July 27, 2011

A ten days journey to capture the spirit of keroncong in Yogya, Solo and Semarang.

Why Keroncong?

As we all know, keroncong, is a music genre which in Indonesia known as ‘old music’, just because the listeners are predominantly above 50 years old.  Younger generation’s interest towards this genre is practically bare minimum, if there is any, usually because they grew up in a keroncong community.  At present ‘finding’ keroncong scene in Indonesia is like visiting your grandparents. You have to make the time, and do it as often as you could, before they die. So, ‘why keroncong’ is the wrong question. ‘Why notkeroncong’, now that is the right question.

So, What Is Keroncong?

The origin of the music dates back to the 15th century BC during the glory of Portuguese seaborne empire. Music was the only means to ease soldiers’ homesickness and it spread throughout East Asia, seamlessly assimilated with local cultures resulting in a music genre so various that the original form was completely erased. But one cannot escape the fact that keroncong is played by typical standard western string instruments: violin, ukulele, cello, bass, and guitar.  As Indonesian, we might be familiar with so-called ethnic music of ‘gambang kromong’ (Betawi), ‘kaparinyo’ (Padang), ‘langgam’ (Central Java), ‘stambul’ (from ‘opera Istanbul’) or even ‘moritsko’ (keroncong moresco) without realizing the origin of the music genres.

The reason why is not complicated, because this music has been the accompaniment of life for centuries simply because the beat was felt suitable with then rhtyhm of life: slow, melancholy, with lyrics that are socially in tuned with society. As time goes by, the music is more and more seen unsuitable with fast paced modern life style. It used to be the soundtrack of life, now it is left as a curious genre. Strangely, it manages to survive in the past four centuries in Indonesia.

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One Comment

  1. michael singho. says:

    Thanks for posting this article.Keroncong is a beautiful form of music and very familiar with my community as we share a little of its heritage.I am a Portuguese descendant from Malacca and perhaps due to our genetic linkage,Keroncong is very much liked here,especially among the older generation. We also have a few keroncong songs sung in our Malacca Portuguese language and I have also heard it sung in Tugu Portuguese by the Keroncong Tugu group. I was indeed overwhelmed when I first heard it and I want to hear and know more especially those that are sung in the old Portuguese that is still spoken here in Malacca,other parts of Malaysia, Singapore and Western Australia.I would really appreciate if you could post more of the keroncong sung in Portuguese. Muito merseh! (Thank you!)

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