Brigadier General Rudi Pirngadie, the Kroncong General of Indonesia

The other day I picked up some 33 1/3 albums of kroncong music on the Evergreen label that I’m excited to listen to. I’ve got about half-a-dozen of these albums of strange and beautiful music from late 1960s Indonesia, but I’ve only digitized two of them (links below). I’ll get around to digitizing and uploading the rest eventually.

I wrote about the Evergreen label a few years ago in the now defunct and sorely missed Signal to Noise magazine.

‘As I would learn, this label was active in the 1960s and was the love child of Brigadier General Rudi Pirngadie, who had a hand in producing each of the releases. Each album on Evergreen followed the patriotic theme of arranging popular music from across Indonesia for an orchestra comprising both Western and indigenous instruments as well as a full chorus, and backed by a kroncong beat. A few Evergreen titles will serve for illustration: Songs of the Moluccas, in Krontjong Beat; Songs from Minang, in Krontjong Beat; even Reveries of the Independence War, in Krontjong Beat, and the politically provocative Songs of the Peninsula, in Krontjong Beat. [NB: the old spelling from before Bahasa Indonesia language was standardized.]
‘The Evergreen releases were ostensibly meant to share the folk music of Indonesia with the world, though the political undertow of the general’s project is evident in the liner notes: “Krontjong Beat music reflects the motto on the Indonesian Coat of Arms: Unity in Diversity.” According to ethnomusicologist Craig Lockard, Pirngadie eventually became known simply as “General Kroncong.” If the music on the Evergreen releases is anything to go by, the orchestral kroncong that the general believed would unite the nation was to be beautifully recorded in sparkling stereo and simultaneously evocative of both the space-age and a tiki-torch lounge: Les Baxter, eat your heart out. Unfortunately, Pirngadie’s “Krontjong Beat” project was ultimately derailed not so much by Indonesia’s political upheaval but because the music on the albums was too Western for the local audience and too exotic for the foreign audience.’

Here’s the links to the albums on my youtube channel. There are more Evergreen releases on other youtube channels if you look around for them. I’ll upload my other Evergreen records once I get them digitized.

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