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Jakarta Post

Indorock: On the origins of Rock music

  • Emke de Vries

    The Jakarta Post

Amsterdam   /   Fri, September 11, 2015   /  04:10 pm
Indorock: On the origins of Rock music

Tielman Brothers

Rock '€˜n'€™ roll, the infamous music style inspired by black rhythm and blues music that originated in the 1950s in the US, has a surprisingly Indonesian touch in the Netherlands and Germany.

Rock and roll music '€” also known for its rhythmic, sexual dance moves such as the jive '€” was believed to have been introduced into the Netherlands by Indonesians who, upon their arrival in the country, showed themselves to be skilled musicians and performers. Their music became known as Indorock.

'€œIndorock was introduced by Indonesian-Dutch musicians and also a few Moluccans who were part of this migrant group. They played rock music and halfway into the 1950s they became quite known in the Netherlands, and especially in Germany,'€ says Frides Steijlen, a researcher at the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV).

Steijlen, who studied Indonesian integration in the Netherlands and Moluccan nationalism, also conducted research on Indorock.

He explained the rock '€˜n'€™ roll scene in Germany was bigger because it spread with the American military when it was present.

'€œIndorock was so appealing because they played a bit different than other bands and the music had a different sound and rhythm,'€ Steijlen said.

'€œThere were many Indorock bands, such as the Bintangs, Blue Diamonds, Black Devils, Gamblers and especially the Tielman Brothers who were famous because of their show; it was very acrobatic, they were juggling with their guitars and it was impressive. That'€™s why they were most influential, but also the Crazy Rockers were widely known.'€

Researcher Lutgard Mutsaers even wrote in her book Rockin'€™ Ramona that Indorock bands inspired the Beatles, who played slightly later all over Europe.

'€œWere we different to other rock '€˜n'€™ roll? Yes, but rock '€˜n'€™ roll music is different everywhere. We were mostly inspired by Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley, Cliff Richards, the Shadows and the Ventures,'€ explained Woody Brunings, the lead singer, guitarist and percussionist of The Crazy Rockers, one of the biggest bands of the genre.

Last Survivors: Crazy Rockers perform at the Tong Tong Fair this year in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.Last Survivors: Crazy Rockers perform at the Tong Tong Fair this year in Den Haag/The Hague.

The Crazy Rockers '€” who were active between 1959 and 1965 '€” changed their members frequently over the years and started playing again in 1981. Now they are one of the last remaining Indorock bands from the era.

'€œWe just played rock '€˜n'€™ roll, and we had great success with that, especially in Germany. The German youth barely spoke English cause they weren'€™t allowed to speak it during the Second World War so they didn'€™t have a lot of rock '€˜n'€™ roll. Then we came there with our American music and live shows and we became immediately successful,'€ Brunings said.

That '€œGerman xenophobia was made up for by Indorock'€, one of the band'€™s roadies'€™ jokes.

Eddy Chatelin '€” the lead guitarist of the Crazy Rockers who was born in the West Java capital Bandung and also played in the Tielman Brothers for a while '€” said the style originated by coincidence, from a bunch of musicians who were experimenting and playing together.

'€˜'€˜The name was given by collectors. In the fifties the music industry was dominated by Indonesian musicians, and then they named everything Indonesian Indorock, it was only later that they started to differentiate different music styles,'€ Eddy said.

Brunings does not agree with the name Indorock.

'€œThe name Indorock is wrong; it was not only Indonesians, also Moluccans. The Tielman Brothers are from East Timor even. There were also Dutch people playing it. But the Netherlands didn'€™t know anything about its colonies so everything that was colored was called Indo.'€

According to him, the unique thing about Indorock is the play of the guitars. And especially the staccato riffs played by Eddy.

'€œThe characteristic thing is the play of two soloists, and the staccato riff, and even more riffs. They give more rhythm to the music, like an extra dimension. We had three guitars and not one guitar is playing the same,'€ Brunings said.

 At the Tong Tong Fair, the biggest annual event in the Netherlands that showcases Indonesian culture, there is an Indorock café where Indorock bands play their music.

Crazy RockersCrazy Rockers

The Crazy Rockers performed at the café, as well as on the big stage at the fair. The band '€” currently also comprising drummer Boyd Brostowski, who was born in The Hague; lead guitarist and singer Chris Latul, born in the Moluccas; and bass player Louis Drabe, from the East Java city of Surabaya '€” entered the stage as enthusiastic and lively as they were back in the days, having fun and joking with the audience. The area quickly filled up with fans, old and young, both Indonesian and Dutch.

'€œI'€™ve always been a fan of them; the music is amazing. They will always remain the number one for me,'€ said Pupy, one of the fans in the audience. She got choked up when old memories came back to her. '€œIt brings me back to the times when I was still healthy and so happy and when I could still dance. It makes me so happy to remember those times.'€

Younger generations also watched the band'€™s performance. Audience member Vanessa attended with her mom, who was born in Jakarta. '€œIt is nice to hear all these old songs again, not just because of the music but also to see the older generation that is here to enjoy the music with an Indonesian touch. It'€™s a great atmosphere,'€ she said.

Just like the Beatles, Indorock bands have never been forgotten in the Netherlands. But did they truly inspire world'€™s most famous pop band?

'€œNo, I don'€™t believe so. It was the other way around. We were an example for Nederpop [Dutch pop music], that'€™s true. They saw us coming from abroad, with suits and big amplifiers, expensive guitars. We were an example but no founders. We didn'€™t invent anything. We were just the first ones to play,'€ Brunings smiled.

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