01 June 2007
About Keroncong Tugu
By Victor Ganap
The Jakarta Post, October 01, 2006
The first European historical encounter in Java is believed to have begun when the Portuguese anchored their boats in 1513 at Sunda Kelapa, on their voyage between Malacca and Maluku in search of spices. The Portuguese arrival was welcomed by the Hindu Pajajaran kingdom through the establishment of the Padrao Treaty.
Malacca had been under the control of Portuguese forces since 1511 until 1641, when the Dutch fleet took over.
The Portuguese's sojourn in Southeast Asia has determined the existence of creoles mestizo, and mardijkers (literally tax-exempt) people in Batavia -- the latter Portuguese mercenaries, mostly of Bengali and Coromandel origins, who were taken to Batavia as slaves. After their conversion to the Dutch Reform Church from Roman Catholicism, they were freed from slavery and called mardijkers.
They lived exclusively in Batavia by maintaining the Portuguese cristao spoken language for nearly two centuries, then became gradually disoriented, which led to the dissolution of their entities in 1815. At the turn of the 19th century, this group had eventually disappeared, having assimilated into Batavia's larger urban community.
This article investigates the existence of a Christian Toegoe community today in Tugu village, Cilincing, North Jakarta, which has managed to survive for more than three centuries through their Portuguese Moresco musical heritage.
The Toegoe community is considered to have originated from the mardijkers of Batavia. However, research has found that this community originally descended from a group of Portuguese Goan sailors that escaped from Bandaneira, after Gov. Gen. J.P. Coen imposed ethnic cleansing by the Dutch military on Banda Island during the 1620s.
The Goan sailors made emergency port when their boat was sunk in the bay of Batavia. Under the intervention of Batavia's Portuguese Church (Portugeesche Binnenkerk), in 1661 the Dutch released and sent the sailors to Tugu village along with their families of Bandaneira origin.
These formed the first generation of the Toegoe community, members of which spoke Portuguese cristao and inherited Moresco, a type of Portuguese dance music of Moorish origins that entered then Lusitania (former name of Portugal) in the 8th century.
Moresco dances were once elite entertainment of the Portuguese court, and its music was popular in Lisboa and Coimbra, known as fado ("song of fate"). Fado is believed to have been disseminated to the East by Portuguese sailors during the 16th century.
Isolated from Batavia urban life, the Toegoe community was urgently in need of an "art by destination", which they found in Moresco music. Moresco, in turn, led to the birth of krontjong toegoe, or keroncong tugu.
Portuguese Moresco elements in keroncong tugu is found in its repertoire, musical expression and the organological craftsmanship of the Toegoe craft community.
Portuguese Moresco repertoire was merely a stylistic musical accompaniment to dances, with a quavering rhythmic pattern and chromatic motive (neighboring or nota cambiata) melodies, sung plainly in a nasal voice that imitates a female falsetto.
Portuguese Moresco song as similar to fado is sung in cora‡ao ("from the heart") without ornamentation or vibrato. Its percussive and chordal accompaniments are clearly heard, played by rebana (an adaptation of the Portuguese pandeiro, a type of tambourine) and a five-string guitar based on the Portuguese cavaquinho, and which was developed later by Toegoe craftsmen into three sizes: prounga (large), macina (medium) and jitera (small).
Peregrina‡ao, a 16th-century manuscript on the adventures of Portuguese sailors discloses that more than 10,000 cavaquinho had been dispatched from Portugal and arrived in Morocco and Madeira as braguinha (of Braga origin), in Brazil as machete (a dance musical instrument), in the Caribbean as cuatro (four strings), and in Hawaii as ukulele (played by jumping the fingers).
The cavaquinho was then reproduced in Tugu village and named keroncong. The term itself may have come from the onomatopoeic "crong" -- the typical sound of a keroncong -- or an etymological name drawn from kerincing rebana (sound of jingling), part of a generic percussive ensemble that accompanies Moresco dances.
In later development, keroncong became cuk (first ukulele, or four-string jitera), cak (second ukulele, or three-string prounga) and the five-string macina as an adaptation of the mandolin.
Keroncong Tugu has survived for more than three centuries due to seven factors: its quality as an egalitarian ars nova that did not belong either to Western classical music or to the indigenous gamelan music; regular appearances in Batavia's Pasar Gambir Festival; generating income by producing musical instruments for a distinctive market in Batavia's Passer Baroe; communal support by Batavia's Indies community; a repertoire of Dutch and Malay songs to accommodate urban musical tastes; the Toegoe community's expertise in producing rice in a collective kinship system; and their primordial commitment in preserving the annual Mandi-mandi Festival to end the New Year week, which is still observed by the Tugu community today.
At the turn of the 19th century, Keroncong Tugu developed into "art by acculturation", which was imitated by the Indies community in Batavia, and gave rise to other ars nova styles such as Keroncong Kemayoran by the De Krokodilen group in Kemayoran, Keroncong Lief Java by local Javanese musicians, and Langgam Keroncong in the gelijkgesteld style of the American Tin Pan Alley by eastern Indonesian musicians, before keroncong spread to other cities in Java, including Bandung, Semarang, Yogyakarta, Surakarta and Surabaya.
In 1935, noted keroncong musician Kusbini composed the Krontjong Moresco, an adaptation of the Moresco variant by Manusama, which led to the existing Keroncong Asli. In 1940, another keroncong musician, Gesang, composed Bengawan Solo, a strophic song form which led to the Langgam Keroncong, both of which are now considered Indonesian musical mainstays.
Keroncong Tugu was recorded by UNESCO in 1971, through the Moresco Toegoe ensemble, with their Indies repertoire that included songs such as Schoon ver van jou and Oud Batavia, sung by septuagenarian singers Grandpa Waas and Grandma Christine, accompanied by Jacobus Quiko on violin, Joseph Quiko on first guitar, Frans Abrahams on second guitar, Arends Michiels on cello pizzicato; Samuel Quiko on first ukulele; Marthen Sopaheluwakan on second ukulele; Fernando Quiko on rebana, Elpido Quiko on triangle and Grandpa Waas, who also played the macina.
Since 1989, Keroncong Tugu groups have been invited to perform annually at the Tong Tong Great Night Bazaar Festival in The Haag, the Netherlands.
In 2002, a Keroncong Tugu group participated in the Nusantara Portugal Cultural Festival held in Larantuka, Flores, while this year, a group was invited to perform at the Tempo Portugis Festival held by the Embassy of Portugal in Jakarta.
Apart from these activities, Keroncong Tugu groups also appear on national and foreign television programs, and the genre itself receives the support of the Jakarta government and its urban community.
Just as their ancestors survived through the centuries, the jingling strains of Keroncong Tugu -- with its uniqueness, adaptability, assimilative character and historical relevance -- can be expected to be heard well into the future.
The writer is a faculty member of the music department at the Indonesian Fine Arts Institute (ISI) Yogyakarta. This article is based on his doctoral dissertation completed at Gadjah Mada University