‘Bengawan Solo’ has been performed in a wide variety of styles.
Here’s a version by ‘Harmony Chinese Music Group’ from Bandung…
… and on my Indonesian blog you can watch a performance by ‘Samalona Reggae’ from Solo.
‘The Colourful of Bengawan Solo’ CD, produced to honour Gesang’s 88th birthday, features an amazing 14 variations:
Pop Country by Lin Indriani
Disco Reggae by Mus Mulyadi
Rock by Gen’s 21
Keroncong Asli by Sundari Soekotjo
Sundanese Degung by Tuti Maryati
Keroncong Asli Duet by Gesang, Asti Dewi C
Japanese Keroncong by Tuti Maryati
Chorus & Orchestra Version by Tri Ubaya Cakti Chorus, Shanghai Orchestra
Mandarin Keroncong by Melani Tunas
Children’s Pop by Lidya Lau
Pop Rock by Dong Feng
Mandarin Cha Cha by Harry
Sundanese Kacapi Suling by Deny
Variations by Shanghai Opera Company & Yogyakarta academy Orchestra
Bengawan Solo (River Solo) is a legendary Indonesian song. Composed by Gesang Martohartono in 1940, it was the first widely popular song to be written in Indonesian language.
Gesang, a singer and bandleader in Solo, wrote the song in 32-bar AABA Langgam form, intending it to be accompanied by a keroncong orchestra in keroncong asli style.
The lyrics tell of the majestic River Solo that flows through Central and East Java and has historically dominated the lives of the local people: it supports and sustains them but also regularly brings misery when it floods. The language is poetic and nostalgic. The melody, easy to sing and remember, appeals to a wide audience.
Bengawan Solo became an instant hit throughout the archipelago when the local Japanese community promoted it on radio during the Japanese occupation of Java (1942-1945). After the Japanese surrender the song assumed significance as a nationalistic symbol in the Indonesian struggle for independence (1945-49): it was in the language of independence and it aroused feelings of national pride and patriotism.
Most frequently played in keroncong style, Bengawan Solo is also performed in pop, country, reggae, rock, regional Indonesian and other styles. The lyrics have been translated into regional Indonesian, English, Japanese, Chinese, Tagalog, Thai, Burmese and many other languages.
The song became so popular in Japan that it was believed to be a Japanese song and marketed as such. In 1990 Indonesia won a copyright dispute against Japan and Gesang subsequently received royalties for his composition.