Mid-Century Indonesian pop

Kroncong music (pronounced kron ([rhymes with ‘Tron’] – chong [as in Cheech and…]; also transliterated as  keronchong, kronjong, or as below, the Dutch variant, kerontjong) used to be the popular music of Java. Played on Western and traditional instruments using the Javanese tuning system, the music has a long tradition and many variants. (To learn more, the wikipedia page offers a good basic overview of the evolution of the music and the instruments and formal structures: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kroncong).

Nowadays its considered old fashioned by Javanese youth and is mostly played at weddings as ‘traditional’ music. Often it sounds like either karaoke music or elevator music or an unholy hybrid of the two. However, when done right, it offers a haunting, otherworldly sound that is reminiscent of the mysteriousness of the Bartok string quartets and the uncanniness of Skip James.

Here is a 33 1/3 rpm album from the late 60s or early 70s that I picked up either in Jakarta or Singapore. The image on the cover was obviously a stock shot of a still life and my guess is that the album is a bootleg. However, the music is sublime. The sleeve text is produced below, in the old Bahasa spelling before it was standardized in 1973.

Orkes Kerontjong Dhaya Sakti PP. Soetiardjo – Mengiringi
Enny Kusrini dan Darsih Kissowo

Lucky Number Records

Side One

1. Sangkuriang
2. Kr. Tersenjum
3. Stb. Il Tinggallah Sajang
4. Kr. Tumbang Harapan
5. Lelo Ledung
6. Kr. Terkenang Masa Lalu

Side Two

1. Mutiara
2. Wanita Sulistia
3. Stb. Il Kaih
4. Kr. Melati
5. Timbangono
6. Kr. Suratmu


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