. Some played the seven core keroncong instruments – ukuleles, guitar, cello, double bass, violin and flute; others incorporated electric strings, keyboards, saxophones, African and Indonesian drums. There were solos, duets and small choral groups. Musicians rocked, singers gyrated and dancers executed well-choreographed routines.

Festival organiser, Wartono, was pleased with these innovations, explaining that keroncong has to modernise if it is to survive. ‘The way to attract new players and a broader audience is to allow the young to infuse keroncong with their own musical influences and styles,’ he said.
If the recent festival is any indication, changes are taking place. Young females shunned the batik skirt, lace blouse, hair and make-up style of older performers and opted instead for mini-skirts, hot pants and shorts. Others adapted the traditional look and wore glittering, multi-coloured gauze tops over batik skirts or long dresses in velvet and shimmering fabrics. Young males looked comfortable in jeans, t-shirts, punk and modern gear instead of suits and ties.

The festival opened to rallying shouts of ‘long live keroncong’ as OK (Orkes Keroncong) SMK 8, from the state vocational high school in Surakarta, played a lively version of local favourite ‘Kota Solo’ (Solo City). After an innovative selection of old and pop keroncong, they concluded with a haunting rendition of ‘Yen Ing Tawang Ono Lintang’ (When Stars Appear in the Sky).

Teacher dancing with OK Bintang Swalayan. photo Lance Lessels

OK Bintang Swalayan, Salatiga

OK Bintang Swalayan, Salatiga, is sponsored by a local supermarket and mentored by older performers. ‘Most of the seventeen students grew up in keroncong families and really enjoy this music,’ said one of the teachers, as he proudly pointed to his two children playing violin and Indonesian drum. He believes that the young should play music of their own generation so encourages them to experiment by mixing pop, western and rock songs with keroncong. This was a competent and lively performance. The musicians looked relaxed and appeared to enjoy themselves, especially when one of their teachers danced amongst them during an energetic and animated version of ‘Bandung Selatan’.

Eight year old performer with OK Komunitas Keroncong Anak. photo Bonnie Lessels

OK Komunitas Keroncong Anak, Jombang

The youngest musician, an eight year old girl, confidently sang two songs and played violin with OK Komunitas Keroncong Anak. Her parents, both keroncong performers, enthusiastically prompted and supported from the sidelines. The inclusion of eight violins gave a rich background to their songs and the finale, a lusty rock style presentation of an old keroncong favourite, received strong applause.

OK D’Java, Surakarta, was the grooviest group.  The twenty-two university students who enjoy a wide range of musical styles regularly get together to play keroncong. Dressed in rock-style black, jeans, miniskirts, shorts, knee high boots and sneakers, they produced tight vocal harmonies and rhythmic accompaniments on a large assortment of instruments. Their renditions of ‘Ayo Mama’, from Maluku, and the Malaysian, ‘Laila Canggung’, showcased the skills of individual musicians playing complex solo riffs.

For many years people have regarded keroncong as an artifact that is stuck in a time warp, unable to change. However one of the reasons for its survival is its adaptability and capacity to absorb new influences. Once again this music is changing with the times and, as it assimilates the sounds of this young generation, keroncong grooves.
© keronconginsolo 2014