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Yockie Suryoprayogo, rare genius, iconoclast in rock, dead at 64

News Desk

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Tue, February 6, 2018  /  08:25 am
Yockie Suryoprayogo, rare genius, iconoclast in rock, dead at 64

God bless: A relative carries a photo of musician Yockie Suryoprayogo during the burial of the former God Bless keyboardist at Karet Bivak cemetary park in Jakarta on Monday. Yockie was 63. (JP/Adeline Sunarjo)

Musician Yockie Suryoprayogo, a rare breed of musician who was a key figure for more than three decades in the ever-changing landscape of the country’s popular music scene, died on Monday at the age of 64.

Best known for his role as keyboardist for the Jakarta-based rock band God Bless, Yockie was an adventurous musician who broke the boundaries of classical music, jazz, rock and pop, lending his signature sound of classically tinged musical arrangements to several of the masterpieces in the country’s rock history; from the soundtrack to the film Badai Pasti Berlalu (Storm Will Pass), God Bless’ hard rock magnum opus Semut Hitam (Black Ant) to the politically charged art rock masterwork Kantata Takwa.

A romantic with an idealized view of music, Yockie never cared for sales figures and when given the freedom to produce his solo records, like the late 1970s classic Jurang Pemisah (Dividing Canyon), he produced an album that was steeped in the progressive rock jargon that only devoted fans of Genesis could understand. 

Born in Demak, Central Java, on Sept. 14, 1954, Yockie grew up to rebel against the strict family rules imposed by his police general father and used music to stick it to the man. 

Growing up in the 1960s, Yockie was enamored by rock and roll and formed his own band while still in junior high school. He got his musical training, however, from classical music maestros Muchtar Embut and 
Idris Sardi. 

Soon after senior high school, Yockie relocated to Jakarta and honed his craft in bands like Double O, Contrapunk, Giant Step and Jaguar.

In 1973, he joined the band God Bless, which was set up by lead singer Ahmad Albar who had just returned home to the country after scoring success in the Netherlands with his band Clover Leaf.

Yockie’s classically tinged piano playing, contributed much to the evolution of God Bless from a run-of-the-mill hard rock band to a stadium-ready progressive rock group. 

After recording God Bless’ self-titled album in 1975, Yockie left the band to join forward-thinking musicians in a number of one-off projects, a habit that would stay with him for the next three decades.

“I was once called a band prostitute because of my habit of going in and out of many bands,” Yockie said in an interview with news portal late last year.

Soon after quitting God Bless, Yockie joined other musicians who were active in the progressive rock scene in Jakarta including brothers Keenan and Debby Nasution, Fariz RM, singer Chrisye and Berlian Hutauruk to record the soundtrack to mediocre Teguh Karya-directed romantic flick Badai Pasti Berlalu.

While most songs and lyrics in the soundtrack were written by Eros Djarot, Yockie handled the album’s song arrangement while Chrisye handled the majority of the singing duty.

Taking its cue from some of the 1970s’ best rock operas like Elton John’sGoodbye Yellow Brick Road and Genesis’ Selling England by the Pound, Yockie put together some of the most beautiful musical arrangements that would lead to the soundtrack becoming an instant classic. Rolling Stone Indonesia put the album at the top of the list of the 150 best Indonesian albums of all time published in 2007. The album also did well commercially with multiple record labels continually pressing the album until this day.

Yockie continued to collaborate with Chrisye for seven more albums including classics like Jurang Pemisah, Puspa Indah Taman Hati (Beautiful Flower in My Heart) and Resesi (Recession).

After briefly rejoining God Bless in 1988, Yockie left again to become a member of Kantata Takwa, a musical collective set up by poet WS Rendra, folk singer Iwan Fals and Sawung Jabo and businessman-cum-guitarist Setiawan Jodi. Even among the best talents in Kantata, Yockie could still stand out especially in the track “Kesaksian” (Testimony), where his talents for rock opera could be put to the service of Rendra’s wordsmith.

Forever an iconoclast, in the last decade of his life, Yockie spent most of his time battling his former bandmates whom he accused of infringing on his intellectual property rights.

In 2011, he called on the police to issue a cease-and-desist order against his fellow Kantata band members to prevent them from performing “Kesaksian.”

Also in 2011, he filed a complaint against a Jakarta-based record label for what he alleged was the illegal distribution of the Badai Pasti Berlalu soundtrack. 

“He was one of a kind, an inspirational figure. He operated outside the pop conventions,” Jakarta-based indie musician Harlan Bin said of Yockie’s legacy.(mtr)