Tagged: psychedelic pop

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?

Bridge:
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 *)

 

 

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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.

 

 

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.