The key members of OK Swastika are passionate and tireless in their commitment to the development and survival of keroncong.
Sapto Haryono and Danis Sugiyanto, two young musicians with backgrounds in gamelan started the group in 1994 and shortly afterwards invited Sutopo, a street performer who played guitar and sang pop music, to join them.
The three friends could see that keroncong had lost its dynamism and was dying out because it wasn’t attracting young musicians and they felt that the way to restore its popularity and preserve the music was through innovation and change.
They set about deepening their knowledge of keroncong: by studying the structure and musical elements of keroncong, joining lots of groups, learning from senior players and practising for long hours at their ‘base camp’. They didn’t just learn to play all the instruments, they also specialised – Sapto on flute, Danis on violin.
When other young performers wanted to join, the group set up some guidelines: the latihan was the time to practise, not to chatter or drink alcohol; and the aim of the orchestra was to reach high standards of performance.
They very quickly achieved their aim: from 1994 to 1996 the orchestra won second place in local keroncong competitions and in following years was in the top three of all competitions they entered. In 2002 Sapto was declared champion flute player and Danis was violin champion.
Rather than compose new songs they decided to incorporate their broad musical experiences into creative arrangements for existing songs. They notated and reused their arrangements which meant they could reproduce the spirit and identity of their sound again and again. In this they differed from many other groups which innovate spontaneously in the way of jazz musicians.
Sapto, Danis and Sutopo valued idealism and expression over just playing or entertaining and although they welcomed remuneration, it was not essential. They were also selective about the type and number of events they entered.
These days OK Swastika continues to expand the horizons of keroncong. They recently collaborated with well known musicians including Endah Laras – their performance was a highlight of the 2013 Surakarta Keroncong Festiva, and famous Rhythm and Blues singer Glenn Fredly whose participation in their latihan was televised by Indosiar.
They have adapted gamelan music to the keroncong style which they played on keroncong instruments at a shadow puppet show. They have also performed internationally and in Denmark performed as a keroncong gadhon (small group of 3-4 musicians).
They record their music, write scholarly articles, address conferences, publicise keroncong through the media and are a very visible presence in the local scene. These stalwarts, who maintain their strong commitment to the preservation of keroncong, are in fact becoming the keroncong seniors who share their knowledge and skills and ensure that keroncong thrives.
Enjoy OK Swastika’s music at: http://swastika.resaprakasa.com/indexvideo.html
More information at: Swastika Music Fans Group on Facebook
© keronconginsolo 2014