Category Archives: Indonesia

Fenty Effendie and Rhapsodia

According to the liner notes of her first album, Fenty Effendie (also spelt Effendy or Effendi) was spotted by a TV producer singing in Bandung, West Java, at the age of 13. He took her to Jakarta where she appeared on TV for the first time in March 1965 and soon after recorded her first LP with the band Medenasz.

Regular performers on the TV program that Fenty appeared on were the children’s group Noor Bersaudara. When Noor Bersaudara performed in Bandung they invited Fenty to be a guest vocalist. Fenty appeared in a number of films in the 1960s and 1970s, but continued to sing as well. A report from the magazine Tempo states that she had taken up singing Kasidah songs, which are of Arabic origin with an Islamic theme. Fenty said that this style of music demanded a modest presentation, but that she always got captured by the rhythm and couldn’t resist swaying her hips and dancing in a sexy style. Perhaps this was why she got the loudest applause when, along with other singers, she performed at a Koran recitation contest in Surabaya in September 1974.

The three songs presented here are from a late 1960s album where Fenty is backed by the band Rhapsodia from Bandung. In the early 1970s they became Freedom of Rhapsodia and specialised in heavy rock, but at this stage they still had a soft-psych/pop-rock sort of sound. The band was to experience many changes of personnel, but the line-up when this LP was recorded was probably Utte M. Thahir (bass), Alfred (guitar), Ibung (drums), Sondang (keyboards) and Alam (vocals). None of the songs on the album are written by members of the band and it is most likely that the whole project was put together by the record company.

“Ditepi Pantai” (“On the Beach”) is written by Memed. In this song Fenty is on the beach alone, watching the fishing boats. She misses her friend who is far away and asks the wind to deliver her greetings to him.

“Menanti” (“Waiting”) is written by Djohari. Here Fenty sings how she has been waiting, always waiting day and night for her loved one to return.

“Kebon-Binatang” (“Zoo”) is another song written by Djohari. In this last song Fenty is at the zoo and describes all the animals; the Indian elephant, the African lion, the Arabian camel, and Cheetah, Tarzan’s monkey, who eats here lipstick.

Other songs on the album are credited to May S., Fenty/Anda, S. Effendie and two more by Djohari, and many of these are in the Sundanese language and traditional song style of Fenty’s native Bandung.

Information about Freedom of Rhapsodia has been taken from an article by Gatot Widayanto on the Music for Life blogsite.

The photograph of Fenty has been taken from the Koleksi Tempo Doeloe blogsite.

Wirdaningsih and Dorado Sound Unlimited

Wirdaningsih comes from Sumatra, Indonesia and was very popular in the 60s and 70s in Malaysia, where this record was recorded. I am not sure if the backing band, Dorado Sound Unlimited, were Indonesians or Malaysians.

The song Adaik Bachinto, is sung in the Minang language, and while it is similar to Indonesian, it is a bit difficult for me to make out. ‘Adaik’ is probably the equivalent of ‘adik’ which means younger sibling, but can also be used by women to refer to themselves in relation to their male partner. ‘Bachinto’ probably has some relation to ‘cinta’, or love. Thus, the song would appear to be about Wirdaningsih’s love for a younger sibling or her love for her partner. Any Minang speakers out there who can help out on this?

There is a tasty fuzz break in the middle of the song. Wirdaningsih still performs in Indonesia and Malaysia. Her younger sister, Irni Yusnita, was also a popular performer in the 60s and 70s.

Christina

This EP by Indonesian singer Christina is on the light side – garage fans may find this to sound like lounge music. It has grown on me as I’ve played it more, especially the last song, Hanja Bintang Bintang. I’m presenting this for those who dig obscure Asian pop of the ’60s.

I knew next to nothing about her so I asked Steven Farram to fill us in:

Christina was a young singer from the city of Surakarta (also known as Solo) in Central Java, Indonesia. She is supposed to have made only a handful of records before she disappeared from the scene, but I have only ever seen this one, which probably dates from 1966 or 1967. Why Christina did not have a longer career, I do not know, as she shows on this EP that she was a fine singer. She is said to be a cousin of the much more famous Tetty Kadi, but I do not know if that is true. The Irama (Rhythm) label that this record appears on carried many popular Indonesian artists during the 1960s, including Kus Bersaudaura (as Koes Bersaudara was originally known) and Lilis Surjani. Irama was already putting out records in the 1950s as 78 rpm discs.

On this EP Christina is backed by Orkes Variata (Variata Orchestra) led by Ido Sigarlaki. The first song is Bintang Tjitaku (My Star of Hope) in which Christina chooses one of the stars in the night sky to by her guide to help her find ‘the star of her heart’. The following song, Indahnja Panorama (Beautiful Panorama), has Christina telling us of the beauty of flowers, birds, mountains, the sea, rice fields and people working joyfully in the fields and fishing. Sounds like she is in love! Indahnja Panorama was also covered in the early 1970s by Singapore’s living legend, Anita Sarawak. The flip side begins with Dewi Purnama (Goddess of the Full Moon) where Christina tells how looking at the full moon gives her hope and makes her forget all her restlessness and feelings of dejection. She asks the moon to never leave her and tells her that if she had wings she would fly up and caress the Goddess of the Night. The last song, Hanja Bintang-Bintang (Only Stars), begins with Christina sitting alone on a rainy morning waiting for someone to arrive. By the afternoon she is worried that her lover has given her up. At last the rain stops, but the night is quiet and lonely. All night she couldn’t sleep and had only the stars for company.

Alfian

The vibrating deep baritone of Alfian Harahap (aka Nasution) was one of the most distinguishable voices in Indonesian pop music of the 1960s. His greatest hit was Semalam di Cianjur (A Night in Cianjur) recorded about 1965 for Remaco.

The song was reportedly written spontaneously by Alfian in the studio and concerns the singer remembering the wonderful night he spent in the East Java town of Cianjur and his promise to return some day. One explanation of the song I have heard is that Cianjur at the time was a transit stop for travellers through Java who would overnight there and continue their journey the next day. So the song could be about a romantic encounter in a travellers’ hotel.

Following the success of Semalam di Cianjur Alfian’s subsequent Remaco recordings were released in Singapore by Philips under license. I feature two songs of Alfian’s from that period, Relakan (Acquiesce), from a Philips EP, and Andaikan (Suppose), on a record with the Pop Sounds label, which appears to have been a Malaysian subsidiary of Philips. On both EPs Alfian is backed by the band Arulan led by Jarzuk Arifin. I would say these recordings were made in 1966. These two songs contain some good guitar work; the other songs on the two EPs are more subdued.

Alfian remained a popular singer until the early 1970s when the Indonesian music scene began to be dominated by bands and solo singers were out of fashion. Alfian chose to retire from the music industry and spent several years working in a warehouse on the Jakarta waterfront. In 1978, however, he was involved in a traffic accident and spent two years recovering.

In 1980 he returned to the music industry working for a record company as a coordinator and supervisor of new singers. He also re-recorded a number of old hits. In 1992 he passed away as a result of diabetes and heart problems. His son Tonny, who is said to have a similar voice, has recorded a number of songs made popular by his father.

Rose Iwanaga and the Avengers

Rose Iwanaga and the Avengers came from Kuching, capital of Sarawak in eastern Malaysia. Iwanaga is a Japanese name, but I don’t know anything of Rose’s background or how she came to be living in Sarawak.

Rose Iwanaga and the Avengers are credited as the first band from Malaysian Borneo to make an English-language recording. They are said to have made three EPs in total, but I have only ever seen this one, their debut, which I reckon was released in 1967. The Avengers were James Ong – rhythm guitar, Jimmy Ho – lead guitar, Peter Ho – bass, and Jalek Zula – drums.


James Ong (rhythm), Jimmy Ho (lead), Peter Ho (bass), Jalek Zula (drums), Rose Iwanaga
I love the liner notes description of Jalek Zula as a ‘violent’ drummer. This isn’t obvious from the recording, however, most of which is saccharine-sweet with huge doses of strings added into the mix. I wonder what the band might have sounded like when they played the small nightclubs of Kuching without all the accompaniment? Much better I am sure.

Too Young seems to be the song that most older Malaysians remember from this record, but my favourite is Please Tell Terry, which is a straight ahead pop song and the only one without the annoying strings or horns. This song and Say You’re Mine are credited to Adrian C. Tills. I have not been able to find out anything about Adrian and do not know whether these songs are cover versions or were written for the band. I have seen Adrian’s name on a record from a Singapore singer also, so perhaps he was a local.

What became of the Avengers is a mystery to me, but I have read that Rose was still performing in Kuching nightclubs until at least the late 1990s.

Lilis Surjani

Lilis Surjani (aka Suryani) was very popular in Indonesia and neighbouring countries from the early 1960s to the early 1970s. President Soekarno of Indonesia made life difficult for musicians and singers in the early to mid 1960s because he wanted to rid Indonesia of Western influences and wanted rock ’n’ roll to be outlawed. Lilis found herself in trouble in mid 1965 because of her stage attire, presentation and choice of songs.

In a newspaper article in August 1965 Lilis promised that she would no longer sing ‘Beatles-like’ songs and apologised for her previous ‘mistakes’. Lilis made her amends and produced a number of songs with an Indonesian nationalist theme that were more likely to be approved by the ruling regime. One of those songs is Pergi Perjuang (Depart Warrior), where Lilis is backed by guitarist Zaenal Arifin and his Zaenal Combo. This song is as about as close as you can get to rock ’n’ roll and not call it that. The song’s theme though is one that would have appealed to Soekarno with Lilis singing that she hopes the young warriors going to battle perform their duties as ‘defenders of the nation’ and return victorious.

This song reflects the fact that Indonesia and Malaysia were involved in an undeclared war from 1963 to 1966 as Soekarno viewed the newly created state of Malaysia as a British colonial plot and vowed to ‘crush’ it. Soekarno was particularly peeved that the former British colonies in northern Borneo had become part of Malaysia as the rest of the island was Indonesian territory. Indonesian troops carried out covert operations in north Borneo throughout the period, but were repulsed by Malaysian, British and Australian forces. Although Soekarno was sidelined politically in late 1965 the Crush Malaysia policy took a bit longer to wind back, but friendly relations between Indonesia and Malaysia had been fully restored by the late 1960s. What may seem surprising is that Pergi Perjuang was also released in Malaysia and seems to have been quite popular. It is the Malaysian release I feature here.

I also include Lilis’s post-Soekarno era song Perahu Bertolak (Ship Departs), probably from late 1966 or 1967, which has some good guitar work. This Malaysian release has no liner notes, but I have read that Lilis’s backing band here was Band Arulan led by Jarzuk Arifin.

Lilis Surjani went on to record numerous other songs in rock, pop and regional styles. She still performs regularly although she has been battling cancer for the last few years.

The Steps

This isn’t that good, honestly, so you may want to pass on this one. I liked the photo on the sleeve and picked it up, and thought I should include it so people can know what this sounds like.

The Steps were from Indonesia and did instrumental recordings and occasionally backed vocalists. They’re good players, but these two songs don’t have much going for them. There’s a theme they run through during the last twenty seconds of Kitjir Kitjir that’s pretty interesting, if they’d stuck to that I’d like this better.

Dara Puspita


Dara Puspita, Jang Pertama, Mesra Records, Jakarta, 1966

Dara Puspita (Flower Girls) was Indonesia’s most successful girl band of the 1960s. While there were many popular female vocalists in Indonesia at that time, they nearly all relied on the services of a backing band. Dara Puspita was one of the few girl groups who actually played all their own music as well.

Dara Puspita hailed from the city of Surabaya in East Java and first formed in 1964 with the line-up of sisters Titiek Adji Rachman (Titiek A.R.) on guitar and Lies Soetisnowati Adji Rachman (Lies A.R.) on bass, along with Susy Nander on drums and Ani Kusuma on rhythm guitar. In April 1965 Lies left the band for a month to finish school and was replaced on bass by Titiek Hamzah. When Lies returned she took the place of Ani on rhythm guitar and Titiek Hamzah stayed on as bass player. It was with this line-up that the band set out to conquer the world.

In 1965 the band relocated to Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, and soon gained a reputation as a sensational live act, bashing away on their instruments, screaming out their songs and jumping up and down. Even though it was often hard to hear the songs through all the mayhem, audiences thought it was great and often joined the band to dance around on the stage.

The band’s stage act and the songs they played were clearly influenced by contemporary British bands such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, whose music at the time was banned in Indonesia. The Jakarta band Koes Bersaudara (Koes Brothers) was actually put in gaol for playing rock and roll, but it seems that Dara Puspita was never seriously troubled by the authorities, although they were warned not to perform Beatles’ songs. Dara Puspita had a number of close connections with Koes Bersaudara: members of KB wrote a number of songs for Dara Puspita, KB’s singer Yon was romantically linked with DP’s drummer Susy, and the two bands sometimes appeared on the same bill. The bands actually appeared together on the night that was to lead to Koes Bersaudara’s arrest and imprisonment.


Dara Puspita, A Go Go, El Shinta Records, Jakarta, 1967
Why Dara Puspita was never targeted by the authorities is a bit of a mystery, but was probably due to them being still relatively new on the scene in Jakarta and having not yet released a record. In late 1965 the political situation in Indonesia swung 180 degrees and rock and roll could be played again with impunity, so when Dara Pupita’s first album, Jang Pertama (The First), was released in 1966 they had little to fear. There is no mistaking the influence of other bands’ music on many of the songs here, such as the Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction riff in Mari-Mari (Come On, Come Here) or the Dave Clarke Five’s Glad All Over in Tanah Airku (My Homeland).

Dara Puspita followed up their first album with the self-titled Dara Puspita later in the year and in 1967 put out two albums, Green Green Grass and A Go Go. The title track from the latter album, and the song Believe Me, are good examples of the band’s beat credentials.The band was a popular attraction in Indonesia and also in the region, playing to enthusiastic crowds in neighbouring countries, such as Thailand and Malaysia.

In 1968 they took the almost unprecedented move for an Indonesian band of trying their luck in Europe and spent the next few years touring in England, Holland, France, Belgium, Spain, Germany and Hungary. They even played in Turkey and Iran. While in England they recorded two singles for CBS and recorded another for Philips in Holland. In late 1971 the band returned to Indonesia and played a number of concerts, but enthusiasm was starting to wane and in April 1972 they played their last show.

Susy was keen to keep going and together with Titiek Hamzah recorded a number of albums using the Dara Puspita name, but it was really the end. Today only Titiek Hamzah continues in the Indonesian music industry, where she has had great success as a song-writer, but the music of Dara Puspita lives on and their records now command ridiculous prices with collectors.


Back cover of Jang Pertama