09 July 2007
Dara Puspita - Titik Hamzah
Lambertus, hey man how are you? I hope all is well in Surabaya.
Did you ever see this interview about the Indonesian 1960's scene on a Japanese web page of Indonesia Pops? http://www.geocities.jp/a104gs/indonesia.sixties.html
Well, I have arranged to have it translated to English as I know that many people will be excited to read it! Here it is fully translated by my associate here in Seattle, Hiro Yamada c/o Sublime Frequencies and he did an amazing job at translating the text from Japanese. It shines a light on so many things from that historical period, especially Dara Puspita!
Seattle WA. USA
An interview about Indonesian 60's Beat/ Garage Scene
One day I got an email written in English. "Thank you for a wonderful homepage and the images. 40 years ago was recalled. Ernie Djohan, Rita Chao, Sakura, and Naomi And The Boys are my favorite singers." Mysteriously, it was an email through a Japanese provider I was using at that time even though it was written in English. I thought that email was from a Singaporean living in Japan and emailed him back in my poor English.
Then I got another email from him, which was written in Japanese. In that email he said "I was an overseas Chinese who used to live in Indonesia and was naturalized in Japan. I live in Yokohama now." The most surprising and enviable fact written in the mail was that he had been to Rita Chao's concert before leaving Indonesia! For me there was no way not to ask him everything he might know. Because I didn't believe that I would have another opportunity to ask about the Indonesian music scene in the 1960's, I immediately decided to ask him what he would know about the Indonesian beat/garage scene in the 1960's.
This interview was done by exchanging emails. Mr. Anthena Leo once wrote me "It is easy for me to talk more than writing," but he patiently answered my questions. I really appreciate his patience. In this interview, I am especially proud to be able to have his detailed description about Titik Hamzah, a former member of Dara Puspita. It can be a very important material which only Mt. Anthena Leo, who had known Titik Hamzah personally, can describe.
Q: Please give us a brief self introduction in the range you may open to the public.
A: The handle name is Anthena Leo (This is a pen name that has been used since high school student's time). I was born on July 8th, 19XX. I think I would be described that I am a 2 kids' foolish father who believes he is in his youth even though the turning point of the life has passed. I lived in Indonesia until December, 1974.
Q: What was the first record you had bought?
A: It was an EP of the title "Xhin Dao Hua Chiang" of Sakura & Rita Chao (I realized they were from Singapore later). As for LP, I bought an album of two singers named Ervinna, who is from Surabaya in Indonesa, and named Lam Mei Yu, who won the Hong Kong music contest.
Q: Please tell me your favorite artists in the 60's.
A: Rita Chao, Sakura, Titiek Puspa, Ernie Djohan, Tetty Kadi, Chang Siao Ying (It is a little different from my other "favorites" in reality, but I kind of like it because there were many of her EPs and LPs at home), Naomi &The Boys, Yao Su Yong, Dara Puspita, Diah Iskandar (The Connie Francis of Indonesia), Aneke Gronloh (a singer from Indonesia, who made her debut in the Netherlands. For some reasons, she was very popular in Singapore. Even some of Dick Lee's family are also her fans), and Lulu, etc.
When it comes to male singers, I like Ling Xiao, Ling Chen, Ching San, Koes Bersaudara (whose name was changed to "Koes Plus" after some member changes), CCR, Engelbert Humperdink, Tommy James & The Shondells, Percy Sledge, Uriah Heep, Eddie Pergina and Victor Wood (both from the Philippines), and The Cats from the Netherlands.
Q: Please tell me the names of artists who were very popular in Indonesia in the 60's. (Including artists from Europe and America)
A: When it is a singer from Indonesia, Titiek Puspa was very popular. (She is a singer and songwriter from the 60's and actually she is still popular. I guess she is like Ms. Miyuki Nakajima in Japan...). Lilies Suryani, Ernie Djohan, and Tetty Kadi were also really popular.
Titiek Sandhora gained power about at the end of 1960's, and her distinctive vocal style was very popular then. (The popularity of Lilies, Ernie Djohan, and Tetty Kadi was to the decline a little.)
Oh, and Dara Puspita! They are a band consisting of 4 women who dressed like the Beatles and performed the works of Titiek Puspa often. Because their style was referred to as "A Go-Go" or "Twist" it was considerably unusual then, they hit the top seat and became pop icons among young people in the blink of an eye at that time. In 1966, they had performed in Bangkok (Thailand) before they made their debut in Indonesia, and you can listen to some works based on their memories of Bangkok in their first and second albums(*1).
(*1:) "Pantai Pataya" (know as Pathaya beach in Japanese) and "Pusdi" (name of a Thai aunt who takes care of in daily life) are on the first album. "Puyaili" (the folk song of Thailand) was sung in Thai on the second album.
Dara Puspita started on a journey to perform in Europe immediately after they released their 4th album(*2) (July, 1968). They kept touring in many countries such as Iran in the Middle East, West Germany, Turkey, Hungary and other countries for 1 year and 3 months. Until they came back to Indonesia in October, 1969, they performed 250 concerts held in 70 cities total.
(*2):This last (the fourth piece) original album was put on the market from the recording label named El Shinta on a 10-inch record (it included 8 songs) although the former three albums were all 12 inch records (Each has 12 songs) from the recording label named Mesra.
Titiek Hamzah said "This was an act of betrayal to Mesra who had been supporting them up to then. However, I really wanted a new environment. Especially, it was the biggest reason for me to do such an act that El Shinta was supported by younger generations. I wanted to test our power in a new environment."
Collin Johnson, who was an initial manager of the Beatles, just appeared in front of them in those days. At Collin's request, they went to Britain at once and debuted with "Welcome To My House/I Believe In Love," but it did not become a hit. 2nd EP ""Ba Da Ba Dum/Dream Stealer" did not become a hit, either.
Drummer Susy Nander looks back at that time, saying "No one will be sure to buy the record of the unnamed female band like us". (By the way, Susy, who had an overseas Chinese father and Dutch mother, was the most popular even though her vocal skill was the worst...)
In concerts held in Britain, they mostly performed as an opening act for top groups such as Uriah Heep and Shocking Blue. They also toured to France, Belgium, Spain, and the Netherlands. They were very welcomed in the Netherlands. Everyone seems to have cried when they performed a song "Surabaja" from their first album.
(It could be because Indonesia was a colony in the Netherlands for 360 years.) One single phonograph record put on the market in the Netherlands included an English version of "Sjurabaja" as A-side and "Cabaleuro" as B-side, which were the most popular at their concert.
Afterwards, they returned home to Indonesia, the triumphant return performance of the stadium class was done, and their popularity faced its peak. I still remember that in the concert, Titik Hamzah who was the bassist and the chairperson said honestly "We debuted in foreign countries, but we failed..." while talking about the story of life in foreign countries. When I heard her sincere comment toward her experience, I felt like assisting them more and more.
Later, Titik Hamzah told me that dissolution already seems to have come out in Dara Puspita before they returned to Indonesia even though it was made secret. Actually, the idea of dissolution was from her, Titik Hamzah, who was the most talented of the four. While the other 3 members said "Let's continue because we are still popular," Titik insisted "It is boring to keep playing songs by others. We should dissolve our band while we are popular."
Finally, as a result of the fact that the other 3 members couldn't persuade Titik, dissolution was announced from their mouths on the final day of their triumphant return concert. Even though there had been a rumor of dissolution, the impact was still huge and all of the fans felt sad when we heard it.
After years, Titik Hamzah, formed a reunion band with the original drummer Susy Nander, a new bassist Judith Manopo and a keybordist Dora Sahertian.(I believe they released an album with these members - "Darpus Minplus"). Neither Titik A.R nor Lies A.R participated in this reunion because they had already married.
Titik Hamzah, who had never forgotten to sing, returned to the scene later. She released 2 albums with drummer Susy Nander until it dissolved. The sound of this newborn Dara Puspita by Titik and Susy was different from the original Dara Puspita. In these records, they tried to play various genres of music together.
"There was no will to make hit-songs then. I just wanted to show my zeal to music." said Titik Hamzah afterwords.
The road she had walked through exactly proved that word. In 1981, She offered a song titled "Siksa (It tears)" to the 12th World Songs Festival. The singer was Euis Darliah and Hetty Koes Endang.
Moreover, she debuted again as a solo singer in 1982. Also, she became to be paid attention to again through her works to be offered to other singers.
In 1983, her work "Sayang" won 3rd place by Festival International De La Cancion Vina Del Mar Di Cile and the singer Hetty Koes Endang won the best singing prize. In 1987, she formed a band named "Adarapta" with three famous female rock singers (Titik D.J., Atik C.B., and Endah) and released the cover album of Dara Puspita.
By the way, the original 4 albums of Dara Puspita were released only in record format not even in cassette format. There have been no re-issued versions so far. According to Titik Hamzah, once, the father of Titik A.R. and Lies A.R. tried to reissue them as cassettes, but it didn't go well (or Titik Hamzah refused) because there were a bunch of problems related to copyright.
Therefore, it is very difficult to obtain Dara Puspita's 4 original LPs currently. (Fortunately, I have all of them.)
Thanks to Titik Hamzah.