Archive for the ‘Central Java’ Category

Superheroes Convert to Islam

July 19, 2010

Superhero Sholat

A number of the world’s superheroes, have converted to Islam. So far, Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Captain America, Daredevil, Wolverine, Cyclops, The Flash, The Thing, The Incredible Hulk and Robocop have been identified among the converts. The Indonesian superheroes Gundala, Gatotkaca and “Si Buta dari Gua Hantu” have joined the lineup.
This painting, found in a noodle shop / art gallery in Yogyakarta, Central Java, provides convincing evidence. Perhaps this initiative came while the group was taking R&R from their covert activities on behalf of the US Government in Afghanistan. Clearly tired and distressed from the effects of 9 years of everwar, they were open to conversion to the gentler form of Islam practiced in Java.
Proof that these events occurred in Java can be found in the architectural style of the mosque where they are praying and in the clothes which their imam is wearing. Some have said that the imam is Sunan Kalijaga himself, but this is impossible as he passed away in the 15th century, long before the technology for Robocop existed.
If you happen to like this style of painting, and would like a similar one made to your own specifications, leave a comment and we can arrange a quote.

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Campur Sari: Traditional Style

June 23, 2010

I’ve featured a few campur sari clips in the past couple of weeks.  The first was quite accessable, but with clear elements of Javanese traditional music, the second increased the weirdness level significantly. 

In this clip the style is far more traditional.  Although even this one is a bit more up tempo than is normal for the Javanese gamelan.  It’s also unusual for the singer to crack a smile, in this performance she can’t stop laughing as she forgets the words.  Luckily her colleague is more than happy to help her out.  The performers are wearing traditional Javanese costumes, the ladies wearing kebayas (a kind of tight-fitting blouse).  Their hair styles are also typical, although not as ornate as you might see.

The song is about a type of tree which has heart-shaped leaves and a girl who has many suitors but only loves one man.  I think you would have to be Javanese to get the point of that.  Anyhow, it’s interesting because its in the form of a parikan – a nursery rhyme, the whole of each word of a verse rhymes with the whole of each word of the next verse.  That would be a challenge if you tried it in English.  Do you know of any English poems or songs that have that form?

Campur Sari: Nyidam Sari Sung by a Girl!

June 15, 2010

This song is part of the campur sari genre, but you’ll find that it contains many more elements of traditional Javanese music (compared with the Didi Kempot song I wrote about last week).  The most obvious is the way the music slows down, stalls and stops for a little while before it picks up again.  I don’t know the purpose of this, it happens several times during this performance.  Maybe it’s to create interest?

Anyhow, I think the performance itself is quite good considering it is probably the singer’s debut.  If you listen carefully, right at the beginning, the boss in the white shirt tells her to smile (“ayo kasih senyum!”).  Later, the backing vocalist/flautist also tells her to smile and then to dance when the percussion picks up.  She doesn’t waste any time scurrying back even before she finishes her song and sits down in her place among the other female singers before the music stops .  Must be scared, poor thing. 

The unusual thing about the performance of this song, Nyidam Sari, is that it’s being sung by a girl.  It’s very unusual for a Javanese girl to sing a song which is written for a guy. 

Umpomo sliramu sekar melati

aku kumbang Nyidam Sari

Umpomo sliramu margi

wong manis, aku kang bakal nglewati.

Which means:

If you are a jasmine flower

I’m the bee longing for nectar

if you are a road

pretty girl, I will pass through it.

Here is a more typical version of this song:

Very Javanese, this version.  The singer and the girl are wearing traditional Javanese dress.  She’s very demure.  Notice the furniture and the style of the architecture?  So Javanese.  But you would hardly guess it was the same song.

The other interesting thing about the first clip, for me, is that it was taken at a wedding reception.  You can see the guests arriving and being greeted, maybe by the groom.  Notice how he touches his chest after shaking hands?  It’s customary.  You don’t need to turn up at the right time if you’re invited to a wedding, the important thing is just to show your face.  Once you’ve been greeted, you’re free to go anywhere, but the best policy is to head straight for the food.  Indonesians don’t hold back at buffets, you really need to dive in if you want the best dishes before they’re gone.  That’s my experience, anyhow.

After getting their food, you can see the crowd segregates.  The bapaks (men) go to watch the singer while the ibu (mums) settle down with the food and the kids.  In fact this crowd is spoilt because it’s quite unusual to have more than just food at a wedding reception.  They seldom put on any entertainment.  It’s quite a mixed blessing to be invited to a Javanese wedding.  On one hand, they will be disappointed if you don’t show up.  On the other, there will be no alcohol or dancing, musical entertainment (such as you see in the  clip) is rare.  It’s a bit like a Methodist wedding.

Music: Campur Sari! Didi Kempot

June 8, 2010

Campur sari is Javanese pop music.  While dangdut has some traditional themes, campur sari has more of it and is less influenced by Middle Eastern music.  It also seems to me a bit more laid back than dangdut.

Didi Kempot started his career as a busker and was discovered.  A true rags to riches story.

As you can see from the subtitles, the song is about a guy who’s girl has to leave him at this Balapan Station, Solo.  You don’t get more Javanese than Solo.   Anyhow, you can read the lyrics for yourself.  Feel free to sing along.

Here’s a remix version.  I prefer the dancers in this one:

Girl Tricked into Marriage with Lesbian

June 4, 2010

Here’s something that would never happen in the West these days.  I’m astounded that it even happened in Indonesia.

Here’s how the story goes.  Siti, the victim, received an apparently random phone call one day from a mystery man, Agustine (Agus).  A relationship blossomed and after eight months her family began to make arrangements for them to get married.  (in Javanese culture, the man joins his wife’s family). 

The tent and chairs were being set up for the reception at Siti’s house when a visitor arrived.  It was someone coming to collect a debt from the family.  It was someone who knew Agus when he was Martini, a girl.  He quickly spilled the beans and the wedding was off.

These events happened in Blora, Central Java.  In the clip, you can see Martini’s sister weeping on the ground in deep shame that’s been brought on her family.  Then we see Martini in her prison cell, she’s holding the penis which she made from t-shirt cloth to fool Siti into believing she was a male.  Next we see Siti, she’s ashamed not only by the situation but also because the police decided to check whether she had been seduced.  They decided not, but the examination must have been traumatic for her, on top of everything else.

We don’t know what happened to Agus/Martini in the end.  If she goes back to Blora, Siti’s family will not be too happy.  I’m not sure what crime she would be charged with, perhaps she’s in the prison more for her own protection than anything else.