I share some music by a singer songwriter from Indonesia tonight. The singer is named Iwan Fals, a child of the 70’s and one of that large country’s biggest pop stars. A founder and lead vocal of several pop groups dating back to the early 70’s, Iwan is an accomplished guitarist and charismatic singer. His break-out hit came in 1981and told the story of a poorly paid school teacher who is expected to deliver quality education for future leaders and the elite. It hit a chord across the country and shot the handsome young man to the stars. He was courted as a protest singer and heartthrob all at once. Something akin to an Indonesian Bruce Springsteen wearing his heart on his sleeve and calling out for the working man.
He spent some time in jail for his lyrics which questioned the dictatorship of President Suharto and the country’s non-existent democrasi. One of the offending tunes related the story of a street hooker who was married to a man going by the name of Soeharyo (Suharto). Iwan looked beyond Indonesia for material as well finding inspiration in Africa and a tune called Ethiopia.
Though he has played in a number of styles his preferred and most powerful work is what is termed ‘country’ in Indonesia and which is essentially him alone with a guitar. Sometimes acoustic, sometimes not.
I picked this collection up in a dusty store in Dili, Timor Leste in August. It was the sales girl’s choice. And it is good stuff. Iwan Fals, is about the closest thing you’re going to get to a SE Asian Dylan. His singing is full of emotion, and his troubadoring harp playing and guitar strumming, sharp.
I thank my old friend and colleague Romy for translating the tracklist for tonight’s selection.
01 - Dongeng Sebelum Tidur (A Bedtime Story)
02 – Frustasi (Frustration)
03 - Belum Ada Judul (There is no title)
04 – Imitasi (Imitation)
05 - Ya Atau Tidak (Yes or No)
06 - Satu Satu (Step by Step)
07 - Besar Dan Kecil (Big and Small)
08 - Coretan Dinding (Writing on the Wall)
09 - Kisah Sepeda Motor (The Motorbike Story)
10 - Joni Kesiangan
11 – Potret (Portrait)
12 - Mereka Ada Dijalan (They are on the Street)
13 - Mencetak Sawah (Creating the Paddy Field)
14 - Aku Disini (I am Here)
15 - Lagu Cinta (Love Song)
16 - Menunggu Ditimbang Malah Muntah (Waiting to be considered, but vomiting) 17 – Ikrar (Promise)
18 - Panggilan Dari Gunung (The call from the Mountain)
19 - Di Mata Air Tidak Ada Air Mata (There are no tears in the fountain)
20 - Kisah Sepeda Motorku (The Story About my Motorbike)