What I Miss, pt. 1

I have been away from Bandung, my hometown, for almost two years now. Within the last three months, I have been having the most serious homesickness I have ever had. I’ll tell you what I am missing.


This area around the city square

This is not exactly the city square, which is a sight of fake plastic grass and a smell of a million naked feet. The street next to it, the Dalem Kaum street, is my favorite weekdays destination but also my least favorite weekend destination. Go here on a free Tuesday; parking is a breeze, street food carts reduced to those whose snacks are actually delectable and affordable, and shops empty (although some were no more because of a great fire two years ago).


Warung Tegal (Warteg) is a national institution. It is a simple, very affordable food stall with seats for very few number of people; you can find a warteg in almost every metropolitan city in Java and some other islands. The namesake comes from the small city of Tegal in Central Java, known for their people who venture into other areas of Indonesia to introduce and establish their culinary heritage. It sells a variety of traditional and signature Javanese dishes, lots of saucy curry-style dishes and deep-fried goodness, to be served alongside steamed rice. My favorite dish that is almost always available in every warteg is salt-cured skipjack tuna fillet cooked in red chili pepper sauce. This particular Braga Jaya Warung Tegal is located in downtown Bandung; its pricing is on the more expensive side but still affordable for people from almost every walk of life.


S.14: this warm and cozy library and events venue

S.14 is an emerging intellectual institution in my city. It is an independent library and event space, often hosting talks and tiny acoustic concerts, such as the one pictured above, my buddy Oscar Lolang’s first ever concert featuring the amazing Jon Kastela (sitting, left)’s soothing voice. S.14 is currently on hiatus as the owners, spouses Aminuddin Siregar (a.k.a. Ucok) and Herra Pahlasari, are in the Netherlands where Ucok is taking his Ph.D. at the University of Leiden.


Kupat Tahu, my go-to breakfast dish.

This particular one is from a stall in the neighborhood market, about 15 minutes walk from home. The dish originated from the regency of Tasikmalaya, about 110 kms to the southeast of Bandung; most people selling the dish throughout Indonesia hailed from the very same town where the dish was first concocted. The dish consists of slices (or dices) of a dense rice cake (the kupat) and pieces of flash-fried succulent yellow tofu (the tahu); mung bean sprouts are typically added before everything is doused in watery peanut sauce and sweet soy sauce. Another popular variation of the dish is tahu petis, which is similar to kupat tahu with the only difference being the addition of petis (smooth fermented shrimp paste) into the peanut sauce. This dish is particularly a breakfast fare, and most stalls or carts that sell this dish close down shop before noon.


This second breakfast of chocolate milk and local doughnuts

Sometimes the kupat tahu just doesn’t cut it and when you’re in downtown area around 9 am, you feel like having a quick and sweet second breakfast. People on Java in general are not particularly fond of dairy products thus finding fresh dairy products is generally tricky. Luckily the dairy stalls downtown, just about a five-minute walk from the city square, serve fresh whole milk every morning delivered from Pangalengan, a small town just outside of my city known for its fresh milk and dairy products. The chocolate milk in the picture does not come flavored, and flavored syrups are added to the fresh milk right before it is served. Popular flavors include chocolate, strawberry, mocha, and vanilla. These stalls also serve cookies, cakes, and pastries, whose ingredients include the very same kind of milk they serve fresh. My favorites are the doughnuts, which are smaller yet denser than American-style doughnuts, with toppings and glazing that are not as sweet as their American counterparts.


This particularly filling dessert called Pisang Ijo

Pisang Ijo (lit. Green Banana) comes from the province of South Sulawesi, but it is getting more popular in Java in the recent years. It is mainly a dessert, but it can also be quite filling considering the ingredients. The titular green banana is made with a particularly soft and sweet variety of banana, encased in a pancake-like dough made of rice flour colored green from pandan leaves extract. What gives the dessert its unique combination of flavor is the creamy and rich custard sauce. Sometimes sweet syrup is added, although the custard itself is already sweet enough, as well as chocolate sprinkles and crushed peanuts. It is served cold with ice cubes or shaved ice.


This amazing hand-pulled noodles from Singapore

Okay, this is another food item not originally from my city, but this is the closest thing to having easy access to hand-pulled noodles whenever you want it. (And I always want it.) Mie Tarik King is a Singaporean chain that specializes in making their noodles hand-pulled and fresh on the counter. They offer a variety of soups and stir-fried noodles; all of which are good, but my favorite is the one pictured, which is the sweet-ish soy-sauce-based chicken broth with sweet stir-fried chicken, fried wonton bits, and kangkung (water spinach), an always welcome vegetable addition to any Chinese-style noodle soup. Kangkung may or may not be illegal in the US; if it is really illegal, then it is a crime committed to Southeast Asian Chinese food lovers in the US, who miss out on a vegetable that may be as addictive as weed.


This simple yet delectable fried rice with crackers and pickled cucumbers (not pickles!)

Okay, this is not even in my city, but in Jatinangor, the college town where I worked in. This fried rice stall opens late in the afternoon and stays open well into the wee hours of the morning. It cannot get simpler than this: rice, pre-prepared spice mix (which the owners spend all morning mixing), scrambled eggs, and tiny pieces of pulled chicken. The wok taste, the smokiness is what makes the simplicity so delicious.


This Tegal soto, which is my go-to sick dish

As mentioned above, Warung Tegal is a national institution, but few Warung Tegals actually serve the Tegal variety of soto, a national dish which invariably consists of a meat-based broth with rich spices, which includes at least one kind of meat, be it chicken, beef, or mutton. The Tegal soto is usually a chicken soto, with also a chicken-based broth enriched by thick coconut milk. The Tegal soto is perhaps comparable in appearance to the Jakartan Betawi soto, but the Betawi soto usually lacks turmeric; the Tegal soto is exactly characterized by its turmeric smell and taste which go hand-in-hand with the rich coconut milk. This particular Tegal soto from Jatinangor includes a healthy amount of pulled, stewed chicken, potato cubes, fresh scallions, and emping crackers. In this picture, it is served alongside a plate of steamed rice sprinkled with fried shallots and a piece of deep-fried tempe. Any kind of soto is typically comfort food, and the Tegal soto is one for when I feel a little under the weather.

As we roam further from my city, in part 2 I’ll include more things that I miss that do not come from or are not available in my city!






















Lagu Minggu Ini: “Aku Tak Berdosa” (Favourite’s Group)

Minggu lalu dan minggu ini saya rindu sekali pada satu lagu yang dulu sering saya dengarkan waktu saya masih kecil; saking sukanya saya pada lagu itu, ketika alm. bapak merekam suara saya untuk pertama kali, saya nyanyikan lagu itu. Dengan kekuatan YouTube, akhirnya saya temukan lagu yang saya rindukan itu, bahkan sekaligus dalam album orisinalnya yang ditransfer dari piringan hitam dengan cermat oleh bung John Kwa Indonesia, yang sebelumnya dikenal telah pula mengunggah diskografi lengkap Koes Bersaudara dan Koes Plus. Lagu yang saya kangeni adalah lagu pertama di album bertajuk Favourite’s Group Vol(ume) 4, yang dirilis sekitar tahun 1974 (umumnya album-album pop Indonesia pada masa itu tidak berangka tahun).


Seingat saya, lagu ini pertama kali saya dengar bukan dari Volume 4, tapi dari kaset kompilasi bertajuk The Very Best of Favourite’s Group. Almarhum bapak membeli kaset itu karena seleksi lagunya sangat bagus dan lebih banyak berfokus pada formasi klasik Favourite’s Group (dijelaskan sedikit di bawah), formasi yang paling ia suka. Saya mulai ikut-ikutan memutar kaset itu dan menyukai banyak lagu di dalamnya, di antaranya lagu “Aku Tak Berdosa” ini, “Ma Onah”, “Cinta Monyet”, dan “Cari Kawan Lain”.

Jadi, siapa saja sebenarnya anggota formasi klasik Favourite’s Group? Favourite’s Group pertama didirikan pada tahun 1972 atas cetusan A. Riyanto, pencipta lagu, pemain kibor, dan produser veteran yang telah menulis banyak lagu sukses pada 1960an dan awal 1970an dan mengiringi beberapa penyanyi di studio rekaman bersama band-nya 4 Nada; beberapa penyanyi yang paling sukses ditanganinya adalah Tetty Kadi dan Arie Koesmiran. Formasi pertama Favourite’s Group bisa dikatakan adalah 4 Nada yang berganti nama, dan ditambah Mus Mulyadi sebagai penyanyi utama (walau A. Riyanto ikut pula bernyanyi beberapa lagu). Formasi pertama hanya bertahan sampai album pertama mereka usai direkam. Is Haryanto (dram) dan Harry Toos (gitar) bergabung untuk rekaman album kedua, dan Mus Mulyadi mengisi posisi gitar bas, instrumen yang ia mainkan sewaktu masih bergabung dengan band Ariesta Birawa. Tommy WS (bas) bergabung untuk album ketiga dan seterusnya, dan lengkaplah formasi klasik Favourite’s Group. Formasi ini awalnya hanya merekam dua album, Volume 3 dan 4, sebelum Mus Mulyadi memutuskan untuk fokus bersolo karir. Formasi ini kemudian bereuni pada tahun 1978 dan merilis beberapa album hingga pengunduran diri Harry Toos pada tahun 1989.

Lagu “Aku Tak Berdosa” dari Volume 4 ini mungkin lagu Favourite’s Group’s yang paling (atau mungkin salah satu yang paling) psikedelik dan bergitar. Lagu ini dibuka dengan melodi gitar sederhana yang berulang selama setengah menit yang mendadak dipotong oleh distorsi gitar satu not, diikuti dengan gitar ritem yang terdengar mirip “Hi Ho Silver Lining”-nya Jeff Beck Group. Lagu kemudian berlanjut dengan lirik utama yang dinyanyikan oleh A. Riyanto dan Mus Mulyadi, lirik dan melodi yang membius saya sewaktu saya kelas satu SD dan memutar kaset ini hampir setiap hari sepulang sekolah.  Refrain lagu ini dinyanyikan oleh A. Riyanto yang sepertinya terlalu memaksakan pita suaranya untuk mencapai nada tinggi, tapi menurut saya justru inilah bagian paling krusial sekaligus paling menggelikan dari lagu ini. Bagian refrain lagu ini kemudian mendadak pindah ke bagian bridge yang sangat sepi, dan sangat psikedelik, sebelum kembali lagi ke refrain. Lagu ini diakhiri dengan solo gitar Harry Toos hingga akhirnya menghilang dan selesai. Singkatnya, ini adalah lagu keren dan unik dalam katalog lagu  Favourite’s Group; lagu ini cenderung lebih keras dengan aransemen yang lebih longgar, cukup berbeda dibandingkan lagu-lagu balada mereka yang cenderung simfonik atau lagu-lagu upbeat mereka yang terasa lebih ringan dan umumnya dipengaruhi unsur musik keroncong atau dolanan Jawa.

Selama bertahun-tahun sejak tahun 1989 saya berusaha memahami maksud lirik lagu ini (lihat di bawah), tetapi terlalu banyak interpretasi bermunculan di benak saya. Apakah ini lagu tentang dosa asal (original sin)? Apakah ini lagu tentang kepolosan manusia di tengah alam, dan kemudian membandingkan dirinya dengan kepolosan alam? Apakah lagu ini ungkapan terima kasih pada Tuhan atas anugerah hidup dan penebusan dari dosa? Entahlah. Saat ini saya sebaiknya menikmati saja lagu keren ini.

Aku Tak Berdosa

(A. Riyanto)

Siapa yang berdosa
Tak dapat ku berkata
Siapa yang bersalah
Susah ditelaah
Mari kita
Kita renungkan

(Ulang *)

Refrain 1:
Siapakah harus berdosa?
Siapakah harus dicela
Bila rambut panjang terurai?

Mengapa tidak kau restui?
Mengapa tidak kau hayati
Indah dan bebas dan alam ini?

Pohon lebat daunnya
Begitu pun rambutku
Telah diciptakanNya sejak dahulu

Refrain 2:
Di mana tempatku berdiri
Indahnya alam kunikmati
Syukur pada Tuhan Yang Esa

(Ulang *, Bridge, Refrain 2, dan *)



Indonesian Classic Song of the Week: “Aku Tak Berdosa” by Favourite’s Group

This week I’ve been longing to listen to a song of my childhood, a song I was so fond of that when my father recorded my voice for the first time on our first tape recorder when I was a first grader, it was the voice of me singing this song. With the magic of YouTube, I found somebody had digitally transferred the album the song is on from a very good vinyl copy. The credit goes to John Kwa Indonesia, the uploader. The song is the first track on this album called Favourite’s Group Vol(ume) 4, which was released some time in 1974.


But I remember that I didn’t hear this song for the first time from this particular album, but rather from a compilation album called The Very Best of Favourite’s Group. My father bought the album in 1989 because he loved the selection of songs, which are basically the Favourite Group’s songs that he grew up with. I began playing the album over and over mainly because of two songs, “Ma Onah” (perhaps more on this later) and this song.

So, let’s get things straight first: who were the Favourite’s Group? The Favourite’s Group was somewhat of an early Indonesian pop supergroup of the 1970s. It formed in 1972 out of veteran (even at that time) songwriter, keyboardist, and studio A&R person A. Riyanto’s idea of turning the backing band of his recording studio into an independent, hitmaking pop sensation. The band’s first album was instantly successful due to Riyanto’s presence and immaculate pop songwriting and production, Mus Mulyadi’s strong and unique vocal work, and the band’s high degree of musicianship, owing to the fact that it consisted of experienced session musicians. The original incarnation of the band didn’t stick around for too long, leaving A. Riyanto and Mus Mulyadi to complete the line-up with what is considered the classic Favourite’s Group line-up with Harry Toos on guitar, Is Haryanto on drums, and later Tommy WS on bass guitar by the time their third album rolled. It was unusual for Indonesian bands of the early 1970s to title their album, so each album is only called a volume with a corresponding number, so the Favourite’s Group first album is called Volume 1, second album Volume 2, and so on. The classic line-up recorded Volume 3 and 4 before Mus Mulyadi decided to focus on his solo career.

The song “Aku Tak Berdosa” from Volume 4 is perhaps the Favourite’s Group’s most psychedelic-sounding and guitar-centric song. The song starts with a simple clean electric guitar melody that goes on for about half a minute before getting abruptly cut by a long single note on distorted electric guitar, followed by a rhythm guitar pattern reminiscent of Jeff Beck’s “Hi Ho Silver Lining” and then the main verse of the song, sung in harmony by A. Riyanto and Mus Mulyadi. The melody of this main verse was the melody that captivated me as a kid for whatever reason. The chorus of the song is sung by A. Riyanto attempting to reach a high note and straining his vocal cords, but I always find this part fitting albeit a little cringey. The chorus then breaks down into a quieter middle eight section before coming full force into the chorus with different lyrics. The song ends with a guitar solo that fades out. In short, it was a great and unique song in the Favourite’s Group catalogue; it is an almost all-out rocking psychedelic and somewhat loose track in the band’s usually tight and more symphonic approach to their music arrangements.

And by the way, the lyrics just don’t seem to make sense while the title means “I’m Not Sinful” or “I’m Free of Sins”, or “I’m Innocent”; if you’re new to the Indonesian language, the lyrics will sound even more like random jumbled phrases. Is this a song about a person freed from the original sin? Is this a song about the innocence of man amidst nature or compared to the innocence of nature? Is this a song of gratitude to God for the gift of life and innocence? Was the band on something when they wrote and recorded this song? I don’t know. What’s important is that this song is awesome and brings back good memories.



“Sekarang kau tinggal aku…”, Yon Koeswoyo (1940-2018)


Foto Koes Plus favorit saya dari sampul album Volume 8: in action, kiri-kanan: Tony Koeswoyo (gitar, kibor, vokal), Yon Koeswoyo (vokal, gitar), Yok Koeswoyo (gitar bas, vokal), Murry (dram, vokal).

Saya selalu berpikir bahwa suatu saat saya akan menulis tentang Koes Plus (dan juga tentang Koes Bersaudara), mungkin lewat satu racauan di blog saya atau mungkin secara lebih akademik ketika saya sudah tidak terlalu disibukkan dengan studi. Banyak yang bisa dibicarakan tentang Koes Plus: mereka salah satu ikon counterculture sekaligus ekses budaya populer Indonesia; romantisme mereka tentang Nusantara (di antaranya melalui lagu-lagu Nusantara yang berjilid-jilid itu) tentunya pantas ditelisik; suka atau tidak, peran mereka sebagai kepanjangan tangan sekaligus komentator Orde Baru melalui musik populer (seperti yang pernah dibahas secara umum, seingat saya oleh Budiarto Shambazy beberapa tahun lalu) juga perlu lebih ditelaah. Akan tetapi, saat ini saya sebaiknya memendam dulu segala gagasan tersebut dan berkubang dalam berbagai kenangan sebagai seorang pecinta musik Koes Plus, karena setelah 5 Januari 2018, Koes Plus seperti yang saya (dan kita yang familiar dengan musik mereka) kenal mungkin tidak akan ada lagi. Pada 5 Januari kemarin Yon Koeswoyo, penyanyi utama dan gitaris ritmis Koes Bersaudara dan Koes Plus, berpulang. Mengucapkan selamat jalan kepada Yon Koeswoyo adalah juga mengucap selamat jalan kepada Koes Plus yang saya tahu, yang diperjuangkan oleh Yon hingga akhir hayatnya.

Sampai menjelang nafas akhirnya, Yon adalah satu-satunya anggota asli Koes Plus yang aktif bermusik. Kakak pertamanya, Tony Koeswoyo, sudah terlebih dahulu berpulang pada 1987. Yok Koeswoyo sudah cukup lama undur diri dari kegiatan bermusik dan hanya sesekali bergabung dalam kesempatan tertentu. Terakhir kali tiga anggota asli Koes Plus manggung bersama adalah pada konser Unplugged Koes Plus tahun 2013. (Walau ketiganya terkadang kurang kompak dan kurang latihan dalam beberapa lagu, ini adalah konser yang intim dan penuh canda spontan). Tak lama setelah konser ini, Murry berpulang. Setelah itu, dan bahkan sebelumnya ketika Murry sakit, Koes Plus adalah Yon Koeswoyo. Bahkan jauh sebelumnya ketika mereka masih utuh berempat, Yon Koeswoyo adalah suara Koes Plus (dan juga Koes Bersaudara), walaupun terkadang Tony, Yok, dan Murry pula bergiliran menyanyi.

Saya bukan hanya terbiasa dengan suara Yon; saya suka suara Yon karena mungkin ia adalah penyanyi Indonesia dengan suara yang paling jujur, tanpa teknik vokal yang istimewa atau njelimet; walaupun terkadang terdengar pengaruh Everly Brothers dan Barry Gibb (tentu bukan falsetonya) dalam suaranya, Yon tidak pernah terdengar berusaha terlalu keras untuk terdengar seperti orang lain. Yon Koeswoyo adalah Yon Koeswoyo. Sebagai orang Jawa (lahir di Tuban, Jawa Timur), ia tidak pernah kehilangan kejawaannya dalam bernyanyi, bahkan dalam lagu Koes Plus yang paling rock n’ roll dan berbahasa Inggris sekalipun. Saya dan almarhum bapak kerap menertawakan kejawaan intonasi dan pengucapan Yon, tapi kami juga tidak memungkiri bahwa kejawaan suaranya itulah yang membuat kami sangat menyayangi suara Yon. Seperti suara vokalnya, permainan gitarnya pun jujur, polos dan sederhana. Akan tetapi, penggemar Koes Plus mafhum bahwa suara dan genjrengan gitar Yon adalah dua unsur yang tetap membuat Koes Plus bertahan setelah Tony dan Murry berpulang serta Yok undur diri.

Saya tumbuh diiringi musik Koes Bersaudara dan Koes Plus, seperti halnya almarhum bapak saya yang juga tumbuh bersama musik Koes Bersaudara dan Koes Plus ketika ia masih kanak-kanak dan remaja. Lagu-lagu Koes Bersaudara dan Koes Plus adalah musik akhir pekan di keluarga kami, dinyanyikan bersama-sama dalam karaokean di depan televisi pada Sabtu malam dan diputar lewat kaset atau CD pada Minggu pagi untuk menemani beres-beres rumah. Dalam perjalanan ke luar kota dengan mobil, selalu terselip setidaknya satu kaset atau CD kompilasi “The Best of” atau “Lagu-lagu Terbaik” Koes Plus.

Ketika saya mulai bermusik secara amatir untuk hobi, saya memilih bermain dram; pilihan ini dipengaruhi terutama oleh dua penabuh dram: John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) dan Murry (Koes Plus). Salah satu impian saya sebagai seorang penabuh dram adalah membawakan lagu-lagu Koes Plus, tetapi sebagai seorang pemuda di awal tahun 2000an tentunya saya kerap terjebak membawakan lagu-lagu terkini pada masa itu (terkitu?). Baru pada paruh kedua 2000an, saya bertemu dengan teman-teman yang juga bersemangat mengikuti jejak almarhum bapak saya ketika ia muda dulu: membentuk band tribute amatir Koes Plus. (Bapak saya pun dulu menabuh dram dan ia mengakui bahwa Murry sangat mempengaruhi permainan dramnya.) Kami berlima hampir berhasil. Sayangnya karena kami terlalu sibuk, kami lumayan jarang latihan dan akhirnya dari semula berlima kami menjadi hanya bertiga. Sebagai band garasi (bukan Garasi) power trio, kami sempat bermusik serius-tidak serius (lebih banyak tidak seriusnya) dengan nama Tiga Pemuda Idaman Gadis Manis Diterpa Gelombang Cinta di Lautan Asmara Nun Jauh di Sana (nama yang sungguh serius). Walaupun kami banyak berlatih lagu-lagu garage rock 1960an dan juga lagu-lagu Cream, sebenarnya yang paling sering kami bawakan di panggung adalah “Kelelawar” dan “Mobil Tua”, yang tentu saja adalah lagu-lagu Koes Plus.

Ketika saya mulai coba-coba menulis lagu, tentunya saya memulai dengan sederhana dengan tiga atau empat kord saja, seperti yang kerap dilakukan Koes Plus. Memang saya kemudian menjadi lumayan pretensius dan bereksperimen ketika mulai menulis lagu untuk dinyanyikan oleh rekan satu band saya, tapi saya selalu merasa bahwa saya berutang pada Koes Plus yang membuka jalan. Saya terutama sekali berutang pada Yon Koeswoyo dengan lagu-lagunya yang bersahaja.

Yon Koeswoyo adalah seorang pencipta lagu yang produktif, dan banyak lagunya bersama Koes Plus tetap didengar sampai hari ini. Album-album Koes Plus selepas album pertama umumnya menampilkan Tony dan Yon sebagai pencipta lagu utama yang mengisi dua pertiga atau tiga perempat bagian, sementara sepertiga atau seperempat bagian lain dibagi antara Murry dan Yok atau diisi dengan lagu-lagu yang ditulis bersama. Menurut saya, lagu-lagu Yon adalah penyeimbang sempurna lagu-lagu Tony. Lagu-lagu Tony cenderung diaransemen dengan lebih pekat, dengan bunyi-bunyian yang lebih kaya dan pengaruh dari berbagai genre musik, dan juga kerap menyelipkan melodi atau progresi kord yang agak rumit dan “pintar” untuk ukuran lagu pop. Lagu-lagu Yon lebih sederhana dan terus terang (dan Tony sebagai pengaransemen dan produser sebagian besar lagu Koes Plus paham benar pentingnya menjaga kesederhanaan lagu-lagu Yon), kendati kerap terdengar lebih kontemplatif. Saya mengagumi semuanya dan bagi saya Koes Plus sebagai entitas penghasil musik adalah keseimbangan antara kedua pencipta lagu utamanya yang diselaraskan oleh kontribusi dari kedua anggota lain. Seperti halnya saya mengagumi karya-karya Tony dengan segala eksperimentasinya, saya mengagumi karya-karya Yon seperti saya mengagumi suaranya: sama-sama jujur, sederhana, dan polos.

Ketika Distantyearningalert (band saya kala itu) akan manggung untuk pertama kali sebagai entitas pop elektronik dengan seorang vokalis pada tahun 2009, saya berpikir untuk me-reka ulang “Kau Tinggalkan Aku” karya Yon Koeswoyo, yang intro vibraphone-nya selalu berdenting di telinga saya. “Kau Tinggalkan Aku” memang bukan lagu Koes Plus yang populer, tetapi buat saya ia istimewa secara musikal. “Kau Tinggalkan Aku” adalah lagu yang sangat singkat tetapi sangat atmosferik, dengan melodi yang sederhana yang melengkapi lirik yang sangat singkat tentang kekecewaan karena ditinggalkan oleh seorang yang dicintai. Kesederhanaan dan kesingkatan lagu ini menghindarkannya dari kecengengan, dan aransemen dan instrumentasinya yang minim dengan hanya mengandalkan gitar ritmis, vibraphone (!), dan dram yang sedikit dibekap menghadirkan kekosongan dan kekecewaan dengan sangat efektif. Setiap mendengar lagu ini, saya selalu terkesima oleh ambiens yang dihasilkan dari kesederhanaan dan kekosongannya.


Ketika Distantyearningalert menjadi trio pada tahun 2011, kami memutuskan untuk merekam “Kau Tinggalkan Aku” dengan memodifikasi musik dasar yang saya susun di tahun 2009. Sialnya, sesi rekaman “Kau Tinggalkan Aku” tidak terselamatkan ketika harddisk kami rusak, dan kami tidak pernah lagi berkumpul bersama untuk merekam ulang. Mungkin dalam waktu dekat saya akan kembali mengakses musik dasar untuk “Kau Tinggalkan Aku” dan mencoba merekam vokal untuk lagu itu dengan bantuan seorang teman, dan mungkin saya akan mengunggahnya sebagai penghormatan terakhir saya untuk Yon Koeswoyo. Mungkin juga tidak. Mungkin saja tulisan blog yang tidak terstruktur dengan baik ini adalah penghormatan saya, untuk saat ini, bagi Koes Plus dan Yon Koeswoyo yang saya tahu, karena “sekarang kau tinggal aku”.

Kau Tinggalkan Aku

Yon Koeswoyo

Kau katakan padaku
Bersedia menunggu… Oh.

Sekarang kau tinggal aku
Putus harapanku

Doaku untukmu slalu berbahagia
Kau katakan padaku setia padaku
Tetapi janjimu palsu
Hancurkan hatiku
Doaku untukmu slalu berbahagia
La… La la la la la la la La la la la la la la





Double Review: Peter Cetera’s First Two Albums – Part One: Peter Cetera (1981)

If you have been following my blogs for quite a while (chances are you haven’t), you would know that I’m a big fan of the band Chicago. Yes, that Chicago that used to be rock with horns badasses then turned into a middle-of-the-road rock champion, and then an AOR ballad band, and then a band too persistent to quit (still touring after all these years). Out of all the former and current members of Chicago, only Peter Cetera and Robert Lamm maintain solo careers (and also Bill Champlin, if we consider that The Sons of Champlin is his band, and not actually a collective of musicians who reunited after Champlin left Chicago) that can be considered rather existing yet hardly consistent. Lamm, however, is still in Chicago and his outputs over the years were rather sparse since he is busy touring. Cetera, on the other hand, left Chicago in 1985 largely because he was too busy touring with Chicago and didn’t have time to spend with his family and solo material.

Peter Cetera (1981)


When Chicago was on hiatus after the catastrophic failure of their XIV album (1980), Cetera (I’ll call him PC too in this review) had already been working on his eponymous solo album. As the band was moving to a new label, Full Moon/Warner Bros., Cetera had to buy the rights for his own album from Chicago’s old label (Columbia) to continue working and later release it under Chicago’s new label. He eventually completed the album with the help of session musicians. No original Chicago members were involved in making the album. The only involvement from Chicago’s side was Chris Pinnick’s, who played guitar on most of the tracks in the album; Pinnick was Chicago’s guitar player at that time, but was never considered an official member. Another notable contribution is from Carl Wilson, the Beach Boys’ guitarist, who co-wrote and played guitar on one song.

The album was released in 1981 with almost no fanfare. Warner Bros. refused to promote the album. Up to that point, Cetera’s prominence in the band had become evident in terms of songwriting and musical direction, and his expertise in writing ballads certainly sat in well with the label and producer David Foster (yes, that David Foster, the hit man), who radically changed the sound of the band and certainly called for another smashing hit in the form of a Cetera ballad, which he did previously with “If You Leave Me Now”, “Baby, What a Big Surprise”, and to a certain extent “No Tell Lover”. Warner was afraid that Cetera would get very successful on his own, thus jeopardizing the fate of the Chicago album in the works. As a result, the album did not sell well due to lack of promotion and it remained a somewhat obscure release. Outside of the US, particularly in Indonesia, the album is even more unknown. I only found out about the album in the early 2000s, in the form of an imported cassette tape which I didn’t buy because it was ridiculously expensive and marked rare.

The album itself is actually musically very good and is often an underrated output in Cetera’s catalog. Although still a product of its time, the album’s sound holds up very well. It is overall more well thought of than the half-baked Chicago XIV and despite strands of similarities, it is still quite refreshingly different from Chicago 16 that comes after it. To my surprise (and perhaps to the surprise of everyone familiar with Cetera’s work in Chicago and after), this is not an album of saccharine ballads. The first song and the lone single from the album, “Livin’ in the Limelight”, is a straightforward hard-hitting guitar-distortion-and-synth rock anthem, with sarcastic lyrics on fame and excesses. The awesome pyrotechnical guitar solo was contributed by none other than Steve Lukather of Toto, who was also in the studio to record some of his guitar work for the upcoming Chicago 16. The song happened because Pete wanted to rock sometimes, and this is a logical and more fully realized continuation of his half-baked (did I use this adjective earlier for the XIV album?) “Hold On” in XIV. The song peaked at number six on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, and for that one moment in his life, Peter Cetera was a mainstream rockstar! Nevertheless, the lack of promotion for the album meant that was it and no further singles were released from the album.

The subsequent songs are not as hard-hitting as the first, but they are very competently written and recorded. The rock ballad co-written by Carl Wilson, “I Can Feel It” is certainly not the most exciting song in the album, but it certainly is very slick and is a great change of pace from “Livin’ in the Limelight”. The album also shows that Cetera could work well in a rather original way without Chicago and the elements that he experimented with in Chicago do work better in a solo career setting. “Livin’ in the Limelight” is one example, while his P.C. Moblee voice is another. As strange as it sounds, P.C. Moblee was a persona that Peter Cetera created when he sang songs in the lower register of his voice, mainly for Chicago XIII. This “experiment” resulted in perhaps the cringiest moments in the nearly cringe-worthy Latin-discoish album, with Moblee’s voice sounding either very inadequately restrained or very wrongly sexually charged like cheap cool jazz music accompanying adult movies. However, this album shows that Moblee could work! Use it on a New Wave/white reggae-ish song (“How Many Times”), and it’s done! Use it rather sparingly in a song that’s bombastic and unabashedly sensual, and you got “Holy Moly”!” Both songs are well done, and they show that PC could make good use of his whole vocal range with the right melody and arrangements.

My personal favorite of this album is the fifth track, “Mona Mona”, whose more organic and fluid movement seem to contrast the contemporary (early 80’s) electronic sounding previous four tracks. It is a fun and short, no-nonsense upbeat pop gem. It sounds like something that Chicago could’ve done back in the day, but it could also have been a song that Chicago rejected for sounding too fun. The horn arrangements here are minimal but effective, and the sax solo is nothing short of amazingly fitting; the song shows that PC could do horns too, and it’s a shame that this fun song never made it into Chicago’s repertoire. Chicago did perform “Livin’ in the Limelight” during their 1982 tour for Chicago 16 for good measure, but that was it.

The sixth track, “On the Line” sounds really familiar to me when I first listened to it; it was released as the B-side to “Glory of Love” later in 1986 (more on this later), so it might have had some radio airplay back in the day when I was still a toddler. Both “On the Line” and the following track “Not Afraid To Cry” show that PC still loved country music, as these two were thinly veiled attempts at creating country-ish songs. PC’s love for country music was most evident in his early songs with Chicago, such as “Where Do We Go From Here”, “What Else Can I Say”, and “In Terms of Two”. “On the Line” was more refreshing in terms of musical exploration; it closes with a guitar solo that erupts somewhat surprisingly into a speedy synthesizer run. The prog-ish side of PC continues with the “Evil Eye”/”Practical Man”. I put a slash between the two songs because they are actually a two-part suite. It starts out as a Cetera rocker (“Evil Eye”) with an excellent Cetera bridge that segues into a short Cetera acapella choir (excellent vocal arrangement), which then breaks down into a slow drawn-out intro of “Practical Man” which is a staple proggy move. The break down parts interchange with the faster singing parts. The suite doesn’t take itself very seriously (which is a good thing), and it ends with an interplay between festive horns (in the fashion of “Mona Mona”) and fat synthesizer solo. It is a great short suite that showcases the gamut of PC’s musical exploration. The album ends with “Ivy Covered Walls”, a relaxing ballad that really does not do much, but it is excellent in its minimalism. It is a great cooling down move after the busy pace that starts with the outro of “On the Line”.

Peter Cetera’s first album is an excellent album, one that I would perhaps call one of his best solo albums. The songwriting and arrangements, mostly done by PC himself, are excellent. The album itself seems to be divided into two parts; if you want big 80s AOR (adult-oriented rock) sound, go with the first four tracks, but if you want more organic, band-oriented and fluid sound, go with the rest of the album. I myself prefer the second part, but the first part is well done and was, at the time, the more commercial draw of the album. Too bad the album wasn’t promoted enough by the record label, presumably in fear of PC hitting it big by himself, and it was almost totally eclipsed by PC’s sophomore effort five year later.

If you are a self-confessed lover of Peter Cetera’s music but you missed this album for whatever reason, you should listen to this album; you might end up not liking the album too much for its too early-80s sound (particularly the first four tracks) or the lack of uplifting ballads PC was later known for, but you will surely acknowledge that he was a very inventive songwriter and a damn fine rock singer. If you do not like Peter Cetera’s music in general for its saccharine and AORish content, this album might not change your mind, but it might refresh you with some interesting things that Cetera did at the very beginning of his solo career. Speaking of AORish, the second part of this review will deal with Cetera’s second, and more successful, solo album, Solitude/Solitaire. See you then!



Video Game of the Moment: Art of Fighting 3: Path of the Warrior

Once upon a time in 1996, in the corner of a local arcade stood a conversion kit machine with Art of Fighting 3: Path of the Warrior inside. The owner of the arcade loved to change his kits in sequence. Next to the aforementioned kit was a Street Fighter Alpha 2 conversion kit machine, which previously housed its prequel. Prior to Art of Fighting 3, Art of Fighting 2 was there; when it ran its course of popularity, it was replaced by its sequel.


AoF3 title screen (arcade-museum.com)

Art of Fighting 3 ran for quite a while at the arcade. I always suspected that the owner had a soft spot for Neo-Geo fighting games, as he had dedicated cabinets for those; there was one for the World Heroes series, one for King of Fighters, one for Fatal Fury (which carried over to the Real Bout series), one for Art of Fighting, one for Samurai Shodown, and one for Neo-Geo fighting games without sequels (there were definitely some of them). Among these, my favorite remained the Art of Fighting 3.

Make no mistake, I was not actually good at playing the game. I think I only managed to finish the game twice, both with additional credits because the boss was so cheap (most SNK fighting game bosses are cheap). It was certainly comparable to Street Fighter III (although Art of Fighting 3 was released slightly before Street Fighter III) in the sense that it introduces mostly new characters, keeping only Ryo and Robert (the “Ryu and Ken” of the series) in the roster. Sadly, most of these characters are not memorable and enjoyable to play as even though some of them can be quite fun once their moves are mostly figured out. The story of the game itself is a departure from the conflict with the top mobsters of Southtown (Mr. Big and Geese Howards). This is understandable as the main plot of the series is considered wrapped up and segues into the Fatal Fury series. This third game tries to answer the question “what happens to Ryo, Robert, and Yuri after they are no longer the main fighters in Southtown?” Well, the answer is they travel to Mexico on a side quest to help Robert’s old friend Freia tie some loose ends. This side quest is reflected in the game’s original Japanese title, Ryuuko no Ken Gaiden, which translates to Fist of Dragon and Tiger: Side Story. It is probable that the series never continued after this installment because the side story concept never actually caught on with fans of the series. Despite these shortcomings, the game was a joy to play even if I lost often, marvelous to look at, and enjoyable to listen to.


The Gameplay

The fighting engine of Art of Fighting 3 certainly possesses a certain depth into it, and it is much deeper than that of its prequel. Many elements return from the prequel, such as the taunt button and the spirit gauge. The speed of the game also does not change much and it does encourage players to be more tactical and methodical with their offense and defense. It certainly does not offer a turbo experience like the Street Fighter series or a fast-paced, offense-heavy system of the King of Fighters.

The first thing I noticed upon playing the game for the first time was the removal of stronger attacks executed by holding the button. The punch and kick buttons now do normal attacks with normal damage; the way you combine these buttons with the directions of the joystick now determines also the strength of the attacks (for instance, pressing away and kick will execute a strong roundhouse kick for most characters). The third button is reserved for throws (although you can also throw with the punch button) and character-specific strong attacks.

As polygonal 3D fighting games became more popular at that time, the series actually borrowed some gameplay elements from them. The most noticeable element is the ability to land one more hit after your opponent falls to the ground. However, one immense element that most reviews do not mention is the introduction of the rushing chain combo system, which can be found in most 3D fighting games at the time, in which a character rushes forward accompanied by certain button combinations that can also be improvised, but for most characters the easiest way to do this is to rush forward a little bit (don’t let your character run too far) and press punch button twice for a one-two jab combo, followed by pressing the kick button twice. For Ryo, for example, this combo translates to two alternating jabs and two alternating roundhouse kicks. Art of Fighting 3 does this very fluidly and it can be very fun to do, catching your opponent standing off-guard with one punch and juggle that opponent with some other attacks. The only thing that lessens your enjoyment of this is the fact that AoF3 is not a flashy game, so there is no audio or visual announcements of your success in chaining seven attacks, for instance. This rushing combo system has a certain depth into it, in which you can cancel your attacks and execute special moves amidst the chain to further the damage you do to your opponent. It is also important to note that not many 2D fighting games actually do this. Most of the games that can do this are actually later SNK fighting games, such as the later sequels of Samurai Shodown and Last Blade series.

The Visuals

Art of Fighting 3 is a stunningly beautiful game to look at. The trademark sprite and background scaling and zooming return from the prequel, but the graphics have been completely redone. The quality of the graphics is perhaps the best that the old Neo-Geo MVS could eke out at that time. The animation is fluid and the movement realistic, yet they do not sacrifice the details in character design and the use of vibrant colors. Watching someone else play AoF3 is like watching an animated movie in which the level of interactivity is very high, unlike the interactive movie “games” released for early CD-based consoles at that time. Just see for yourself (video courtesy YouTube channel Old School Gamer – Jogatina Clássica).


The Music

I have to admit that what drew me first to this game is the music. Not many arcade games at the time had jazz fusion music for their soundtracks, and at first I couldn’t believe that the music came from an Art of Fighting game. Although the music is based largely only around a couple of themes (Ryo and Robert’s themes), it is very well composed and presented in richly arranged movements with great jam tracks. It might be strange to find a fighting game soundtrack with a lengthy, seemingly improvised jazzy solos, but it really works for the AoF3’s visual style and atmosphere. Since the game is set in Mexico around Cinco de Mayo, there is also certain influence from Mexican carnival and mariachi music, which adds richness to the audio presentation of the game. The original soundtrack is amazing as it is, but the arranged soundtrack takes the jazz fusion concept even further.

Art of Fighting 3 is the last of a short-lived SNK fighting game series. It is not as fondly remembered as its sisters franchises, Fatal Fury and King of Fighters. Due to gameplay and story departure, it is even not as fondly remembered as its prequels. However, its audio and visual presentation is also the only and the last of its kind, and it is for this reason that this game is highly recommended for any gamer looking to find a break from the usual fighting game fares of speedy gameplay systems and loud, banging rock soundtrack.


Live Album at the Moment: Various Chicago Bootleg Albums of Their Performance at Toronto Rock n’ Roll Revival 1969


My cassette had the exact same photo on the cover. Interestingly, this photo couldn’t have been from 1969, as this stage design was clearly from their later world-touring days. The photo was taken from http://rockasteria.blogspot.com/2012/02/chicago-live-in-toronto-1969-us.html, where you can also find the original liner note for this live album (that is sometimes missing in later releases).

As a fan of the music of Chicago the band, particularly their earlier outings in the late 1960s and early 1970s, early in my fandom days I had always wondered how they sounded on stage at that early age. Having read that they were a great improvisational/jamming unit, I had been genuinely curious. However in the early 2000s in Indonesia, finding out how the early Chicago sounded was nigh impossible. The internet only offered snippets of their performances, compressed in the lowest bit-rate possible to accommodate streaming through a dial-up connection. The band’s lavishly packaged Chicago Live at the Carnegie Hall was never officially released in Indonesia, and finding a copy was quite a tall order. I actually did locate a copy, but the exorbitant price was too much for a high school graduate who was penniless while waiting for the good news of enrollment at a public university.

A year prior, I had acquired a (pirated) copy of the concert film Chicago… and the Band Played on… It was an okay and somewhat exciting performance (despite the absence of founding member and trumpeter Lee Loughnane), but at the time of the performance in 1992, the original rhythm section left only Robert Lamm on keyboards. How fierce could Terry’s guitar playing be on stage early in his career? How did Peter Cetera’s voice hold up on stage at this point? Did Danny Seraphine get all his chops together on stage? These were the questions that popped up in my genuine curiosity.

Enter Chicago at Toronto Rock Festival 1969. Upon listening for the first time, it was clear that it was a bootleg-quality recording, although it might have only been a poor recording of what was happening at the soundboard. The quality of the sound was only marginally better than the streamed snippets online, but of course the cassette won out because it was the whole set that the band played at the festival which, many years later, I found to be actually named Toronto Rock and Roll Revival, at which Chicago shared the stage with, among others, John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band whose performance was released as Live Peace in Toronto and was perhaps the most popular among other releases by other artists from the same stage.

Despite the sub-par recording quality, the album did quench my thirst of early Chicago live performances. Years later, I found that the performance was released by many other questionably named labels using various titles, such as Chicago in Concert, Chicago Live ’69, Chicago Beginnings, and the latest was perhaps Chicago Best Alive. You can listen to the entire set on YouTube, as several users have already uploaded it under various titles. The cleanest sound so far can be listened to here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGrni-S3NRA (no copyright infringement intended).

The track listing varies widely, but at that point Chicago would open any set with “Introduction.” But on most of these releases, “Introduction” is nowhere to be found. It was often mislabeled as “Beginnings” and the actual “Beginnings” song (the encore of the set) is sometimes not included in cassette and LP releases due to time constraint. The Beginnings and Best Alive (both originally released on CD) have the distinction of listing two “Beginnings”: one is the actual “Beginnings” and the other is “Introduction.” Some releases list “Introduction” as simply “The Intro Song.” Some songs have been mislabeled as well: “South California Purples” is usually listed as “The Purple Song” and “Questions 67&68″‘s numbers are sometimes missing. What a confusion!

Back to the set, the band started out song with “Introduction” and the Toronto version of “Introduction” was my first time listening to the full version the song. It was mind-blowing and life-changing. The band had so much energy on stage back then and Terry Kath was such a driving force. His voice soared and his solos ripped through at the midsection of the song. The song has many movements (an early Chicago quality that I learned upon listening to this live set) and the band transitioned smoothly from one movement to the next. Peter Cetera was clearly an unsung and underrated bass hero; his busy bass lines accompanied the songs, particularly “Introduction”, perfectly. The horn section’s set of lungs (Hendrix was right all along!) was nothing short of awesome, but they were recorded a bit thin here; this clearly was also the problem with recording horn instruments perfectly on stage at that time. Even in official releases such as At the Carnegie Hall and the recently released Live in ’75, the horn was hardly ever entirely justifiably represented.

Other highlights of the set include “25 or 6 to 4”, which at that point had not yet been released and “Liberation.” The highlight of “25 or 6 to 4” is certainly the solo, and Terry was famous (and infamous) of coming up with a different improvised solo every time the band performed the song on stage. The solo in this version does not sound as heroic as the final recorded version, but its melodic approach in this version showcases Terry’s improvisational prowess. I also dare say that I actually like the Toronto version of “Liberation” better than the album version. In this 16-minute jam track, Terry sounds more emotionally involved in his lengthy solo and the moment he finally burst into an improvised line to address the audience as the jam is over is truly a precious rock concert moment.

Chicago’s 1969 Toronto performance was the first widely available unofficial live album of the band. It is nowhere near as lavish as the Carnegie Hall set, but for financially challenged fans of the band (myself included) it certainly is more affordable. In recent years, live recordings of the band on stage early in their career have popped up on YouTube and in streaming sites such as Wolfgang’s Vault, and the Live in Tanglewood video is increasingly becoming the moving image of the band in their early days (Watch it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_oAoSZ2y1cw if you haven’t. The audio and video have been remastered to an excellent quality. I teared up when I first watched the video; it was that moving and beautiful). There is basically no reason to own their 1969 Toronto set now, except if you are an avid and devoted fan, but it really is worth it to stream on YouTube or any other streaming sites if what you are looking for is the band expressing their raw power early in their career, trying to make a good impression and win new fans in a neighboring country.


Bee Gees 1st at its 50th

Bee Gees 1st was released fifty years ago yesterday. Contrary to its own title, it was not the Bee Gees’ first long-play or full-length release. It was titled and marketed as such to mark the then-quintet’s (the three brothers and two other unrelated musicians) first foray into the international music market, following their considerable success in the brothers’ adopted homeland Australia with a string of singles and a couple of long-plays.


As an album released in both the US and the UK in 1967, it was facing stiff creative competition from many great albums also released in the same year (just look at Robert Christgau’s list of influential 1967 albums (https://www.robertchristgau.com/xg/rs/albums1967-07.php); How dare he missed July and not included 1st?), including that little album called Sgt. Pepper and the Lonely Hearts Club Band just released in the preceding month of June. However, the singles persevered and the Bee Gees went on to become pop sensations themselves as the hits kept coming.

1st also marked the Bee Gees’ first taste at international pop stardom, with the singles taken off the album charting highly in many places, including the now-classic “Holiday”, “New York Mining Disaster 1941”, “To Love Somebody”, and “I Can’t See Nobody”. The longevity of these singles and the brothers’ subsequent chart success have somewhat overshadowed the excellence of the rest of the album, which showcases that the brothers were an energetically psychedelic songwriting powerhouse.

1st is certainly not a very unified and conceptual effort compared to the likes of Sgt. Pepper and the Moody Blues’s Days of Future Passed, but it is a journey through the many creative possibilities that the brothers explored throughout the album. The album opens with “Turn of the Century”, a note on the fascination of the late Victorian era accompanied with a clever orchestration and studio production that imparts an old record sound; Robin Gibb’s trembling voice only strengthens this image. The bleak and haunting yet beautiful melody of “Holiday” soon follows. Just after “Holiday” ends with a cold “dee dee dee dee dee”, a loud drum fill suddenly segues into “Red Chair Fade Away” , a short psychedelic trip, with odd time signatures and far out lyrics. “One Minute Woman” is a sappy ballad that shouldn’t have had any place in the album, but somehow it just works thanks to Barry Gibb’s excellent delivery. This is again contrasted with the following “In My Own Time” which hails back to the garage-y sound they explored in Australia combined with a certain strain of Revolver/Rubber Soul Beatlesque influence. Bringing the contrast game even further, the album continues with the eerie “Every Christian Lion-hearted Man Will Show You” which opens with a haunting Mellotron intro and Barry Gibb singing in Latin in a very low register, resembling a Gregorian chant, which is then broken off by guitar strumming and a clever three-part harmony melody. Up to this point, it is evident that the brothers (particularly Barry and Robin) excelled at any kind of form they experimented in, had two magnificent singers in Barry and Robin (whose unique voice is further explored in “Craise Finton Kirk Royal Academy of Arts”, a Kinks-ish tune), and had a strong three-part harmony (with Maurice giving the ample low end to the two singers) which would soon become their trademark characteristic.

“New York Mining Disaster 1941” continues the bleak but beautiful approach of “Holiday”, and adds an interesting narrative quality through its lyrics of a monologue of a person trapped in a mine shaft, inspired by actual mining disasters. At this point, it can also be concluded that Barry and Robin are lyricists who took very interesting, rather unusual points of view in their often narrative lyrics, which was also evident in the following “Cucumber Castle”, a rather puzzling story of a person and his attachment to his property, accompanied by a dramatic orchestration. “To Love Somebody” and “I Can’t See Nobody” prove that the then-current proto-psychedelic wave wasn’t the Bee Gees’ only influence. These were certainly influenced by that decade’s soul music and R&B, particularly Motown; it is interesting to hear that the former song showcases Barry at his most soulful, while the latter portrays Robin in a very similar light. Between these two is “I Close My Eyes” a very catchy and enjoyable psychedelic romp. “Please Read Me” follows the same vein as “Red Chair” but with the vocal harmony sustained throughout the song. The album ends with the excellent “Close Another Door” which starts out with Robin’s lamenting voice which suddenly burst into a rocking middle, and ends tastefully in orchestration and Robin’s majestic ad-libbed cadenza.

1st is a truly swirling journey from start to end. It is an album I would definitely recommend to people starting to get interested in psychedelic music, people who appreciate crafty songwriting and harmony singing, and even casual Bee Gees listeners who want to find out more than the brothers’ usual One Night Only set. It is also an album from 1967 I would definitely recommend among many other great albums released in that very crowded year in popular music in English.

Berburu CD Musik di Lawrence (bagian 1)

Satu hal yang dulu saya impikan untuk dilakukan di Amerika Serikat dan sekarang sering saya lakukan adalah adalah thrift shopping, berburu barang-barang bekas (dan terkadang baru) dengan harga sangat miring di berbagai tempat. Di Lawrence, Kansas tempat saya tinggal, terdapat beberapa thrift stores, toko-toko yang khusus menjual barang-barang sumbangan dengan harga miring, misalnya jaringan nasional seperti Goodwill dan Salvation Army serta pula toko-toko lokal seperti St. John’s Rummage Shop dan Social Service League. Sebagian hasil penjualan barang-barang ini umumnya disumbangkan untuk program-program kemanusiaan seperti pengentasan kemiskinan dan pencegahan dan penyembuhan penyakit.

Akan tetapi, thrifting tidak hanya berhenti di thrift stores saja. Ada banyak kesempatan untuk berburu barang-barang murah dengan harga sangat miring di tempat-tempat lain, semisal di garage sale yang bisa jadi diadakan oleh perorangan atau komunitas pada akhir pekan. Garage sale jadi semacam kegiatan akhir pekan favorit bagi kami, berkunjung ke garasi tetangga yang menjual sebagian barang yang sudah tidak digunakannya lagi dengan harga sangat murah dan terkadang bisa ditawar.

Bisnis ritel di Amerika Serikat saat ini melesu dan thrifting menjalar ke toko-toko yang akan bangkrut. Toko-toko yang akan tutup ini umumnya melakukan liquidation sale, menjual semua aset dengan harga sangat miring. Salah satu jaringan department store yang sudah bangkrut di Lawrence adalah Hastings, yang sempat saya kunjungi pada bulan Oktober lalu sebelum tutup selamanya pada bulan November. Yang akan tutup berikutnya sepertinya adalah jaringan toko pakaian JC Penney, yang saat ini sedang melakukan liquidation sale.

Saya berusaha untuk tidak menyia-nyiakan kesempatan thrifting ini dengan mengoleksi musik dalam format CD. Mengapa CD? Tentunya karena CD lebih mudah ditemui di Amerika Serikat daripada kaset, yang banyak saya koleksi di Indonesia. Harga CD di thrift stores pun lebih bersahabat, umumnya berkisar hanya dari 50 sen hingga 2 dolar saja per CD, dan di garage sale bisa jadi malah lebih murah, bahkan untuk album yang bisa dibilang langka, setidaknya langka bagi saya yang tidak pernah menemukan album tersebut di Indonesia. Sebagai pendengar musik rock klasik, tujuan utama saya dalam berburu CD adalah album-album yang rock 60an dan 70an yang kerap dianggap klasik, tetapi saya pun terkadang juga membeli album-album yang menurut saya menarik atau punya nilai emosional dan nostalgik.

Saya pertama kali berburu CD di Hastings, toko yang saya sebut di atas, sekitar sebulan sebelum toko itu tutup. Seluruh koleksi CD diobral dengan harga mulai dari 80 sen saja. Berikut ini adalah beberapa CD yang saya peroleh di Hastings, selain juga beberapa DVD, buku komik, dan pakaian.

Blood, Sweat and Tears – Child Is Father to the Man (1968, versi rilis CD 2000)


Album ini adalah salah satu album yang telah lama masuk ke dalam daftar album yang paling ingin saya miliki, dan saya menemukannya di Hastings dengan harga hanya sedolar saja! Ini adalah album pertama Blood, Sweat and Tears, band yang didirikan oleh Al Kooper yang awalnya populer karena suara organ yang ikonik di single elektrik pertama Bob Dylan, “Like a Rolling Stone”, padahal Al Kooper sendiri awalnya adalah seorang gitaris. Di Indonesia, Blood, Sweat and Tears dikenal pertama kali lewat lagu “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” yang bluesy, single pertama dari album ini. Akan tetapi, album ini lebih dari sekadar blues dan suara organ Hammond. Ini mungkin adalah salah satu album rock paling eksploratif dengan sentuhan orkestra, blues, jazz, aroma psikedelik yang kental, dan seksi tiup yang integral (sebelum Chicago datang setahun kemudian). Ini adalah album yang unik dan mungkin terbaik dalam sejarah Blood, Sweat and Tears, karena setelah ini Al Kooper memilih mundur dari band yang didirikannya dan Blood, Sweat and Tears memilih jalur yang lebih komersial tetapi tidak pernah seinovatif ini.

King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King: An Observation by King Crimson 40th Anniversary Edition (1969, versi rilis CD 2009)


Ia teriak karena disimpan di atas sprei polkadot.


CD 2 dengan foto masing-masing personel di sebelah kanan


CD 1 dengan lanjutan lukisan sampul depan di sebelah kiri

Ketika saya melihat album ini di rak Hastings, saya hampir berteriak, seperti lukisan Barry Godber yang menjadi sampul album ini. In the Court of the Crimson King edisi khusus 40 tahun, 2 CD, baru hanya seharga $1.78 pula! Ini adalah album yang cukup sulit didapat di Indonesia, yang ketika tersedia pun umumnya harganya cukup mahal. Bagi para pendengar rock progresif, ini adalah salah satu album pelopor dalam eksplorasi progresif. Ini adalah album yang tetap segar dan menua dengan sangat baik; putar “21st Century Schizoid Man” dan sulit untuk tidak mengira bahwa Tool, Porcupine Tree, dan Mars Volta terpengaruh oleh band ini. Hasil remix stereo Steven Wilson (ya, Steven Wilson dari Porcupine Tree) di edisi ini membuat album ini terdengar lebih segar dan detil. Bagi yang menginginkan pengalaman yang lebih dekat dengan versi tahun 1969, CD 2 berisi edisi master orisinil yang pernah dirilis sebelumnya pada tahun 2004.

Kula Shaker – K (1996, edisi CD pertama)


K adalah album yang saya dengar dalam berbagai fase hidup saya sejak saya masih SMP (walaupun pada waktu itu saya masih belum bisa menikmati album ini sepenuhnya) lewat kaset pinjaman dari seorang teman sekelas, tetapi ini juga album yang tidak pernah saya punya dalam format apapun sampai saat ini. Ini adalah album yang masih saya nikmati sampai sekarang, terutama sejak saya membeli CD ini bulan Oktober lalu. Secara musikal, ini adalah rock Inggris (atau Britpop, terserah deh) psikedelik yang sangat bagus dan secara personal, ini adalah album yang penuh nostalgia.

New Kids on the Block – Step by Step (1990, versi rilis CD 2000)


“I really think it’s just a matter of tiiiiimeee… Step by step, ooh baby, you’re always on my mind.”

Akhir tahun 1990 bagi saya adalah serial animasi New Kids on the Block di TPI pada Minggu pagi dan video klip “Step by Step” dan “Tonight” di malam hari. Di antara dua tayangan tersebut, saya biasa menghabiskan waktu bermain dengan teman-teman yang kerap berbaju gombrong ala Danny Wood atau Jordan Knight atau bertopi hitam seperti Donnie Wahlberg. Album pertama yang orang tua saya belikan khusus untuk saya adalah album Step by Step dalam format kaset. Walaupun kegemaran saya akan NKOTB tidak berlanjut hingga saya remaja, Step by Step menurut saya masih salah satu album pop terbaik pada masanya dan album boyband terbaik dari segi musik. Ketika saya menemukan album ini dalam format CD di Hastings, tentunya tidak ada pilihan lain selain membelinya (lagipula harganya hanya sedolar)!

Sampai jumpa di artikel berburu CD musik berikutnya dengan CD-CD yang saya temukan di thrift stores!




Senandung Damba Smaradhana

Selamat Hari Musik Nasional (walaupun agak terlambat)!

Dalam rangka merayakan Hari Musik Nasional 2017, saya mengunggah sebuah lagu berjudul “Senandung Damba Smaradhana.” Sila dengarkan lagu ini dengan meng-klik tombol play pada kotak Soundcloud di bawah ini:

Bagi saya (sebagai pemain musik dan pencipta lagu paruh waktu), tidak ada cara yang lebih pantas untuk merayakan Hari Musik Nasional selain dengan menghormati para tokoh musik yang memengaruhi saya dalam menggubah musik. “Senandung Damba Smaradhana” adalah lagu yang saya tulis sebagai upaya penghormatan tersebut.

Sejak saya mulai bisa mengapresiasi musik bertahun-tahun lalu, saya selalu ingin bisa menulis lagu pop seperti yang dihasilkan dan ditampilkan oleh triumvirat Guruh Soekarno Putra – Chrisye – Yockie Suryoprayogo. Tentu triumvirat paling berbahaya dalam sejarah musik Indonesia menurut saya, Eros Djarot – Chrisye – Yockie Suryoprayogo, telah juga memengaruhi saya dan membentuk selera musik saya, tetapi juga ada senyawa kimiawi yang kuat antara Guruh – Chrisye – Yockie. Komposisi Guruh sangat khas; melodi dan irama lagu-lagunya selalu dipengaruhi musik Bali tetapi dengan cara yang halus dan tidak intrusif (tentunya pasca-Guruh Gipsy). Lirik-lirik lagunya pun khas, walaupun cukup sulit diakses karena ia banyak dipengaruhi kosa kata Sansekerta dan bahasa Bali. Ia adalah prototipe Katon Bagaskara di departemen penulisan lirik.

Sejak menyanyikan “Chopin Larung” di album Guruh Gipsy, Chrisye adalah penafsir mumpuni karya-karya Guruh dan kemungkinan besar adalah penyanyi yang paling sering menyanyikan lagu-lagu Guruh. Di setiap era karir Chrisye, kita selalu menemukan satu karya Guruh Soekarno Putra yang menjadi lagu klasik, dari “Kala Sang Surya Tenggelam” di tahun 1970an, “Sendiri” di tahun 1980an, hingga “Kala Cinta Menggoda” di tahun 1990an. Yockie Suryoprayogo sebagai penata musik dan produser Chrisye di masa awal karirnya (1977-1983), menurut saya juga adalah seorang penafsir Guruh yang mumpuni. Karya Guruh yang pertama ia tafsir untuk album solo pertama Chrisye, Sabda Alam, adalah sebuah pertaruhan. Mereka yang familiar dengan Guruh Gipsy akan mafhum bahwa Yockie merombak ulang secara musikal lagu “Smaradhana”, lagu balada pop penutup album Guruh Gipsy, dan menjadikannya lagu hustle upbeat yang lincah, dengan penekanan pada piano. Karena album Sabda Alam lebih sukses secara komersial dan lebih mudah diakses (karena cukup sering dirilis ulang dalam berbagai format), bagi banyak pendengar Chrisye (termasuk saya), “Smaradhana” versi Sabda Alam adalah perkenalan pertama mereka dengan triumvirat Guruh-Chrisye-Yockie.

Menurut saya, “Smaradhana” adalah lagu jatuh cinta yang sempurna. Irama hustle-nya seolah perlambang lonjakan-lonjakan dalam dada. Progresi kordnya rumit tetapi presentasi lagunya terdengar sederhana dan tidak terdengar pretensius, tetapi juga terdengar progresif di saat yang sama. Fokus suara lagu pada denting piano (dengan sentuhan clavinet/harpsichord pada rif pembuka) dan bel (atau segitiga logam) yang dilatari suara gitar lamat-lamat dengan chorus yang jernih, menyediakan kebeningan seperti seorang yang memandang kekasihnya secara langsung. Lirik lagunya seolah tidak meminta untuk dimengerti (kecuali jika anda ingin dan punya waktu untuk membuka kamus dan buku mitologi Hindu Bali), hanya kata asmara dan cinta yang terdengar jelas, seolah menunjukkan betapa njelimetnya mendeskripsikan pengalaman jatuh cinta; ia sulit diungkapkan dengan kata-kata, dan ketika ia diungkapkan, kata-kata terumitlah yang terlintas.

Dalam kekaguman kepada lagu inilah saya menulis “Senandung Damba Smaradhana.” Saat itu tahun 2005, saya baru saja lulus kuliah dan sedang pula jatuh cinta. Saya ingin menulis lagu cinta, tetapi pengetahuan saya tentang menulis lagu pop sungguh kopong. Selama beberapa tahun ketika kuliah, karena pertemanan dan pergaulan saya lebih banyak terlibat dalam musik yang lebih eksperimental. Pada awalnya, “Senandung Damba Smaradhana” adalah sebuah puisi tanpa nada dan irama yang saya tulis setelah membolak-balik buklet lirik lagu album Sabda Alam, sehingga pengaruh terbesar saya dalam menulis lirik lagu ini adalah Guruh Soekarno Putra dan Junaedi Salat. Saya banyak meminjam kata-kata dalam bahasa Sansekerta dan juga meminjam beberapa karakter dari mitologi Hindu.

Saya mendengarkan lagu “Smaradhana” berulang-ulang dan bahkan kemudian menguliknya sebisa saya, dengan perbendaharaan kord yang terbatas. Ketidaktepatan pengulikan lagu inilah yang kemudian justru menjadi dasar progresi kord untuk lagu “Senandung Damba Smaradhana.” Karena saya tidak bisa menyanyi, maka untuk penampilan lagu ini saya meminta bantuan dari Unoy (Chusnul Chotimah, sekarang vokalis unit reggae solid dari Malang, Tropical Forest) untuk menyanyikannya pada acara syukuran kelulusan saya suatu hari di bulan Oktober 2005. Itulah penampilan pertama dan terakhir dari lagu pop pertama saya (yang saya sangka pun akan jadi lagu pop terakhir saya), setidaknya dalam kurun waktu enam tahun.

Setelah bermusik listrik selama beberapa tahun, saya bosan dan ingin kembali menulis lagu pop. Saya kemudian menulis beberapa lagu, dan kemudian mengajak Dhea untuk menyanyikannya dan juga Rayhan untuk merekamnya dan sekaligus membantu saya dengan aransemen, terutama aransemen vokal. Pada saat itulah, saya berpikir untuk merekam “Senandung Damba Smaradhana”, kali ini dengan suara Dhea, sentuhan synthesizer dan aransemen vokal oleh Rayhan. Proses perekaman vokal lagu ini cukup sulit, terutama karena “liukan” progresi kord di awal lagu membentuk melodi dasar yang kurang lazim untuk musik pop kini, menurut Rayhan. Versi yang saya unggah hari ini direkam pada sesi ketiga rekaman DYA, yang merupakan versi campur aduk dari backing track Oktober 2011, synthesizer dan vokal Desember 2011, dan gitar bulan September 2012. Saat ini saya tengah mengerjakan versi yang kemungkinan besar menjadi versi terakhir dari lagu ini dan bersiap melepaskan keintiman saya dengan “Senandung Damba Smaradhana” yang telah berlangsung hampir 12 tahun. Selamat menikmati!