Timlo and keroncong often go together in Solo: several warung feature fulltime keroncong groups and also specialise in this tasty soup.
Warung Timlo Sastro is not far from Solo’s main traditional market, Pasar Gede. It’s on an extremely busy corner: three lanes of cars, motorbikes, trucks and buses roar past on one side; people crash and clatter as they load market produce onto large vehicles, trolleys and becaks on the other side; and on the opposite corner, just two metres from the warung, is the rubbish recycle depot where trucks dump loads of garbage and workers manually sort it into recyclable piles. The smell of rotten vegetable matter permeates the area.
It is midday on Wednesday. Four musicians sit on stools on the narrow step between the eating area and the roadway. Behind them a faded green plastic awning promotes the restaurant and hides the view of the rubbish. The plastic donation bucket waits at one end of the step. However, as patrons can exit from several areas, many don’t contribute. This compares less favourably with other warung where departing customers have to walk past the collection bowl in full view of musicians and other patrons, and are more likely to contribute.
The lunchtime crowd surges in and out, eats and chats, barely listening to the music; waiters shout orders amid the clatter of pots, crockery and cutlery from the cooking area; and the sounds of the cak, cuk, cello, guitar and singer merge into the noise.
The scene is different on Sunday morning. Although still busy and noisy, there’s a more relaxed feel as the crowd of families and friends lingers over the music and food. The original four musicians, plus a flautist, interact with the audience, some of whom volunteer to sing. In between brackets the players explain that members of this group have performed here for twenty years. As with other warung groups, they have a pool of performers who form small groups, play daily at a couple of venues and share the income.
These experienced and versatile musicians are committed to preserving keroncong, which they feel is in danger of dying out. They try to attract a broad audience by presenting a varied repertoire of keroncong and they actively encourage young performers to take up the music. Several keroncong musicians praised the generosity of this group, saying they value the training and technique development they were given as well as the opportunity to perform with the group. Undaunted by the fact that the audience cannot always hear them, or by the fact that they can barely hear each other, the musicians play on, engrossed in their music.
© keronconginsolo 2014