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.

 

 

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