Tagged: band

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.

bee_gees27_1st

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.

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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!

 

 

Does It Really Happen to You? To Me? To Chris Squire?

Prawacana

Di bawah ini adalah tulisan saya (yang bisa jadi akan sangat panjang) tentang album band Yes berjudul Drama, lagu-lagu kesukaan saya di album itu, dan semacam obituari untuk Chris Squire yang baru saja meninggalkan kita semua.

Sampul album Drama karya Roger Dean, salah satu sampul album favorit saya, terutama karena ada macan kumbangnya.

SATU

Saya pertama kali berkenalan dengan cabang musik yang acap disebut rock progresif (bapak saya dan teman-temannya menyebutnya art rock; ada juga sempalan lain yang menyebutnya musik nuansamatik, istilah yang enggan saya pakai karena terdengar lebih mirip sepeda motor daripada musik) pada pertengahan 90an melalui sebuah kaset non-lisensi lokal milik bapak saya (untuk tidak menyebut bajakan) keluaran Yess dengan judul album Yessongs oleh band Yes. Ketika saya berkenalan dengan internet beberapa tahun kemudian, barulah saya sadar bahwa sampul album ini tidak bersesuaian dengan isinya. Jadi selama ini saya sudah mengenali lagu-lagu yang saya dengar dengan judul yang salah! Ya ampun! Barulah saya sadar bahwa album yang saya dengarkan judulnya sangat bersahaja: The Yes Album yang merupakan album ketiga Yes (jadi dua album sebelumnya mungkin tidak dianggap album; entahlah). Pun pada waktu itu saya belum sadar bahwa Yes ini adalah band yang sama yang lagunya “Owner of a Lonely Heart” ada di salah satu kaset kompilasi New Hits of ’83 yang ada di rak yang sama.

Dari hasil mengacak-acak koleksi kaset bapak saya dan lapak-lapak kaset di pasar loak Cihapit, saya berhasil menemukan beberapa album Yes keluaran Yess, yang melibatkan empat formasi Yes yang di dalamnya ada orang-orang ini: Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Tony Kaye, Bill Bruford, Rick Wakeman, Alan White, dan Patrick Moraz (silakan susun sendiri formasi-formasinya dan terka album Yes apa saja yang saya miliki pada waktu itu). Kala itu, Yes adalah band pertama yang saya telusuri di internet dan patokan koleksi kaset saya adalah laman frequently asked question tentang Yes di alt.music.yes (sekarang sudah tidak ada dan diarsipkan di http://www.bondegezou.co.uk/amy_faq.htm) dan Yeshoo, mesin pencari berbasis Yahoo! khusus untuk segala hal yang berkaitan dengan Yes (mesin pencari ini juga sudah almarhum). Saya pun aktif mengikuti forum Yes resmi dan sempat mengeluh tentang album Fragile saya (keluaran Yess) yang tidak punya lagu We Have Heaven (reprise), dan akhirnya saya sadar memiliki album bootleg atau non-lisensi bisa jadi sangat membanggakan dan sekaligus memalukan. Sebagai pengagum suara surgawi Jon Anderson, saya pun turut mengoleksi beberapa album solo Jon, serta juga beberapa album Rick Wakeman, serta mengunduh beberapa lagu dalam format mp3 dengan bitrate rendah karena hanya itu yang mungkin dilakukan dengan koneksi internet yang disediakan oleh Centr*n atau Kosong Delapan Kosong Sembilan Delapan Sembilan Empat Kali. Pencapaian terbesar saya dalam kegemaran saya akan Yes saat itu adalah berhasil meracuni bekas teman sebangku (bekas sebangku, bukan bekas teman) saya sewaktu SMP dengan musik Yes.

Pola koleksi Yes saya yang berkisar pada era klasik Yes (1971-1976) mengalami perubahan signifikan ketika di penghujung 90an saya membeli (lagi-lagi di pasar Cihapit) Yes Greatest Hits keluaran King’s Records (yang kemudian dikenal sebagai label perilis kompilasi tembang kenangan) yang bersampul album Tormato yang pada waktu itu belum saya punya. Saya membeli Greatest Hits itu terutama karena banyak lagu yang berasal dari album-album Yes di akhir 70an dan awal 80an yang pada waktu itu sulit dicari (atau mungkin saya yang kurang getol mencari). Saya pun berkenalan dengan “Going for the One” (dari album Going for the One), “Madrigal” (dari Tormato), dan yang paling penting “Does It Really Happen” dari album Drama. “Does It Really Happen” adalah lagu terakhir di muka dua dalam kompilasi Greatest Hits itu, dan saya selalu senang bukan main dan puas sepuas-puasnya ketika menutup pemutaran kaset Greatest Hits itu dengan “Does It Really Happen.” Dari “Does It Really Happen” pula saya menelusuri bahwa Jon Anderson dan Rick Wakeman sempat keluar dari Yes setelah album Tormato dirilis. Duet The Buggles, Trevor Horn dan Geoff Downes, kemudian menggantikan mereka berdua, lalu kemudian jadilah album Yes pertama (kala itu masih album Yes satu-satunya) tanpa suara Jon Anderson. Saya pun kala itu baru tahu juga bahwa “Video Killed the Radio Star” adalah hit pertama The Buggles dan videonya adalah video musik pertama yang ditayangkan MTV (sebagai remaja akhir 90an saya selalu menyangka “Video Killed the Radio Star” adalah lagu band alternatip The President of the United States of America).

Perjalanan dari “Video Killed the Radio Star” The Buggles ke “Does It Really Happen” Yes adalah seperti perjalanan dari bumi ke orbit, musykil tapi logis. Di situ saya menemukan perpaduan dua generasi, dua era yang berkelindan dengan mesra. Saya menemukan bahwa Trevor Horn dan Geoff Downes adalah dua musisi dan pencipta musik jempolan, bukan semata “one hit wonder” dan bukan hanya sesumbar bahwa mereka adalah penggemar Yes sejati. Trevor Horn tentu saja bukan Jon Anderson yang suaranya gemerincing lonceng kahyangan. Geoff Downes juga bukan keyboard wizard yang permainannya cerewet seperti Rick Wakeman. Kendati demikian, kepribadian cair yang mereka suntikkan ke dalam Yes telah membawa perubahan dalam musik Yes, yang nantinya akan mempengaruhi arah musik band ini selama dekade 1980an.

Akan tetapi, hal terpenting yang saya sadari dari mendengarkan “Does It Really Happen” berulang-ulang adalah bahwa Yes bisa berjalan tanpa Jon Anderson, tetapi tidak tanpa Chris Squire. Musik Yes pada “Does It Really Happen” dikendalikan dan sekaligus dimediasi oleh permainan gitar bas Chris Squire. Betul, Chris memang agak pamer di lagu ini; riff utama lagu ini adalah riff gitar bas sederhana tiga not (bisa disebut dua not, karena not yang terakhir hanya berbeda oktaf dengan not kedua) yang mengalir dominan sepanjang lagu tanpa terdengar monoton, lalu dilanjutkan dengan refrain yang basisnya adalah melodi gitar bas, dan ditutup dengan solo gitar bas yang menurut saya keren (maklum waktu itu saya masih jarang mendengar solo gitar bas). Ini bukan berarti Chris Squire hanya mengendalikan lagu “Does It Really Happen” saja, tetapi ternyata ia sudah memainkan peran yang serupa selama ia bergabung dengan Yes. Hanya saja selama saya mendengarkan Yes, saya selalu teralihkan oleh suara Jon Anderson, glissando-nya Rick Wakeman, atau kelebatan (bisa kelebat-an dan juga ke-lebat-an) jari-jari Steve Howe di atas fret. Saya pun kembali mendengarkan The Yes Album, album Yes pertama yang saya dengarkan secara utuh, dan mencari Chris Squire di situ. Ternyata ia ada di situ selama ini, menjadi kemudi sekaligus jangkar setiap lagu, suara metalik tebal dengan selimut tipis distorsi yang membentengi setiap komposisi. Ia melakukan itu di setiap album Yes yang saya tahu! Saya pun kemudian meminjam album solo Chris Squire, Fish Out of Water, dari paman saya, dan ternyata Chris Squire melakukan hal yang serupa, bahkan lebih, di album solo pertamanya itu.

Hal lain yang saya sadari dari Fish Out of Water adalah bahwa Chris Squire adalah penyanyi dengan suara yang khas. Saking khasnya ia bernyanyi di lapis kedua, saya berani bilang bahwa Yes paling terdengar seperti Yes ketika Chris Squire ikut bernyanyi harmoni. Siapapun vokalisnya, seksi vokal Yes adalah seksi vokal Yes ketika suara Chris Squire masuk (para pemuja Jon Anderson, silakan benci saya sekarang). Tidak percaya? Silakan simak “Machine Messiah” dari Drama atau “Fly from Here” dari Fly from Here (dengan vokalis Benoit David). Akhirnya, saya harus berterima kasih sangat kepada Chris Squire karena ia bukan hanya mengubah cara saya menikmati musik Yes, tetapi juga mengubah cara saya menikmati musik secara keseluruhan; saya jadi menyadari pentingnya peran pemain gitar bas dalam suatu band, terutama band rock, dan membuat saya memiliki banyak idola baru: John Paul Jones, Geddy Lee, Gary Thain, John Wetton, Greg Lake, dan Tony Levin. Saya pun semakin sadar bahwa harmoni dalam aransemen vokal suatu band rock bukanlah semata pemanis, tetapi justru kerap menjadi bagian integral dari identitas sonik suatu band: bukan hanya pada Chris Squire dengan Jon Anderson, Trevor Horn, Benoit David, atau Jon Davison, tetapi juga pada Tony atau Yok Koeswoyo dengan Yon Koeswoyo sampai Rudy Schenker dengan Klaus Meine.

DUA

Pada awal tahun 2000an, selera musik saya bergeser seiring pergeseran status saya menjadi seorang pelajar universitas. Selepas mengalami kesulitan berpura-pura menjadi anak band, saya lebih mendalami pilihan saya untuk menjadi penggubah musik elektronik dan eksperimental. Lewat rekomendasi buku-buku dan teman-teman, saya kemudian lebih sering mengakrabi Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, Can, King Crimson era Discipline, Talking Heads, ditambah sedikit Joy Division dan Spandau Ballet (!). Saya masih mendengarkan Yes, tetapi cukup jarang  mendengarkan album-album “klasik” mereka. Playlist Yes saya isinya hampir selalu shuffle album Drama, 90125, dan 9012Live, ditambah beberapa lagu dari Going for the One dan Tormato. Ya, 90125 bukan album yang buruk. Saya serius.

(Bagian kedua masih akan disambung)

 

 

What I Did with a Guitar When I Was Young

When I was young and my heart was an open book… Okay, that was not it. I never was and never am a guitar player. I picked up guitar back in 2000 and, until today, I never managed to get past basic chords and scales. However, in 2003 and 2004, I had a very strong drive to create some guitar-driven music, which was mainly fueled by the surrounding experimental and noise music scene at that time, which circled around toying with a guitar or guitars, unusual instruments and electronic embellishments. Since I had almost no budget to afford a guitar, I borrowed two guitars on two separate occasions. The first one was borrowed from Dody (Hermayadi Ardisoma), my neighbor and senior at the university, some time in 2003. It was a generic-looking black Samick guitar, whose sound I have taken to like. The second was borrowed from a friend of mine (name classified) during KKN (field work) in 2004. It was a Japan-made ivory Fender Telecaster that had been sitting in his cupboard for almost a year. It was a bit rusty and dirty, but useable.

The recording process was amateurish at best: guitar directly plugged into computer soundcard without external DAC/pre-amp or interface. This accounts for some noise that was later reduced during editing and mixing process. Takes were recorded using SoundForge (back then it was SonicFoundry’s, not yet Sony’s), and synthesizer and drum tracks were created on Fruity Loops (now FL Studio). These were all finally mixed and mastered, if you can call them mixing and mastering, on SoundForge. So, voila, here are six tracks from a person who could not actually play guitar. The seventh track is a bonus track featuring my friend, Andy Dwi (a real guitarist) on guitar with me on piano and drum programming. Pardon the lack of melody and virtuosity. Consider you’ve been warned.

Fanfare for the Self
Sandya Maulana: synthesizer, guitar, drum programming

The Room Re-revisited (including the Madcaps) (2009 remix)
Sandya Maulana: guitar, ballpoint caps, synthesizer

After All
Sandya Maulana: guitars, synthesizer, drum programming

Dinosaurs in D
Sandya Maulana: guitar, vocals, treatment, drum programming
Contains performances of excerpts from “I Know What I Like” by Genesis and samples of “Closer to the Heart” by Rush

Is It?
Sandya Maulana: Synthesizer, TS808, guitar, drum programming

The Room Revisited (including the Schedule)
Sandya Maulana: guitar, treatment, computer keyboard

Self-Indulgent Blues
Sandya Maulana: piano, synthesizer, drum programming
Andy Dwi: guitar

 

Janto, the Unsung Hero

L-R: Soman Lubis, Bhagu Ramchand, Sammy Zakaria, Janto Diablo, Benny Soebardja

L-R: Soman Lubis, Bhagu Ramchand, Sammy Zakaria, Janto Diablo, Benny Soebardja

Janto Diablo just added me as a friend on facebook and we had a short chat afterwards. And my heart leapt up. He sang lead on two songs, shared vocal duties on two more songs, played bass and flute and provided backing vocals in Shark Move’s only album, Ghede Chokra’s, released in perhaps 1970 or 1971. His outstanding contribution to the album is often overshadowed by the fact that the band was directed by prog luminary Benny Soebardja, who would go on to break new grounds and scored longer success with the proto-prog-metal outfit Giant Step.

The songs that he sang, the bluesy and improvisational “Harga” (in which Janto also played a wicked flute solo) and the anti-drug song (!) “Madat” are perhaps two of the best rock ballads ever to grace my life. The bass guitar riff and solo of “Evil War” will be forever etched in my mind. His high-pitched, bluesy vocal work is tinged here and there with Sundanese intonation and inflection, making his voice all the more unique.

Janto Diablo (born Janto Suprapto) hailed from Bandung and has been living in the city ever since. He started his career in music in the 1960s. Later in the decade, Janto formed and performed with Diablo, a rather tenacious yet short-lived rock band. Shortly thereafter, he became known as Janto Diablo. The nickname was carried over to his next band, Shark Move, after Diablo folded in early 1970. Shark Move folded too only over a year later, after some of the members left, including keyboardist Soman Lubis who later joined aspiring God Bless. Benny Soebardja eventually called it a day for the band and moved on to form Giant Step. After Shark Move, Janto was involved in a number of musical projects before settling on working for Aktuil production house, as well as having a long backstage career as a stage manager and later as a concert promoter. One of the concerts that he managed early in his career was the bustling Deep Purple Concert in 1975 in Istora Senayan, Jakarta.

35 years after they called it quits, Shark Move reunited in a tribute to the late Gito Rollies, former lead singer of fellow Bandung band The Rollies and a legendary artist on his own right. Shark Move went on to perform in a full-scale reunion concert, titled Shark on the Move (a reference to Giant Step’s album, Giant on the Move, and the fact that the reunion featured also several songs by Giant Step) featuring a fixed Shark Move line-up along with performances from former Giant Step members and Benny Soebardja’s sons playing an expanded repertoire of Shark Move and Giant Step songs. Shark Move still performs occasionally up to this day with revolving line-ups, with Benny and Janto as the mainstays. Amazingly, Janto’s voice has changed very little after more than forty years. He still sings “Madat” with the same bravado found in Ghede Chokra’s:

Kini telah kuniatkan

Persetan dengan goda dan rintangan

Segala omong kosong tentang kasih dan sayang

Persetan dengan cinta dan perdamaian

‘Kan kuserbu musuh biar seribu

‘Kan kubunuh, ‘kan kubunuh, ‘kan kubunuh…

Sebuah Jawaban: Favourite’s Group vol. 2

(foto menyusul karena saya sedang tidak di rumah untuk beberapa lama)

Saya menulis kembali di sini karena saya merasa perlu menceritakan ulang percakapan saya dengan mas Budi Warsito pada tanggal 14 Oktober 2014 lalu, dengan ditambahi bumbu-bumbu lain yang tidak ada di percakapan kami pada waktu itu. Percakapan diawali dengan sebuah pertanyaan penting dari Mas Budi, “Hehe, boleh dibagi di sini ceritanya, satuuu saja, kaset yg Bung Sandya sangat sukai, yg akan Bung sering putar dan jaga baik2 hingga akhir hayat nanti?”

Jawaban saya adalah kaset Favourite’s Group vol. 2, dengan side B album pertama AKA karena saya punya kenangan yang sangat panjang dengan kaset ini. Jawaban saya mungkin terlalu cliched dan mainstream karena biasanya orang-orang yang ditanya oleh Mas Budi selalu menjawab dengan album-album berat dengan nama-nama “susah” (mungkin karena beban pencitraan), sementara saya dengan enteng menjawab dengan sebuah album dari band pop Indonesia, yang ngepop banget. Untungnya saya tidak terbebani pencitraan sebagai seorang hipster kolektor kaset eksotik (memang bukan) dan jawaban saya jujur, seperti halnya si Eti.

Saya penggemar berat the Favourite’s Group sejak masih di bangku taman kanak-kanak. Setiap hari sehabis magrib saya selalu memutar kaset The Best of Favourite’s Group vol. 1 (produksi 1986 kalau tidak salah) dan ikut bernyanyi (terutama lagu ini: “Siapa yang berdosa? Tak dapat ku berkata. Siapa yang bersalah? Susah ditelaah. Mari kita, kita renungkaaan.”), tetapi sayang suatu hari kaset itu putus dan sebagian rekamannya terhapus karena tape JVC lama di rumah ngadat. Untuk menggantikan kaset itu, Favourite’s Group vol. 2 (yang sebenarnya sudah ada sejak saya belum lahir) inilah yang sering disetel. Setiap bepergian jauh, kaset ini selalu dibawa, seringkali karena keinginan saya, bukan keinginan bapak saya sebagai pemilik kaset ini, untuk mendengarkannya di perjalanan.

Sepertinya karena bapak saya tahu saya lebih suka Favourite’s Group daripada dia, kaset ini adalah kaset pertama yang dia wariskan kepada saya. Agak berat menerimanya karena saya tahu kaset Favourite’s Group vol. 2 itu adalah kenangan masa remajanya dengan teman-teman sekampung sebelum hijrah ke Bandung. Sewaktu bapak bereuni dengan teman-teman sekelompok teaternya di Losari, Cirebon, album ini pun diputar sebagai musik latar.

Menjelang awal tahun kedua di SMU (dulu begitu namanya), saya merasa perlu belajar bermain gitar sebagai bentuk aktualisasi diri seorang remaja (cieee). Lagu pertama yang saya ulik dengan gitar adalah “Creep”-nya Radiohead, dengan bantuan seorang teman yang mengajari saya bentuk kord minor. Lagu kedua adalah “Mimpi Sedih”-nya Favourite’s Group. Ini lagu yang kord-kordnya mudah, bahkan lebih mudah daripada “Creep,” tetapi megahnya (dan juga menye-menyenya) mengalahkan “Creep.” Dulu Pablo Honey dan kaset Favourite’s Group ini berdampingan. Pablo Honey entah ke mana, dipinjam dan tak dikembalikan lagi, tapi teman-teman sebaya saya tidak pernah ada yang meminjam Favourite’s Group vol. 2 ini. Lagipula mana ada remaja tanggung di penghujung milenium kedua yang mau mendengarkan the Favourite’s Group? Hampir semua sedang larut, entah dalam 13 atau Californication (atau sebagian kecil larut dalam Utopia, seperti teman sebangku saya. Hehehe).

Akan tetapi, lagu favorit saya di album ini bukan “Mimpi Sedih,” tetapi “Lagu Gembira” segera setelah “Mimpi Sedih.” Jadi, setelah bermimpi sedih lalu berlagu gembira. Cukup membingungkan. Ada gerakan-gerakan yang tidak diduga-duga muncul yang membuat saya sangat gembira (!) setiap mendengar lagu ini. Ketika saya belajar menulis dan mengaransemen lagu, baru saya paham ini sepertinya adalah kejeniusan A. Riyanto dan mungkin lagu ini adalah lahan eksperimennya. Di tengah-tengah lagu tiba-tiba ada progresi kord mundur per setengah not (sampai sekarang saya belum tahu namanya) yang dengan mulus sekali masuk ke refrain yang berirama ala “La Bamba,” tapi kemudian interlude-nya jadi terdengar murung karena nada dasarnya berubah jadi minor sebelum kembali ke intro yang ceria. Uniknya si La Bamba-La Bambaan itu tidak diulang setelah verse kedua, sehingga lagunya jauh sekali dari kesan norak dan klise. Progresi kordnya sinting, berbeda drastis dengan “Mimpi Sedih” dan memberi banyak pelajaran tentang bagaimana membuat lagu yang catchy dengan progresi kord yang cukup njelimet (kualitas yang saya temukan juga di karya-karya Yockie Suryoprayogo).

Di album Favourite’s Group vol. 2 ini ada pula sebuah lagu spoken words yang judulnya “Sajak untuk Seorang Gadis yang Sedih” dengan iringan musik pop instrumental orkestral ala 70an awal. Saya kemudian terpikir untuk membacakan kembali “Sajak” ini dengan latar musik yang sama sekali berbeda, elektrik dan sedikit industrial. Si spoken word “Sajak” ini ditulis oleh Is Haryanto, dan cemennya minta ampun. Sepertinya kecemenan inilah yang menjadi ciri khas Is Haryanto di kemudian hari. Hahaha. Karena waktu itu judulnya musik eksperimental, jadi saya bereksperimen saja menabrakkan musik elektronik yang mekanikal dengan sajak cinta cemen karya Is Haryanto ini. Maka kemudian jadilah rekaman elektronik lo-fi pertama saya. Rekaman ini kemudian dikirimkan ke kompetisi musik eksperimental pada tahun 2004, yang diselenggarakan oleh kolektif musik eksperimental Pemuda Elektrik (yang kemudian sebagiannya atau mungkin 2/3 atau 3/4nya kita kenal sebagai SL*T (Sungsang Lebam Telak)).

Bagaimana dengan lagu-lagu lain di album ini? Killers. Indonesian mainstream pop at my personal best. Semuanya diaransemen dengan ketat, eklektik, tidak terlalu manis atau gurih dan menurut saya malah lebih terpoles daripada album-album Favourite’s Group berikutnya. Di kesempatan lain saya akan membahas satu per satu ketujuh lagu lain yang ada di album ini, dan juga membandingkan lagu-lagu ini dengan album yang ada di sisi B, yakni AKA volume 1. Yang jelas, album inilah jawaban jujur saya dari pertanyaan yang diajukan mas Budi Warsito di awal percakapan kami. Jika Anda punya, dengarkan dan apresiasi kembali. Mungkin Anda akan menemukan bahwa Favourite’s Group (setidaknya di formasi pertama mereka) adalah a different beast altogether (susah nih diterjemahkannya).

THE MERCY’S

The Mercy’s are a pop band formed in Medan, Sumatera Utara, Indonesia in the late 60s. They were one of the bands that gained considerable popularity after the wake of Koes Plus. During their heydays in the 70s, they were considered among the top five bands of the era, along with Koes Plus, Panbers, D’lloyd, and the Favourite’s Group. Much like the other four bands, they continue to enjoy lasting success and recognition through a number of hit songs, re-released and remastered over the years by their record label, Remaco. Some of the members of the band have been elevated to legendary status as they charted lasting impact in the history of popular music in Indonesia.

Cover of The Mercy's second LP. Courtesy of madrotter.blogspot.com

Cover of The Mercy’s second LP. Courtesy of madrotter.blogspot.com

The Story

Depending on the sources on the net, The Mercy’s formed in either 1965 or 1969. The band’s name was said to derive from the popular nickname of Mercedes-Benz cars, the Mercy. It was possible that the band formed in 1965, yet they did not fare well until 1969, when they secured a contract for a string of gigs in Malaysia and Singapore. At the time, a great number of Indonesian bands and singers had been contracted for playing in public places in Malaysia and Singapore, sometimes for months. The first of these bands were The Peels, which included future prog luminary Benny Soebardja on guitar, whose tenure in 1967 resulted in a local best-selling live album as well as a handful of singles, mostly covers on Indonesian traditional and popular songs. The trend of Indonesian musicians touring Malaysia and Singapore started from then on to the early 70s, with a number of these bands and singers eventually signing recording deals with international record labels, such as RCA/Victor and Philips.

The line-up that had been set to play in Malaysia comprised founding members Rizal Arsyad (rhythm guitar), brothers Erwin (lead guitar) and Rinto Harahap (bass guitar, vocal), Iskandar (lead vocal, keyboards) and Reynold Panggabean (drums, percussion). Prior to their departure, Iskandar left the band to concentrate more on his studies in medicine. The remaining members of the band rushed to find the replacement and installed Charles Hutagalung to fill in Iskandar’s spot. Charles proved to be a dependable member and soon became key to The Mercy’s success in both performance and recording. The band’s tenure in Malaysia lasted six months, with the band performing covers of Indonesian popular and traditional songs with originals thrown in here and there for good measure. They enjoyed lasting popularity in Malaysia, resulting in some of their albums released by Malaysian labels in the 70s.

Going back to Medan from Malaysia, with cancelled Singaporean tour dates and Charles becoming a full-time member, the band seek to secure a recording contract. Following in the footsteps of Panbers, a fellow Medan band whose first album had made considerable national impact, The Mercy’s made a move to Jakarta in the early 70s. Rizal refused to move with the band and chose to continue his study in Germany.

After a series of sessions, it was clear that the band’s main songwriters were Charles and Rinto, with few contribution from Erwin and Reynold. However, the “leader” of the band was always Erwin Harahap, as was also stated later on the sleeves of their albums. Charles and Rinto each had a fair share of writing both sentimental, slow songs and more upbeat, rock n’ roll tunes which was showcased in their early efforts, particularly in the first two albums (later re-released by Remaco in 2003 as a single-cassette split album). Seeking to diversify their sound, which was by then dominated by Charles’s organ sweeps and Reynold’s percussive attack, the band asked Albert Sumlang, an aspiring saxophone player, to join in. In the band’s first album, Albert’s expressive, soaring and sometimes wailing saxophone work can be heard on a number of songs. Albert also contributed one song to the first album, “Kisah Seorang Pramuria,” one of the band’s career-defining songs.

The band eventually secured a contract with Purnama Records and in 1972, their first album was released to much fanfare. The upbeat songs, such as “Di Pantai”, showcased what The Mercy’s were made of. It was, however, the band’s slower, more melancholic songs that fared better: “Tiada Lagi”, “Kisah Seorang Pramuria” and “Love.” The success of “Tiada Lagi”, their first single, was interrupted by a fellow Medan band, Judas, claiming that the song was theirs. To this day, however, the song still belongs to the Mercy’s back catalogue. “Kisah Seorang Pramuria” was considered to be their runaway success and perhaps their career-defining song. It was the song that people today identify most with The Mercy’s. It has all the trademarks of the band’s career: Charles’s nasal voice and Farfisa riffing, Albert’s meandering saxophone work and the sense of balladry supported by narrative lyrics told in first person which was to become The Mercy’s lasting style. The band also started their trend of inserting a song with English lyrics in their albums with the song “Love”, known for Charles’s and Albert’s emotional delivery on their instruments.

The second album followed a year later with pretty much the same formula and met with pretty much the same success. By the third album, the band had pretty much established a stable formula: lots of the trademark ballads with a few upbeat and jamming-oriented songs such as “Woman” and “Tak Mungkin” sometimes showcasing their rock n’ roll, blues and hustle roots. During this era, the band accumulated a lot of following and was even voted as the most popular band by several magazines and polls, including the poll conducted by the Armed Forces (!), considered the most prestigious popular music poll at the time.

At the height of the band’s popularity, Albert was fired in 1974 shortly after finishing the band’s eighth album, citing personal and musical differences. The band decided that they could go on without Albert and moved on as a quartet. After Albert’s departure, things got more laid back in the band’s quarter, thus allowing Charles to form a short-lived project called Ge & Ge (Genial and Gentlemen), whose musical output was not drastically different from The Mercy’s. The project, however, enjoyed moderate success with the single “Hanya Satu,” which sometimes finds itself amidst a compilation of The Mercy’s songs, despite being performed by an entirely different band. Rinto traced back his Malay and Batak roots and experimented with traditional music. This was evident later in the band’s three volumes of pop Melayu (Malay pop), released perhaps to cash in on the success of Koes Plus’s pop Melayu albums. Koes Plus were The Mercy’s label mates as The Mercy’s switched labels from Purnama to Remaco from their eighth album onwards. However, being more in touch with Malay and Batak musical tradition, The Mercy’s Malay pop outputs were drastically different from Koes Plus’s. While Koes Plus rejected to release a Mandarin-pop-influenced album, The Mercy’s agreed on releasing a Mandarin-pop-styled album, sometime at the end of their recording career. It was at this point also The Mercy’s re-recorded their early hits without Albert, with Charles’s organ and Erwin’s guitar solos replacing Albert’s parts. The session resulted in sleeker and more polished versions of their songs. The results of this session were later used for many of the band’s greatest hits compilation albums, thus diminishing Albert’s role in the eyes of many late listeners of the band except for a handful of songs.

By 1978, it was clear that the band had become a shadow of their former selves. The balladry formula was no longer tried and true, but rather a tired one. Their ballads have become sappier yet less emotional. The return of Albert and the release of their final studio album, Mimpi, did not save them from calling it a day. By late 1978, the members parted ways and minded their own business. Charles chose to pursue his solo career and did not revive Ge & Ge. Rinto and Erwin became songwriters and producers for other musicians, establishing Lollypop Records, with Rinto becoming a more influential figure in pop music. Reynold ventured into the realm of fusion dangdut with his then wife, Camellia Malik, in an outfit called Tarantula. Albert continued on as a session saxophonist and ventured cafes in the Netherlands at times.

Twenty years after the breakup, the band chose to reunite and tour the nostalgia circuit. The reunion resulted in a live album and a karaoke album with old songs in new arrangements. They toured extensively with great success with Charles particularly in good spirits after recovering from stroke. One of their most memorable post-reunion performances was the televised sold out concert at Ancol, where they shared the stage with their contemporaries, D’lloyd and Koes Plus. The band’s newfound success was cut short, however, by Charles’s death in 2001. Realizing that they could never replace Charles, the remaining band members parted ways once again.

The legacy of the band lives on to this day, thanks to Remaco releasing a number of greatest hits albums and inserting the band’s songs into select compilation albums of Indonesian evergreen hits. In 2003, Remaco also remastered and re-released the band’s first six albums, whose rights were previously owned by Purnama Records, finally giving a chance to the younger generation to grasp The Mercy’s original, rawer sound. In January 2005, the band’s Rinto-penned ballad, “Ayah,” was reworked as “Aceh” and released as a single from the charity album for the 2004 tsunami/earthquake disaster in Aceh. The single was performed by a number of well-known Indonesian singers, including Ariel of Peterpan and Candil (then) of Seurieus.

Rinto hinted in an interview that The Mercy’s were never dissolved, but the band’s reunion is rendered improbable due to the apparent absence of Charles and that, at the time, there was nobody suitable enough to replace him. However, the final fate of the band was seemingly sealed by the death of Albert Sumlang in 2009. Concerts to honor The Mercy’s musical legacy have been held sporadically at times, with the latest held in November 2012, joined by Rinto who jammed with the sons of Albert Sumlang.

It is never an understatement to say that The Mercy’s have lasting impact on popular music in Indonesia. Along with Panbers and D’lloyd, they were the main proponents of Malay music influence in Indonesian popular music, which can be traced in a number of Indonesian bands today. The members of The Mercy’s are also astute in continuing their band’s legacy. The Mercy’s were influenced by Batak pop music and they also, in turn, influenced Batak pop music. This was continued by Charles Hutagalung through his activities in Batak pop music circles, making him a respectable figure in the development of Batak pop music. Rinto Harahap almost single-handedly revived Indonesian sentimental pop in early 80s and brought an unprecedented number of mostly female Indonesian sentimental singers to fame. This move has led him to both fame and notoriety. He, along with other producers following in his footsteps, was blamed for over-sentimentalizing pop music, resulting in sappy and counterproductive songs which were banned (!) by the Ministry of Information in the late 80s. However, to many musicians today, Rinto is respected as a great songwriter and producer and his great contribution to The Mercy’s and Indonesian pop music in general has been honored by two tribute albums by younger musicians.

References

(soon)