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The Jakarta Post
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For the love of Koes Plus

  • P.J. Leo

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Sun, October 17 2010 | 11:10 am
For  the love of Koes Plus

Guitarist/keyboardist Jaru (center), bassist Jim (left) and guitarist Galih (right) of T-Koes band perform at the gathering.

Like many avid music fans, people who cherish the music of Koes Plus are part of a group with a distinct identity.

If the fans of pop icon Iwan Fals and pop band Slank respectively call themselves “Oi” and “Slankers”, admirers of legendary pop band Koes Plus call their micro-community “Jiwa Nusantara”.

Perhaps it’s not the most catchy name, but members feel they have every reason to call their community Jiwa Nusantara, which literally means “soul of Indonesia”.

“Koes Plus is one of the most legendary bands of all time. No wonder the group has a growing number of fans across the country, which is also known as ‘Nusantara’, 2007-2010 Jiwa Nusantara community chairman Agusta Marzall said.

“The spirit of nationalism, conveyed through Koes Plus songs, seems to grip the zeal of all fans. Our message is imbued with nationalist spirit, so Koes Plus enthusiasts call our community ‘Jiwa Nusantara’,” Agusta said.

Everybody seems to know Koes Plus. The group was formed in 1958, when it was called Koes Brothers.

The band was made up of Koeswoyo’s children: Koesdjono (Jon), Koestono (Tonny), Koesnomo (Nomo), Koesyono (Yon) and Koesroyo (Yok).

Koes Brothers changed their name to Koes Bersaudara in 1962, even before their first record was released. Brother Jon withdrew from Koes Bersaudara when the album was being recorded, leaving Tonny, Nomo, Yon and Yok.

The group was renamed Koes Plus in 1969 after drummer Nomo quit. He was replaced by Kasmuri (Murry), the only band member not from the Koeswoyo family.

Lighting up candles to celebrate the 70th birthday of Yon Koeswoyo.Lighting up candles to celebrate the 70th birthday of Yon Koeswoyo.

During nearly all gatherings Koes Plus fans raise their right fists and yell “Salam Jiwa Nusantara … Merdeka!” The “Merdeka!” (freedom) cry is traditionally used by Koes Plus to greet their fans.

The word “Merdeka” has a special meaning for Koes Plus. They expressed the word loudly on Sept. 28, 1965 at the gate of Glodok Prison in Jakarta when they were released from detention. Former president Sukarno had the group imprisoned after saying their music was responsible for corrupting the nation’s youth.

“It is hard to find a successor to Koes Plus. Since the 1970s they have continued to survive and established themselves as a music legend through hundreds of songs,” said Agusta, whose own sons formed the T-Koes Band, a group that covers Koes Plus songs.

Like few other bands, Koes Plus has millions of fans in all parts of Indonesia, and even overseas. Each provincial capital in Indonesia has a community or group of Koes Plus enthusiasts.

Various activities are held by Jiwa Nusantara in a bid to strengthen the fraternal ties among fans and preservers of Koes Bersaudara and Koes Plus songs.

Writing a Happy Birthday greeting on a paper for Yon Koeswoyo.Writing a Happy Birthday greeting on a paper for Yon Koeswoyo.

The Koes Plus Fan Club in Bekasi, West Java, an affiliate of Jiwa Nusantara Bekasi, held a gathering on Sept. 2 where community members from Greater Jakarta celebrated Yon’s 70th birthday, which falls on Sept. 27. “The celebration went on despite the absence of Yon, who was busy with a Koes Plus show in East Java,” chairman of Bekasi’s Koes Plus Fans Club Cecep Rosadi said.

The celebration started with some members performing Koes Plus songs. The T-Koes band featured three young brothers, Jaru (lead guitar/keyboard), Galih (rhythm), Jim (bass), and their father Agusta as drummer. T-Koes motivated the audience with their presentation of Koes Plus songs, including Bis Sekolah (school bus) and Bunga Ditepi Jalan (roadside flowers), which were played with a rock-n-roll rhythm.

Before performing, T-Koes invited all members to sing the community’s Nusantara V anthem, and after several more songs the organizer commemorated Yon’s birthday party by lighting small candles while singing Happy Birthday.

The show’s closing act was A.H. Plus (Al Husnah Plus), a band of Bekasi’s Al Husnah educational foundation graduates dedicated to preserving Koes Plus songs. Like T-Koes, A.H. Plus also succeeded to get the audience moving.

As the celebration ended, community members talked informally. Agusta expressed his appreciation for the vocal stamina and color of Yon Koeswoyo, even at age 70.

“Even with his great musical talent and determination to keep Koes Plus alive, Mas Yon is still humble,” Agusta and Cecep Rosadi agreed.

Some women have a good time by dancing at the gathering.Some women have a good time by dancing at the gathering.

“When I visited him with my children on Sept. 27 to attend his modest birthday celebration with relatives and close friends, Mas Yon told my kids, ‘I’m proud of you, grandchildren. I wish you success in the future’,” Agusta said.

Jiwa Nusantara followers are not exclusively fans who were there to enjoy the Koes Plus heyday, but also include children and teenagers. The audience packing the Bekasi art council complex was made up of people of all ages.

Jiwa Nusantara groups at home and abroad – including Japan, the US and Australia – have resolved to tighten, foster and expand the friendship among Koes Bersaudara and Koes Plus enthu-siasts by establishing cooperation between fans clubs within and outside

“Anybody claiming to be a Koes Bersaudara and Koes Plus aficionado should choose to join this community. There are regular meetings in several places such as Jakarta’s Pasar Seni Ancol, and we also maintain communications through a Koes Plus Fan Club Cyber Community mailing list,” incoming club chairman Cecep said.

Wherever you are, it’s not hard to find members of the legendary band’s community, because Jiwa Nusantara is everywhere.

— Photos by JP/P.J. Leo

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