A Visit to Lokananta Records

Here’s a quick look inside the legendary Lokananta Records in Solo, Indonesia!

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As a small-time record collector, I own several albums pressed by Lokananta, and I vaguely remembered that they were started in the city of Solo (Surakarta).

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As I wrote in a magazine awhile back, “Established either in 1955 or 1956, Lokananta (which is the name of the mythical first gamelan drum created by the god Bathara Guru) was intended as the transcription service for Radio Republik Indonesia, but soon began to sell albums to compete with the private companies then coming into existence in Indonesia, companies that often sold Western-influenced crooner music that eschewed local styles. Lokananta was officially opened as a for-profit business in 1961 with a three-fold mandate to 1) encourage, establish, and disseminate national musical arts; 2) produce income for the state; and 3) cooperate with other government agencies in programs involving sound recording.”

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I was surprised and delighted on a recent holiday to Solo to get an impromptu guided tour of the Lokananta building!  When we first arrived at our hotel, I noticed that right across the road was the iconic Lokananta logo. The next day, wife stayed for a late breakfast and I wandered over the road to take pictures. While I was shooting in the lobby, a nice fellow named Bimo showed up and in my bad Bahasa, I managed to explain I was a record collector. Instead of shooing me away, he invited me in for a quick tour.

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First up was the store-room, where a jaw-dropping assortment of Lokananta records are housed on dusty shelves.

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“Ini dijual?” For sale? I asked. No, just for storage, he told me.

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After this, Bimo took me to the remastering room where a couple of guys sat hunched over some antiquated-looking equipment, remastering old cassettes for re-issue on CD (NB audio geeks: they’re using Wave software).

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Bimo also showed me a recording of a speech by Bung Sukarno! This is the original (“asli”) recording and has never been reissued, he told me.

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After this room, he took me to the “museum” where old recording and duplicating equipment is stored, along with photos and other memorabilia.

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Next up was the “new” recording studio.

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Built in the 1980s, it is a cavernous room that can easily accommodate a small symphony orchestra.

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(Note the garuda, the national symbol,  above the clock.)

The last room housed instruments, including this antique gamelan set. If you’ve ever heard any gamelan on Lokananta Records recorded “in studio,” this was probably the set that was used.

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When the tour ended, Bimo gave me a hearty handshake and a warm Javanese smile before I trudged back over the road for hotel coffee and buffet breakfast. What an amazing morning!

 

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