Visitors observe decorated ukuleles in the exhibition. JP/Triwik KurniasariUkulele has received a face-lift. In the hands of a number of artists, the small curvy-shaped instrument, known locally as kencrung, is the new canvas to paint colorful minds.
The name kencrung came from the instrument’s “crung, crung” sound. The small three or four-stringed guitar is better known as one of vital instruments of keroncong, which is known as Portuguese-influenced Indonesian music, along side the cello, flute, string bass and violin.
Jakartans have been familiar with kencrung as street singers often play it on buses or on the streets.
Kencrung gets special treatment from 69 artists, who innovatively took the instrument as a canvas and crafted it into a visually admirable art object through paintings and cutting-edge decorations.
The artists broadened their insights by creating ukulele out of materials like used biscuit jars, frying pans and traditional stoves.
The handiworks are on display in a five-day exhibition, organized by Bentara Budaya Jakarta in Palmerah, Central Jakarta, and the Folk Mataraman Institute (FMI), a community that helps professional and amateur artists.
The exhibit was curated by Romo Sindhunata, Hermanu and Ong Hari Wahyu.
The creations were previously showcased in an event called Pameran Pasar Kencrung (Kencrung Market Exhibition) in Yogyakarta.
Ong Hari Wahyu said that the ukulele exhibition showed that fine art knew no boundaries and didn’t have to be in the form of certain mediums, such as canvas.
“FMI members consist of people from different backgrounds and professions, such as artists, farmers and even policemen. And here, we try to recreate something out of this simple instrument,” said Wahyu.
“It’s not just a matter of sound, but also of appearance. It’s interesting to know whether the sound changes once we remodel a kencrung or not.”
He highlighted the people of Baki village in Central Java, who have been actively producing musical instruments like guitars and ukuleles for years.
“It (Baki) is truly a musical village. Before we displayed the works, we discussed things with local artists to explore kencrung in other art objects, for it to be more than just an instrument,” Wahyu recalled.
Bonny Setiawan and Win Dwi Laksono, for instance, put two golden wings into the upper side of the instrument, making the ukuleles look like flying angels, while Hermanu turned a ukulele into an oar in his “Dayung Kencrung” (Row Ukulele) collection.
Among artists who make the most of second hand material were Imam Bege, who created a kencrung out of a frying pan, while Kukas Pranowo created a “Kencrung Murup” (Flaming Kencrung), made from a used traditional stove.
Javanese characters, such as Semar or Bagong of punakawan, servants in the Javanese epic famously known for its social critiques and humorous scenes, are also seen in some creations.
Double-neck ukuleles are also on the scene with the designs of Budi Ubrux, who wrapped a rounded ukulele with used newspaper, and Felix S.Wanto, who adorned a squared ukulele with shocking colors.
Meanwhile, Yuswantoro Adi caught visitors’ attention with his Hawaiian ukulele as he converted the instrument into a hula dancer with a colored-raffia skirt, bikini and a wreath of flowers.
There is a play button on the display box and as you push the button, the music plays and the ukulele ‘dances’.
Prominent filmmaker, scriptwriter and producer Garin Nugroho said that the kencrung revamp may relive the new religiosity in art, which was a good thing.
“This (exhibition) is a form of a new exploration of an instrument,” said Garin.
“Back then, people treated musical instruments like gods. They painted and crafted them with all their hearts and even held a series of rituals before using them,” said Garin.
At the opening of the exhibition, members of the FMI also performed a short gig, playing music with newly refurbished ukuleles.
“This is all about playing music in an ‘abnormal’ way. Come on everybody, grab a nearby kencrung and let’s do a jamming session,” Encik Khrisna, a member, told guests, encouraging them to join him and his band on the stage.
“Don’t be ashamed. Let’s collaborate, no matter how it may sound,” he said, grabbing a ukulele made of a used cookie jar, taking a seat and starting to play it with other members of the band.
“It sounds out of tune, doesn’t it? That’s alright. Bring it on!” he said, giggling. Indeed, some guests, including entrepreneur Dewi Motik Pramono, came on stage and strummed ukuleles with the band.
The ukulele collection will be showcased until today, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.