Tuesday, 1 June 2010


Keroncong nights

The upcoming Keroncong Kasih – Menyusur Zaman concert series is a labour of love meant to keep a folk genre alive.

THE traditional Malay music called keroncong can be current and cool — it just awaits a new generation to embrace it.

As a part of initiatives to bring the music to the big stage and simultaneously create awareness, the Petronas Performing Arts Group (PPAG) will be staging a two-night concert series dubbed Keroncong Kasih - Menyusur Zaman at Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (DFP), Kuala Lumpur, June 7-8.

For the uninitiated, keroncong was introduced to the land in the 19th century by immigrants from Java. This strain of folk music gained prominence early on in states like Johor, Selangor and Perak.

Initially, only keroncong from Indonesia were played but later on, the locals became immersed in the music. After WWII, we saw the emergence of local keroncong composers like Tan Sri P. Ramlee, Zubir Said, Ahmad Jaafar, Johar Bahar, Ariff Ahmad, Inom Yon, Ahmad Hashim and Mahzan Manan.

It is believed that the name keroncong is derived from the jingling sound of the kerincing rebana, as heard in the rhythmic background to the music created by the interlocking of instruments playing on or off the beat.

After the introduction of the music by Indonesian immigrants here, the keroncong genre, later in the years, established its own local flavour and characteristics. To make the music more enticing and relevant to a modern day audience, contemporary elements have been added to keroncong performances. With that in mind, PPAG is all set to delight the masses with its own take on the keroncong idiom.

The performances of Keroncong Kasih – Menyusur Zaman will feature renowned songstress Datuk Yusni Hamid. Yusni’s calibre as an evergreen singer with four decades of experience under her belt has made her a good choice for these concerts at DFP.

“When we initially looked at the popular keroncong songs which we are familiar with, we discovered that many of them were Indonesian. We were caught in between performing a keroncong concert featuring popular Indonesian compositions or to focus mainly on Malaysian (compositions),” explained the show’s musical director Ahmad Muriz Che Rose.

“In the end, we decided to feature Malaysian keroncong compositions and also contemporary songs which we re-arranged with a keroncong feel,” he added. “As this is our first ever keroncong concert, we are equally nervous and excited to see how the audience will react to it.

“We know for a fact that keroncong music has its own following, but we are hoping many young fans will turn up as we are having pop-edged keroncong material on the bill,” said concert producer Hartini Abdullah.

She revealed that among the popular songs to be performed in the keroncong style are Anuar Zain’s Mungkin and Aizat’s award-winning Pergi.

How much work was put into these upcoming concerts?

Ahmad Muriz said that his arrangers and musicians started practising for the concert two months ago.

“I took it upon myself to make a new arrangements for Mungkin, Semalam Di Putrajaya and Pergi. So yes, I’m nervous to see the outcome on the night. On top of being the musical director, I will also be playing (in the concerts) too,” he further explained.

Any good concert needs a good setlist with balance and audience connection. Ahmad Muriz reckons he has found it for the DFP concerts.

Among other songs to be performed during the two-night concert series are Alunan Biola, Aku Dan Dia, Bunga Melur, Hujan, Dari Hati Ke Hati, Tinggalah, Sayang Di Sayang, Pahlawanku, Uda Dan Dara, Kini Hatiku Telah Tertawan and Keroncong Untuk Ana.

“After looking at the line-up for the night, I’m confident that the singers will perform their best. We have two hours to entertain on each night, that’s a lot of keroncong.” He also added that having established musician Mahzan Manan to guide and oversee the creation of keroncong music by the 31-piece ensemble gives the musicians another boost.

“Mahzan is an established songwriter and he knows keroncong music. In fact, he’s very passionate about keroncong. And to have him around for our current twice-a-week practice sessions is a great experience.”

Mahzan, 76, was very active in music in the 1980s and he was responsible for several hits back then (Kemana Ku Bawa Diri and Hati Seorang Kekasih) by singer-actress Noorkumalasari and Lagu Anak Desa by the late Datuk Sudirman Hj Arshad.

“We are very lucky to have him. Having a living legend like him watching our every move (playing the instruments in keroncong) is priceless and an invaluable experience,” concluded Ahmad Muriz.

Tickets for the Keroncong Kasih – Menyu­sur Zaman concerts at Dewan Filharmonik Petronas on June 7 and 8 are priced at RM15, RM30, RM59 and RM60, and can be booked at % 03-2051 7007 / fax: 03-2051 7077 / e- mail: dfp_boxoffice@petronas.com.my

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