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.

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