Kelompok Kampungan - Mencari Tuhan. 1980 Indonesia

When I first announced the reissue for this album, my initial response after hearing the samples were: "This is a super rare artifact from Indonesia, a country that continues to unearth albums that few knew existed. As soon as I saw the magic word "Paebiru", I wanted to hear it. After hearing some samples, it's certainly on the folk side of the Cortes and Remalho masterpiece, but I can definitely understand the comparison. And I'm always up for hearing albums that make their own instruments! I think this title will be well received by many."

The story that emerges, both from the historical essay and from a musical perspective, is that Kelompok Kampungan are operating in similar territory to that of the German politrock or Swedish progg movements. While there's not much in the way of rock music here, Kelompok Kampungan focuses on indigenous acoustic stringed instruments and percussion to bring forth their civil unrest. The album opens with a lengthy speech from Indonesia's first president Sukarno (aka Soekarno), no doubt raising the ire of the (then) current Suharto regime. And, as such, the band found it difficult to operate within Indonesia during this era. Obviously the music is lyric heavy, and its message will be lost on most of us - but the voice inflections are interesting, and the music is appropriately progressive in the same manner that any culture's native music can be. So if the idea of a creative and progressive Indonesian protest music sounds appealing, then most assuredly Kelompok Kampungan will fulfill that order.  I quite enjoyed it myself - a departure from my usual listening regimen. Strawberry Rain is to be commended for continuing to reissue such interesting albums from all corners of the world.

As we learn from the liner notes below, I find it ironic that Kelompok Kampungan means "Village People". Those expecting to see non-traditional and well chiseled men in various forms of costume, playing insipid disco music will most assuredly be very disappointed with Kelompok Kampungan...

As with Abbhama, the liner notes for "Mencari Tuhan" are available to the public from Denny Sakrie (and I encourage you all to follow the link for more photos that are not part of the reissue). I will reprint those here, with all credits and thanks to Mr. Sakrie: "Kelompok Kampungan (“Village People”)  emerged as one of the ethnical folk rock fusion group of the mid 70’s through early 80’s.They’re came  from Yogyakarta,Central of Java,Indonesia. This eclectical group who makes bewitching music was formed by Bram Makahekum an alumnus of WS Rendra’s Bengkel Theater,an Indonesia  famous theatrical group in the mid of 70’s.They present  once again the richness and important characteristics of Indonesa ethnical music which develop in the Indonesian archipelago and was enriched by a number of breakthrough from folk,jazz,classical even rock essence.Kelompok Kampungan played their original music stuff with acoustic instruments.At the time ,this was seen as a means of creativity, I called it a new direction for folk meets ethnic music and as a way of attracting the kinds of large audiences enjoyed by rock musicians.

The original members of  Kelompok Kampungan  were Bram Makahekum (lead vocalist,acoustic guitar,songwriter),Edi Haryono (Java percussions  ,Arabian percussions) ,Agus Murtono (violin,Bali percussions,cabassa),Rudra  Setiabudi (Flute,oboe,guitars,Java percussion ),Agus Salim (cello,Java Gamelans),Kelik (acoustic guitar,Java Percussions),Joko Surendro (violins,guitar,Java Gamelan) ,Areng Widodo (bass electric,Java Gamelan),Doddy Precil (Back up vocals,percussions),Sawung Jabo (vocalist,acoustic guitar,percussions) ,Innisisri (Bali drums,Drums Kit,percussions),Bujel (flute,gong).Bram Makahekum was also leader of the band and Agus Murtono was a music director.With only Bram Makahekum remaining in place throughout  the band’s life pan.
Bram Makahekum ,Sawung Jabo,and Edi Haryono all had experience playing music score for Bengkel Theater,a group of  theater led by artist WS Rendra,with Java Gamelan orchestration called Nyai Pilis.Innisisri have experienced with various rock group like The Lheps,Spider,Amudas and many others.Areng Widodo was bass player from a rock band called Golden Wings. And the others came from Akademi Musik Indonesia (Indonesia Music Academy) alumnus.

The embryo of  Kelompok Kampungan  started out in the mid of 1970s that supported Bengkel Theater play ’s performing.Bram Makahekum  was the center of the stage with  the blending of singing and poetry reading.His voices was expressive and distinctive.

In 1977 Bram Makahekum with his friends officially formed Kelompok Kampungan as a musical groups.Kelompok Kampungan for the first time played Bram Makahekum song titled “Mencari Tuhan” (In Search Of God) at Taman Ismail Marzuki Jakarta in the same  year .The audiences like their their musical concept.Kelompok Kampungan were unsurpassed  in their eclecticism,willing to borrow from folk,blues,jazz,classical  and Indonesia ethnical.Unexpectedly peoples likes their simple songs with protest lyrics.But the New Under regime under Soeharto administration banned Kelompok Kampungan music in several concerts .

Sadly,they  can’t do anything with their music.The government also banned their first recording  “Mencari Tuhan” (Akurama Records,1980). Their one and only album featured  9 tracks like  “Bung Karno” (with the excerpts of  Soekarno’s monumental  speech in 1964 ) ,”Ratna”,”Mereka Mencari Tuhan”,”Catatan Perjalanan”,”Hidup Ini Seperti Drama”,”Berkata Indonesia Dari Yogyakarta”,”Wanita”,”Terlepas Dari Frustrasi” dan “Aku Mendengar Suara”.All songs composition was written by Bram Makahekum with the assistance of Sawung Jabo,Edi Haryono and Areng Widodo.

Nowadays, Bram Makahekum (now 60 year old) still involve in music creativity.Sawung Jabo continuing his  music passionate in several bands like Sirkus Barock , Kantata Barock and Genggong,Rudra  Setiabudi has a career as sound engineer in Aqurius Recording studio,Areng Widodo still writing music especially for television music scoring,Agus Murtono was joined in some famous orchestra  in Jakarta and Yogyakarta and Innisisri was passed away in September 30,2009.Before he died,the brilliantly drummer  was being in a several idealism band like Kantata Takwa,Swami,Dalbo and Kahanan.

No doubt,Surely ”Mencari Tuhan” was a masterpiece  from  Kelompok Kampungan.It’s kinda  east meets west music with natural touched.It’s the early years of Indonesia world  music. Enjoy their music !

Denny Sakrie"

Personal Collection
CD: 2013 Strawberry Rain (Canada)

A very scarce album in original form - LPs in general are not common in Indonesia - and a copy in great condition will be expensive. The CD was my first exposure to the group. It's housed in a fine mini-LP jacket, and comes with full liner notes in English, with some additional photos. The LP replicates the single sleeve, and comes with a nice insert with the same history as the CD.

Pascal Languirand - Minos + De Harmonia Universalia + Vivre Ici Maintenant. 1978-81 Canada

Minos: Pascal Languirand is sort of the Richard Pinhas of Quebec. A one man show of dark electronics (primarily Moog) and searing electric guitar. He's a bit more cosmic than Heldon, which calls to mind Klaus Schulze. And he often uses wordless voice that reminds me of Franco Falsini (Sensations' Fix). Side 2 opens with a tripped out folk number in French that I find highly appealing in this setting. The album closes as it starts with a Heldon like psychedelic guitar electronic piece.

De Harmonia Universalia: The sophomore effort is quite similar to Minos, but a bit less foreboding and more cosmic than its predecessor, with no drop-off in overall quality. Areas where electric guitar once dominated, have now been replaced with the softer tones of the synthesizers. Again, celestial synthesized voices augment the cosmic proceedings. Sequencers also take center stage here. Mid 70s Klaus Schulze emerges as the dominant influence this go round.

Vivre Ici Maintenant: The trio of classic Languirand albums is completed by "Vivre Ici Maintenant" and again, perhaps surprisingly, there is no noticeable decline in the quality. Here, Languirand takes us a bit further to the East while adding some acoustic percussive elements. The sequencers and cosmic electronics are still ever present. And Languirand even adds a bit of Ashra styled echoed electric guitar to the stew, making this one perhaps a tad better than the previous album.

Apparently Languirand carried on with three more releases starting in 1991 with the last one wrapping up in 2002. I haven't found much compelling evidence that these are worth seeking out, but I'll keep an open mind all the same.

Personal collection
LP (Minos): 1978 Kebec Disc
LP (De Harmonia Universalia): 1980 Minos
LP (Vivre Ici Maintenant): 1981 Minos

The debut features a very nice silver embossed cover of a bull's head (Minos' bull of Greek mythology). De Harmonia Universalia had two LP releases, one on Polydor, and the other on Languirand's own Minos label. The Polydor issue is actually known as De Harmonia Universalia - Minos, and it finally becomes clear to me that this subtitle has created confusion in the modern marketplace. RYM lists this as a compilation from 1993, indicating it's a reissue of the first two albums. But that's simply not the case*. The last album was only released on the private Minos label, and the cover makes Languirand look ridiculous with his newly appointed gold tinted hair. All the LPs are single sleeves with no extras.

---*As reader Bas suggests, there is a compilation of the first two albums after all from 1993 (last scan), but different from the photo on RYM (which is assuredly the 1980 French press of De Harmonia Universalia). The compilation contains all but one track of De Harmonia Universalia, but only two songs (~18 minutes) of Minos. It appears that one track ('Lunar Bass One') is a bonus not on any of his other works. So unfortunately, these remain completely unreissued as far as I'm concerned.

Tomsix - Soundbones. 1974-1979 USA (archival)

When I created the Midwest Progressive Rock list for RYM, one of my secret hopes was that I would receive recommendations for something similar. I knew I would get suggestions of albums that were on the fringe - or worse just anything that was from the Midwest (and I did of course). But if someone could offer a complete bullseye for the style - a band or album I'd never heard of - well, then, my list would be a complete success. The very first suggestion came in from Tony Coulter, and it was Tomsix. An absolute diamond in the rough if there ever was one. An album that's been out almost 20 years and still a complete unknown. I received a great many suggestions afterward - primarily from Tony and our good friend Mark MoeCurly - but Cleveland based Tomsix was the winner of the litter for certain.

Not surprisingly, the earlier you go in the timeline, the more progressive the music becomes. The 1974-75 period is when the band was known as Tarsier (which is arguably a much cooler name than Tomsix, which incidentally was named for the Tomsick trio of brothers that run the band). This era of material is heavily influenced by Yes (a common occurrence in Midwest America) with a smattering of Gentle Giant - and there's gobs of mellotron for fellow fans of the instrument. Starting in 1976, the band switched names to Missing Persons (no relation to Mr. & Ms. Bozzio we presume), and directed their sound even more to the counterpoint rhythms and harmonies commonly found in Gentle Giant. The music is tight, slightly commercial, but still very complex. The absolute definition of the Midwest American progressive sound. Though the liner notes aren't clear about this, it appears the band then went with Tomsix starting in 1978. Not surprisingly, this era of the band finds them at their most commercial, with even a slight funk/disco sound creeping in. I would say at this point, the band sounds most like Supertramp, but more progressive than that may imply. Tomsix never did properly record an album (such a shame too, as the quality of the sound on this compilation is very good). The material is not presented strictly from a chronological perspective, though the progressive tracks are front loaded (demonstrating to me at least, that's where the heart of the band lies).

Personal collection
CD: 1995 Behemoth

Parzival - Legend + Barock. 1971; 1973 Germany

Legend is unique amongst German folk rock albums, in that it's more in line with the English progressive folk rock movement. As such, these albums have long been held in high esteem from worldwide collectors who prefer the UK progressive style and lyrics in English. Only on occasion do Parzival play it straight, and long stretches of instrumental fancy are on display. With flute, violin, acoustic guitar, cello, viola, driving electric bass and drums, and piano, the instrumental palette is rich and the music is at times complex. The one anomaly is Groove Inside, which for me is the highlight of their canon. Imagine an instrumental kosmische Comus caught in a deep groove trance for 16 minutes. It's an amazing piece, and if the album in total was entirely like this, no doubt Parzival could have found themselves on the Ohr label.

For years, I'd thought of Barock as a much more inferior and straightforward folk rock album than its predecessor. On a careful listen, it's obvious that this album too possesses many delightfully odd moments, and some truly excellent progressions. In particular tracks like Black Train, Scarlet Horses, Thought, and Paradise all feature more than enough twists and turns to keep a progressive rock fan happy. The shorter tracks act more as incidental interludes.

On a personal note, of the two band leaders, a one Lothar Siems, is most assuredly a distant cousin of mine. See, my mother's maiden name is Siems, and the family history was for hundreds of years in and around the Bremerhaven area of far northern Germany. Given that Parzival are from Bremen, only a short way south confirms that. Besides, he actually looks like some of my cousins... :-)

Personal collection
LP (Legend): 1971 Telefunken
LP (Barock): 1973 Telefunken
CD (Legend): 1998 EastWest / Telefunken
CD (Barock): 1998 EastWest / Telefunken

My introduction to these fine albums came via the 2 LP Nova compilation set, that contained both albums in full, which I picked up about 20 years ago or so.  I sold that copy when the two CD versions first appeared on the shelves. These are both excellent reproductions with unique photos, liner notes (in German), great sound from the master tapes, and a few short bonus tracks (more of historical interest than musical). As far as originals go, the LP of Legend is stored in a magnificent gatefold cover. It's something I had on my personal want list for years, and I finally paid good money for a copy from a trustworthy Austrian dealer a few years ago. In December of 2017 I picked up the original of Barock for the heck of it.

Simon Jones - Melanie & Me. 1975 Australia

At its core, Simon Jones' soundtrack to the art film Melanie and Me is a fairly straightforward folk rock album. Dual acoustic guitars, male/female vocals, and drums form the basis for most of the material. There's some electric guitar and even some amplified fuzz to open and close the album, that most assuredly will give it street cred with the psych crowd. There are a couple of tracks that are a bit different from the norm, and does make one raise their head in wonderment: 1) 'Nine to Five' features electric organ and piano, and definitely sounds like a track from the American underground of the late 60s. Perhaps best is the jam starting at the 3 minute mark that certainly reminds one of The Doors at their peak. And 2) 'Welcome' is one of those introspective folk numbers complete with melancholic recorder, a sound that presents an imagery of the English countryside.

Personal collection
CD: 2014 Strawberry Rain (Canada)

This is another one of those super rare 100-only press folk related items that have dominated the record collecting scene for some time now. Fortunately Strawberry Rain has come to the rescue for the rest of us and reissued the title in both LP and CD formats. I own the latter, and it comes in a fine digi-pak with original photos and liner notes (i.e. what was on the original LP - no new insights are offered). As always, great care is applied to the sound. An excellent reissue.

Blind Owl - s/t. 1973 Canada

Toronto area based Blind Owl play a quiet, introspective, and melancholic folk music with harmony vocals. The latter definitely recalls Crosby, Stills & Nash. Other than piano and a small bit of percussion and harmonica, this is pretty much acoustic guitars and vocals throughout. Low budget recording adds to the vibe. Nice little obscurity reissued in fine (& legal) form, as is always the case, from Strawberry Rain.

Personal collection
CD: 2013 Strawberry Rain (Canada)

Originals apparently were pressed in a small batch of 100. I haven't actually seen the album for sale, but guessing if one did surface, it would go for an enormous sum. The single sleeve cover simply features the lyrics front and back. The CD reissue comes in a nice digi-pak and 2 bonus tracks. Not much in the way of history is afforded though.

Abbhama - Alam Raya. 1979 Indonesia

I know very little about Indonesian prog rock pre-Discus, other than the outstanding Guruh Gipsy, but Abbhama seems to me the prototype of what to expect. At its core, Abbhama are a pop group with female vocals (oops they're male - they fooled me!) (Ed:  These notes are from when I first heard the album 5 years ago)  - darn near close to a lounge act. Then suddenly, when you least expect it, an obvious progressive rock segment will follow, perhaps something you might hear on a classic Yes or Genesis album. And while Abbhama wear their influences on their collective sleeves, it's all good fun. 

In addition to the Yes influence mentioned, the liner notes also point out Supertramp, which is very perceptive I think. Speaking of the liner notes, they are available online, so I'll publish them here with credits to Mr. Denny Sakrie:

"Abbhama were underrated progressive rock short-lived band from Jakarta Indonesia. If you asked what’s the meaning of Abbhama? The rest of the band  didn’t know the meaning yet. "I don’t know the meaning of Abbhama exactly. The word came suddenly when we prepared to recording our material at Tala & Co studio” said Iwan Madjid, leader of the band. But some says the band name was coined by Iwan Dharsono  the owner of Tala & Co 24 Tracks Studio. And still with no meaning.

Abbhama founded in 1977 by the music  students at Lembaga Pendidikan Kesenian Jakarta (Jakarta Art College).They’re Iwan Madjid (lead vocalist,piano,mellotron,flute ),Darwin B.Rachman (bass,keyboard),Cok Bagus (gitar),Hendro (oboe),Robin Simangunsong (drums),Oni (mini Moog synthesizers,keyboard),Dharma (flute) and Ivan (viola). Mostly the  songs in Abbhama’s one and only album called Alam Raya was written by Iwan Madjid with the lyrics by provided  the lyricist Tubagus Benny. Before Abbhama was formed, Iwan Madjid, a classically trained player  and Tubagus Benny a lyricist with some theater experience  had played together ini Operette Cikini with the  experience to create some rock opera adapted  from Mahabarata epic like “Ramayana” and “Mahabarata” in the mid 70s. When Abbhama formed, the music scene in Indonesia is a change in the trend of music that is the emergence of record albums-style progressive rock such as “Barong’s Band” – Barong’s Band (Nirwana Record, 1976), Titik Api – Harry Roesli (Aktuil Musicollection.1976), Guruh Gipsy – Guruh Gipsy  (Dela Rohita,1977), Giant On The Move – Giant Step (SM Recording, 1976), Putri Mohon Diri – Contrapunk (Pramaqua, 1977) and the film’s soundtrack album Badai Pasti Berlalu (1977) which brought Erros Djarot of Barongs Band, Chrisye of Guruh Gipsy  and Yockie Surjoprajogo from God Bless. Abbhama often appeared in several small performances on campus and arts venues such as the TIM Jakarta around their campus LPKJ in Cikini Raya Street Jakarta. The rest of  band members  love the classics repertoire such as Johann Sebastian Bach and Claude Debussy works.And of course, they were inspired by the works of progressive rock bands in 70s era like King Crimson, Yes, Genesis and Emerson,Lake and Palmer (ELP). Abbhama first appearance in front of an audience in as an opening act for  a Keenan Nasution concert called  Negeriku Cintaku held at Taman Ismail Marzuki, Jakarta November 1978. Keenan Nasution was one of  Guruh Gipsy’s mastermind. With the support of chamber music line up, Abbhama  played one long compositions by Vangelis, entitled Heaven and Hell Part 1 and 2  from Greek lectronic composer  Vangelis .Abbhama  did not played  the songs of their work for fear of the audience won’t recognised their own songs.  In 1979 Tala & Co was released Abbhama debut album titled “Alam Raya” (The Universe). Abbhama music core was based  on a format of eccentric pop songs and complex instrumentals with some pseudo classical flavor. Iwan Madjid has  a god enchantment .He does a very proficient work with the piano and mellotron including flute. And the most impressive fact is the angelic  voice of Iwan Madjid,, something like Jon Anderson (Yes) meets Roger Hodgson (Supertramp). Abbhama  have combined aspects of many musical forms to create a great work.The arrangements are very solid  and  enriched with  folk,classical and rock emphasis. Here listen for  an extremely beautiful folkie acoustic  tune guided by the flute,oboe  and  later viola in a surface of song called  Indonesia. There such a chamber music with easy poppy touches.  Dharma (flute),Hendro (oboe) and Ivan (viola) were presents a dazzling musical harmonization. Abbhama even experimented deliver the kind of order the sound of chamber music through the flute and oboe sounds in instrumental composition called Terlena. In some other songs featuring acoustic guitar and flute harmonization which overshadowed mellotron sound which is reminiscent of the heyday of prog rock music in the late 60s to 70s. One year after releasing their debut album,Abbhama disbanded.Iwan Madjid with bassist Darwin B Rachman  then formed a new band  Wow  with muliti instrumentalist Fariz RM in 1983. In  November 2007 Rolling Stone Indonesia was chosen Alam Raya Abbhama in 100 Greatest Indonesia Albums All Time. Alam Raya was at number 70. If you’re a fan of progressive rock music, then you must listening this rare album from Indonesia. Enjoy this reissue album.

Jakarta  February 5,2014.

Denny Sakrie
Rock Critics and Rolling Stone Indonesia contributor.

Personal collection
CD: 2014 Strawberry Rain (Canada)

Like yesterday's Leong Lau entry, Abbhama is an album I'd never even heard of until about 5 years ago. Like most (all?) Indonesian albums from the 70's, the only existing format is a cassette. The Strawberry Rain CD has just been released and is obviously the best way to own the album (and certainly my only copy). Comes with full liner notes, and utilizes the same digipak cover as the Lau album - this time they have added the lyrics (all in Indonesian). In general Strawberry Rain reissues albums in LP format as well, and I suspect this will be no different. But it's not released as of this writing. BTW, the historical notes do clarify the album was released in 1979, thus correcting the standard 1978 date appended on all current websites. The second photo is the CD cover, and is a bit different than the scans on the internet. As you can see from the photo of the original cassette, the cover we were used to seeing was the middle part of the cassette cover fold.

Leong Lau - Dragon Man. 1976 Australia

Here are my original CDRWL scribblings: Cover is a bit misleading, showing head honcho Lau holding up a saxophone, which would indicate a honk fest. In contrast, this is a deep psychedelic funk album, with lots of wah wah guitar, phased/echoed sax, flute, heavy bass & drums with plenty of  ranting from Lau, channeling his best Frankie Dymon imitation. Picking up a strong Hendrix influence as well. Considered by many to be one of the most expensive albums from Australia, and it's easy to see why. Super album.

An ebay auction included a full history, which I'll paste here (credits and thanks go to the author): "Born in Malaysia of Chinese ancestry, Leong Lau studied Chinese Opera and played flute with the Chinese Community Orchestra.  He joined the Sydney Dance Company in 1969 as a dancer and was trained in ballet, modern and improvisational dance.  After five years, he entered the Sydney Conservatorium of Music where he trained in professional music performance and composition, and then played concert flute with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Leong Lau has remained somewhat of an anomaly in the record collecting scene. “Dragon Man” is a fantastic LP loaded with wah-wah guitar, fuzz solos, flute solos & wild vocals.  An artist with a sound that's as wild as his look on the cover – a definite individual from the Australian underground of the 1970’s – serving up some incredibly offbeat vocals alongside a range of his own  instrumentation on guitar, alto, tenor, and flute!  The album has some nice heavy bass at times, which creates a raw funky edge that's a real surprise – not straight funk, but kind of a psych-funk groove that really fits with the rawer bluesy energy that Leong Lau is trying to convey in his music.  A very compelling fusion of sounds from many different corners – with titles that include the long jammer “Deep In The Jungle”, the funky flute workout “Dragon Man”, and the tracks “Soul Baby”, “The Atlas Revolution”, and “Rhythm Pounding”"

Worth noting that Lau's second album That Rongeng Sound, while no less rare, is quite a disappointment when compared to the monster Dragon Man album.

Personal collection
LP: 2014 Strawberry Rain (Canada)
CD: 2014 Strawberry Rain (Canada)

A very rare album in original form, Leong Lau's debut is an album I never even heard of until 2010. After one listen, it became the CDRWL's best discovery of that year! And two years later, Strawberry Rain announced their intention of reissuing the album on both LP and CD. The LP came out earlier this year, and the CD is literally right off the press! The original comes in a single sleeve with a small poster insert including lyrics and recording info. The LP reissue is exact including the poster, though I suspect the cover is thicker and more durable than the original, but I can't validate that. The CD comes in a digi-pak where the top folds out replicating the poster insert. Nice idea! The CD also adds a rare 45 from 1977 as a bonus. The sound on both formats is excellent and they come highly recommended.

Skywhale - The World at Mind's End. 1977 England

Skywhale's sole album is one of the rare non-Canterbury UK fusion albums that sound more in line with what was happening over the Chan...