A Brief History of Indonesian AOR, City Pop and Boogie

It’s impossible to separate the seismic social shifts in post-independence Indonesia from the “New Order” of Suharto’s rule. The Indonesian government pursued any opportunity for foreign investment; and Indonesia saw a burgeoning capitalist class awash with new money. Foreign capital arrived conjoined with foreign culture: Indonesia’s rapidly growing tourism and entertainment industries quickly adapted to tourists’ taste for disco. Imports formed the bulk of their playlists, but hybridity has always been a key facet of 20th century Indonesian music. 

Taking advantage of new synthesizers and drum machines, Indonesian musicians took cues from Japanese City Pop, European Synth Pop and American Boogie, imbued these influences with rich musical traditions like Gamelan and Keroncong. Munir has compiled “Tanamur City”, a brilliant, expository compilation that spans the years between 1979 and 1991. For his Brief History, Munir drills down on the twin figures of Guruh Soekarno Poetra and Harry Roesli – linchpins of the scenes in Jakarta and Bandung respectively – with an accompanying mix. 

Tanamur City – Indonesian AOR, City Pop, and Boogie – 1979 to 1991 was released by Cultures Of Soul on 22nd December.

“There were two musical, and also cultural, movements in Indonesia: one is from Jakarta and the second is from Bandung.

In Jakarta there was Swara Mahardika, a unique music movement connected to disco/pop culture in Indonesia. Guruh Soekarno Poetra, who was also the founder of this group had a dance class in Swara Mahardirka, which was mostly a crossover between traditional and modern music of Indonesia and influenced by US music.

The second one though, which is from my hometown Bandung, was a charity music movement back in the late 90s. It was established by musician Harry Roesli. Nowadays, all of his music releases are wishlisted by many worldwide DJs because it’s unique music, made around 1970-1990. He established Rumah Music – a compound for street musicians to earn a living by using his platform to make it into the music scene – but now, after covid, it’s hard to survive.”

GSP & Swara Mahardika – Damai

They were a major first in Indonesia’s scene in the 80s and were influenced by Manfredo Fest – Jungle Kitten. Damai means Peace in English. The track was recorded in Singapore which had an impact on the movement since the lyrics are really good for spreading peace around Indonesia.

GSP & Swara Mahardika – Zamrud Khatulistiwa

Indonesia is on the middle of equator and the soil is very rich like diamonds. Its spread movement says they love Indonesia like treasure (diamond on the equator).

Denny Malik – Jakarta Kasmaran

One of the Swara Mahardika member group made this one from gamelan and house music which make a good crossover combination.

Harry Roesli – Kebo Jiro

Traditional song made into Rock music with groovy funk style. It was pioneering for Indonesia’s modern music in the 70s. 

Rumah Musik Harry Roesli – Titik Api (RMHR Version)

Harry Roesli’s street musicians brought new versions of its songs from the original music, made back in the 70s, from the album of the same name. Titik api mean Hotspots or Fire Starter.

Tanamur City – Indonesian AOR, City Pop, and Boogie – 1979 to 1991 was released by Cultures Of Soul on 22nd December.

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