Aendra Medita, Contributor, Jakarta
Harry Roesli is working hard, disproving that his eclectic music is ""exclusive"" as critics claim.
The chubby long-haired Bandung-based artist has been on a nationwide tour he calls Ziarah Seni, a pilgrimage of art with unique musical performances, to bring himself and his group closer to the public.
The leader of Depot Kreasi Seni Bandung (DKSB) is accompanied by street singers, who have been actively involved in Harry's musical ventures over the last four years.
The street musicians are exploring their originality and innate gifts. ""I'm taking them along to make the atmosphere more intimate,"" said Harry, whose given name is Djauhar Zaharsjah Fahrudin Roesli.
A familiar name in the country, Harry is known as a ""naughty"" musician, as seen in his performances that lampoon sociopolitical conditions. He innovates by presenting his creations in varying formats.
He landed himself in trouble when he jokingly twisted the lyrics of a patriotic song in a performance at the residence of former president Abdurrahman Wahid in Jakarta marking Independence Day on Aug. 17, 2001.
He reaped public criticism and was questioned by police for making fun of the song Garuda Pancasila, a song exalting the state philosophy. He claimed to have derived the lyrics from Bandung's street singers critical of the sociopolitical conditions in the country.
With Aat Suratin, Haviel Hadiman and other artists, he creates experimental pieces, or ""exclusive music"" that few laymen understand.
But it does not faze him. ""Music is for listening not for understanding,"" argues Harry, the husband of Kania and father of twins, Hami and Yala.
Harry has also opened a music school, the Harry Roesli Music Education Institute, beside a cleaning service firm, at his home on Jl. Supratman 57, Bandung. Some of his students are talented street children, who are trained free of charge.
""Life is contemplative as we are engaged in music with those around us,"" he says, adding that the attempt to convey his artistic idealism made his pursuit proceed without burden.
His portly posture has won him affectionate nicknames, such as a member of KGB, a local acronym meaning Bandung Fat Men's Club. But everyone agrees that the ""fat man"" is dynamic and smart.
DKSB drew a large audience at Jakarta's Taman Ismail Marzuki arts center when the group performed recently, Reflections on Five years of Reform, which he said had hardly brought about any results.
""It was a piece of street music that mirrored the views of street children who bear the impact of the crisis,"" he recalls.
Born in Bandung on Sept. 10, 1951, the grandson of one of Indonesia's leading man of letters Marah Roesli has no pretensions, allowing his artistic creations to flow freely.
""I've never thought about what people may think about them, I'm just conveying my works of art. Let the audience judge,"" says Harry.
Harry studied ""unconventional"" music with senior artist Remy Silado and contemporary music with composer Slamet Abdul Syukur.
He also studied music at the Jakarta Art Educational Institute, which is now the Jakarta Art Institute, and followed a scholarship program for percussion musical composition at the Rotterdam Conservatory, Netherlands, besides attending aviation engineering lectures at Bandung's Institute of Technology.
Harry has composed musical pieces for theater groups like novelist Putu Wijaya's Teater Mandiri, Teater Koma (which is performing Opera Kecoa until July 19 at Gedung Kesenian Jakarta), Teater Payung Hitam Bandung, Byakosha of Japan and the National Theater of Austria.
""Creating music for theaters is challenging, forcing me to further explore and access my creative powers,"" he says.
Artist Herry Dim says that Harry's works always offer different colors to Indonesian music. ""Harry has adopted new methods instead of merely following established standards, by creating specific blends in line with relevant themes,"" Herry says.
Various works of Harry Roesli have appeared in local and international festivals in solo and joint performances, such as the Ken Arok Opera, Tusuk Gigi Opera, 24-hour Non-stop Music, compositions to express concern over the ban on Tempo, Detik, Editor magazines in the 1990s, to mention a few.
In addition, Harry has made musical scores for several films, including Kabayan I & II directed by Maman Firmansyah, Cas-Cis-Cus by Putu Wijaya, and Suci Sang Primadona by Arifin C. Noer. His other works have also filled private television programs and commercials for major local and international products. Harry is also a contributor for the Sunday edition of Kompas.
Music is Harry's life-long journey. ""I live in music, and music is my world,"" he says.