Keroncong, a seductive music for fiddle, guitar, ukulele, flute, banjo, bass and cello, owes its origin to the Portuguese who dominated parts of the archipelago from 1512 to 1596. The early Portuguese sailors, who discovered the sea route to the Moluccas, brought their musical instruments and melodies to Indonesia. A small guitar with five strings called the pandeiro became known as keroncong (from its sound “crong”) in Batavia, and much later as the ukulele in Hawaii. The Portuguese introduced three types of music; moresco, prounga and cafrino. Moresco songs are cheerful and developed into keroncong music; while prounga tunes are more melancholic, with a strong Turkish influence, and developed into stambul tunes. Both moresco and prounga flourished in Java. Cafrino music became the forerunner of Malay and West Sumatran music.
In the first quarter of the 17th century, the Dutch who became the new colonists, granted freed Portuguese slaves an area called Tugu (12 kilometres north east from present-day Jakarta). This group consisted of Mardijkers (former Portuguese slaves of Indian, African and Asian descent, who became Christians) and a group of mestizos (Portuguese-Asian Christians). Tugu became the heart of the mestizo culture.
The language of this community was a mixture of Portuguese, Indian and Malay dialects. Here the moresco melodies developed into keroncong music, and were adapted to local elements. The earliest continuing keroncong ensemble History of Keroncong Music By Mariah Waworuntu and Ann Triman still exists in kampung Tugu and is called ‘Keroncong Tugu’. Much later keroncong became popular among the Indo-Dutch community in neighbouring Kemayoran and also in Depok, a village of Indo-Dutch freed slaves, south of Jakarta.
According to Haryadi Suadi, keroncong music evolved in three distinct stages over 400 years. In the first period from the early 17th century to the early 1800’s, moresco songs were composed in Portuguese and were popular only among the Portuguese and their descendants. Little is known about this period but a keroncong expert from Maluku, claimed that along the Ciliwung river and behind the walls of Dutch settlements, keroncong music was frequently heard. Some of the Portuguese moresco songs we know today are ‘Nina Bobo’ (a cradle song), ‘Bastiana’, ‘Moresco’ and ‘Prounga’. Although these songs achieved popularity between 1830 and 1870, the Malay influence was becoming more prominent, signifying the start of the second period. The lyrics changed from Portuguese to bahasa Melayu. During this time, the famous song ‘Terang Bulan’ (bright moon) was popular and became the national song of Malaysia. Although it may not be the national anthem of this country, it is still widely recognised as the ‘song’ of Malaysia to this day.
During the third period, after 1870, moresco melodies became keroncong songs with an even stronger local accent, and turned into urban music. This period is also known as the ‘Mahieu period’. In the late 19th century, Auguste Mahieu, an actor of Indo-Dutch descent born in Surabaya, popularised keroncong through theatre. Keroncong songs were often associated with lower class rogues and gangs called buaya (crocodile) or jago (rooster). These were known to be macho-men or hooligans who seduced innocent girls with their music. The songs are about love, yearning, sadness and the beauty of the countryside. Steadily plucked arpeggios provide the harmonic backdrop, while the flute flips up and down the scales in free improvisational flight. This music, originally the domain of unsavoury elements, eventually became assimilated into the respectable segments of society. Indonesia’s first president, Soekarno was an ardent supporter and listener of keroncong music. Other wellknown songs are ‘Keroncong Muritsku’ and Gesang’s ‘Bengawan Solo’ (Solo river).
Although the instruments and the singing style are clearly descended from European origins, the chord progression takes the Western ear by surprise and provides an unsettling, ethereal flavor to the songs. The langgam jawa, a regional variant, has a more pronounced local character with its use of Javanese gamelan scales. The development and adaptation of keroncongto local culture in the last century, made Indonesia rightfully claim keroncong music as an important element on the Indonesian music scene.When a traveler visiting Java, in Central Java or in Jakarta, sometimes he / she hears a music with special beat , it's so melodious, romantic. The music instruments are western but played in a special way which can not be found in any other part of the world. One of the famous song is Bengawan Solo (River Solo), composed by Solonese senior artist Mr. GESANG. Bengawan Solo is not heard only in Solo or Indonesia, but its popularity has crossed the border to other countries of South East Asia & Japan . This is " The classic" of Kroncong music . Nowadays , Kroncong still has its valuable place in the world of music entertainment performed in front of the audience, in the television & radio. The origin of Kroncong MusicThis music had been first played around the year 1600 AP . Some people say that it was a modification or influenced by portuquese music.
Mr. Andjar Any, the president of Hamkri (Association of Indonesia Kroncong Artists) Solo branch, categorically says that Kroncong music is purely Indonesian. The 61 year-old artist, a journalist strongly supports his theory. In his profession he has traveled around the world and he did not found any music similar to Kroncong even in Portugal or its ex colony. It is a probability, that our people saw the European played their music with western music instruments hundreds years ago in the old days, the Kroncong had its root in Jakarta with its Kroncong Tugu (Tugu is a village in the coast of Jakarta) & Central Java. He had composed more than 2000 songs, among other the famous Yen ing Tawang ana lintang (If there are stars in the sky), known by almost Javanese people, as it is in Javanese language. Many of his songs have been sung also in English & Mandarin. Although he has not been asked for approval, he does not mind, he is happy if others could enjoy his composition. The present Kroncong In the development, it is quite understandable if Kroncong has a deep root in Yogyakarta & Central Java, it can live in harmony side by side with Javanese gamelan music. In fact Kroncong & Gamelan , they have similarity in their rules of composition.
Kroncong music has push highly some stars of Kroncong such as :
Senior singers of Solo & Yogya, Mrs. Surip with her sparkling ball eyes, Mrs Any Landau, Sapari , S. Darmanto, Ismanto, Bram Aceh and from the younger generation such as Waljinah with her song " Walang Kekek", Mini Satria, Sundari Sukoco, Wiwiek Sumbogo, Mus Mulyadi etc. Keroncong music sometimes mixed with other instruments & beats. The compursari music : combining Kroncong & gamelan music instruments innovated by a senior artist , MR, MANTHOUS of Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta, is now very popular. The Kroncong songs are also sometimes played with REGGAE or DANGDUT beats. According to Andjar Any , this development is not destructive, it is a process, it is a proof that kroncong has a place in the heart of Indonesian society.