“Ilir-ilir” Concert in Beijing

Sunday, November 11, 2007


“Ilir-ilir” Concert in Beijing
by : Frans Sartono

Ilir-ilir, that sung Javanese poetry, appeared with a touch of Sundanese and jazz in the country of China. It was one of Krakatau’s contribution in the concert “The Rhythms of Indonesia” at Beijing Concert Hall, Beijing, China, on Wednesday (7/11) night.

Beijing Concert Hall, which is located about a kilometer from the historical Tiananmen field, became the cultural intercourse event. There Krakatau and Chinese musicians collaborated in playing Indonesian traditional pieces. Dwiki Dharmawan, Pra Budidharma, and friends performed together with strings from Asia Harmony Orchestra, and World Music Ensemble, a Chinese traditional music instrument ensemble with fourteen members who are students at Chinese Music Conservatory.

From that collaboration, thus flowed Bengawan Solo composed by Gesang, sung by Ita Purnamasari and Yong-Yong in Bahasa Indonesia and Mandarin. Following that, Ilir-ilir from Java, Janger Bali, Ayo Mama from Maluku, even Yamko Rambe from Papua. Those songs Lagu-lagu itu disuguhkan di depan sekitar seribu penonton dari berbagai bangsa.

Krakatau was very clever in communicating through music. They used jazz as some sort of musica franca, the “language” of intercourse for ears from various cultural background. In this jazz part, there were Dwiki Dharmawan on piano, bass from Pra Budidharma, and drum from Gerry Herb. At the same time, they brought the Indonesian flavor through a set of traditional instruments. There were Sundanese drum played by Ade Rudiatna, rebab and tarompet by Yoyon Darsono, also kecapi (West Javanese plucked zither), multi-sync bonang, and taganing Bataknese percussion from Zainal Arifin.

At Beijing, Ilir-ilir started with an intro of solo piano improvisation from Dwiki who used acoustic grand piano. The sung poetry melody was then developed in piano improvisation. This was some sort of appetizer, the introduction course to be able to go into the next composition. From the flavor of jazz, Ilir-ilir continued to kecapi and recorder that created the atmosphere of Pasundan land. Only after that did singer Peni Chandra Rini showed up with a very beautiful Javanese accent singing bowo (a kind of song intro): “lir-ilir, lir-ilir tandure wis semilir, tak ijo royo-royo….” At the moment, the atmosphere has gone very Indonesian, with the combination of Javanese and Sundanese that are similarly comfortable, calm, and harmonic.

Ilir-ilir in the next composition part received a touch of China through traditional instruments, such as dizi recorder, Yangqin string instrument, Erhu rebab, and an instrument similar to guitar called Pipa. This traditional version of ensemble was combined with the string section playing a melody which was more or less the same so that it gave the impression of merely playing music together. The communal situation ended when Ilir-ilir was then pulled to the flavor of swing jazz. This method was very communicative. At least it’s shown from the audience in the balcony seen tapping their feet along with the tempo.

Krakatau’s music’s ability to communicate was strengthen by the performance by dancer Didik Nini Thowok in Genjring Party and Impen-impenan. Genjring or a kind of tambourine became the backbone of Genjring Party composition that bring out the percussion element. Didik performed his old creation, which is the Dwimuka dance that’s very popular because it’s frequently performed by Didik in various opportunities, including weddings. He wore two masks on the face and the back of the head. When he’s not facing the audience, Didik’s body and motion gave the impression as if he’s actually facing the audience.

The very percussion-y composition spoiled Didik with impulsive free motion that gave comedic effect. The audience was laughing, enjoying the combination of Kratau music and Didik’s dance that are both spontaneous and full of improvisation.


With its jazz ”plus” format all this time, Krakatau fluently accomodated various ethnic elements in their music contribution. As was mentioned by music lecturer and observer, Franki Raden, in a jazz workshop in Jakarta at the end of October, Krakatau’s music gave a certain distinction outside Indonesia that’s not used to Indonesian traditional music. Krakatau stood by jazz, but opened itself for traditional flavors.

Krakatau was born from young musicians from early 80s who are very high spirited in playing fusion. At first, said Pra, they started with American “fusion-ish”. Pra (52), who grew in Bandung, then initiated fusioning jazz with Sundanese music element. “Sunda was what’s close to me since I was small,” said Pra who lives at Cipaganti, Bandung.

The idea was not fulfilled yet because comercially the Indonesian music industry at that moment did not have any room for experimental music. Krakatau that then formed with Pra, Dwiki, Indra, Gilang Ramadhan, and Donny Suhendra plus vocals Trie Utami turned to be popular for its four pop albums.

Krakatau stopped once. Pra experimented by making a creative Sundanese pop album with Trie Utami and Sundanese karawitan artist, Yoyon Darsono. This project became the so-called seed of Krakatau. Later, Pra and Dwiki fulfilled the prior idea, which is to play fusion, a fusion between jazz and Sundanese music. Accidentally, Dwiki Dharmawan owned a strong auditive memory of Sundanese karawitan. Dwiki’s house is only a concrete wall away from Kampus Akademi Seni Karawitan Indonesia (ASKI – Indonesian Karawitan Art Academy) Bandung that now becomes STSI and almost every day, he heard the students practice.

To fulfill the idea, they invite two Sundanese karawitan artists, Yoyon Darsono and Ade Rudiatna. Both are lecturers at STSI Bandung. This time Krakatau is strengthened by a drum player, Budi Haryono. They explore in entering the Sundanese element into jazz. “For three years, we synchronized the pattern of kendang and drum beats,” said Ade Rudiatna.

Their exploration started to be presented in front of public in 1993. The jazz lovers gave an exciting response to Krakatau’s creation. A year after that, “Mystical Mist” album was born. Krakatau kept on exploring the rhythm, sounds, and ethnic nuance potention through “Magical Match” (2000), “2 Worlds” (2005), to “Rhytms of Reformation” (2005).

Jazz still became the creative attitude of Krakatau’s artists. They don’t deny change with exploration. Jazz is also still their composition platform. Jazz became the foundation to give place to ethnic elements that are given such vast space in Krakatau to explore.

“Organizationally, I played kendang. We play with traditional approach, but that tradition has been modified. When we play swing, then kendang became a normal percussion. I gave meaning through kendang. I realize I’m not in the area of tradition. I became one in the totality of playing kendang. So, on one hand we’re invited, but not as additions,” said Ade Rudiatna.

“The identity of Sunda does not disappear. I treat rebab as a Sundanese rebab. Not like the style of a person playing violin, for example,” said Yoyon Darsono.

This identity and creative room clarity for each individual is what makes Krakatau able to explore the various sounds and rhythms. They could put the flavors of Indonesia and even China comfortably, just like what they contributed at Beijing.

The event supported by the Indonesian Cultural and Tourism Ministry and Indonesian Embassy in China became a kind of window for the Indonesian culture. Chinese musicians were invited to play Indonesian music and presented it to the audience coming from various countries.

“We hope that people will know Indonesia and want to come there. After that, for a friendship to happen between China and Indonesia through music,” said the Indonesian Vice Ambassador, Mohammad Umar.


    HAloo Cross Culture Music sangat membuat kita gelisah Jalan teruuus Salam —dwiki (07/02/2009)
    Salam kenal Mas, kami pernah juga mengkolaborasikan musik Sunda dan Tionghua, di link ini http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWWEm_xI27U mudah-mudahan suatu waktu kita dapat bekerja sama. Terima Kasih —Andry Harmony (04/01/2009)

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Dwiki Dharmawan is among Indonesia’s most gifted and celebrated music personalities: a multi-genre keyboardist; skilled composer and producer, and; a conscientious peace activist, equally committed to ecological preservation.