Thousands of spectators crowded the Solo Keroncong Festival 2011 in Ngarsopuro, right in front of the Triwindu Market in Solo.
They were mesmerized as Endah Laras, a traditional singer from Solo, presented “Gemes” (Carried away), a song in the langgam or Javanese-style of keroncong, which is long known as Portuguese-tinged Indonesian music.
The song, written by Anjar Any and popularized in the 1970s by keroncong maestro Waldjinah, was jovially and temptingly sung by Endah that evening, testimony to the fact that keroncong is not always slow and soothing music.
Endah was not alone in adding color to keroncong during the festival. Earlier, the Zakaria Keroncong Orchestra offered a humorous piece entitled “Pakne Thole” (Boy’s dad). Presented in a duet, the old Javanese song triggered roars of laughter after being modified into an intensely expressive and almost theatrical composition for the stage, leading to calls to repeat the performance.
On the first day of the festival, Congrock from Semarang appeared with a blend of keroncong and rock music to suit the taste of the youth in the audience, making the show more attractive and less monotonous, while stirring the crowds to dancing and shouting. The notion that keroncong is for retirees was also dispelled as “Rumah Kita” (Our house), a song from the rock band Godbless, spurred people to sing along in the keroncong style and wave like rock music fans do at concerts.
“Through such music, we’re trying to offer and introduce keroncong to the younger generation. Keroncong will survive unless it’s monotonous, so there should be [new] creations. We can’t force today’s youth to enjoy keroncong in the style of olden times,” said Marco Manardi, Congrock’s leader.
For two nights the public welcomed the Solo Keroncong Festival with overwhelming enthusiasm. Many visitors were even prepared to sit in the road to watch the performances on two big screens set up on both sides of the stage. The throngs of onlookers in Ngarsopuro seemed untroubled by the suicide bombing that had recently shocked the city.
Opened by former Transportation and Manpower Minister Erman Suparman, the second Solo Keroncong Festival had 18 keroncong groups from various regions as participants, including five foreign troupes from Italy, Hong Kong, Hungary, Malaysia and Singapore.
The event started with teenage keroncong musicians from the Putra Mawar Timur Solo Orchestra. Mostly junior high school students, they elegantly presented an instrumental medley that displayed their musical skills. The famous keroncong hits “Kota Solo” (Solo city), “Bengawan Solo” (Solo River) and “Tanah Air” (Motherland) marked the beginning of the international festival.