20 January 2012

Interlude – Bengawan Solo

“Ning, I have no class this afternoon. Let’s go out for high tea after my Jumaat prayers.’

“ So I don’t have to prepare lunch.”

“ And dinner!”

That was a deal and by three we were in town to join a small crowd with a three-piece band playing soft music. We found ourselves a table for two in a corner within sight of the music makers. After picking up some dishes we sat quietly enjoying our food half listening to lovely old English pieces – pieces for dancing.

I did not know what was in her mind but I quickly went back in time, some fifty years ago`. I could see couples, all properly attired; swaying to romantic waltzes and slow foxtrots. Oh, what a lovely scene it was in the pictures of my mind. Suddenly I was awakened from my reverie when the music changed. It was Bengawan Solo, my very favourite of the mid 50’s.

I looked up and saw the leader/singer smiling at me as he sang the lyrics. Yes we know each other and it was his way of presenting something special. What a song this is, an evergreen Indonesian classic.

Bengawan Solo

Bengawan Solo, riwayatmu ini
sedari dulu jadi perhatian insani
musim kemarau, tak seberapa airmu
di musim hujan air meluap sampai jauh ...

mata airmu dari Solo
terkurung gunung seribu
air mengalir sampai jauh
akhirnya ke laut ...

itu perahu, riwayatmu dulu
kaum pedagang s'lalu naik itu perahu


"Bengawan Solo, this is a song of your history.
People have been fascinated with this great river since ancient times,
In the dry season, your water is little, and in the rainy season, your water overflows till far,
Around the source of the Solo River, there are a thousand mountains,
And the river flows all the way to the sea.
There are always many merchants on board ships going up and down the river.
These ships also show your history."


Before we left I made the few steps to the music makers and thanked the leader for his very special song. “ I knew you would want me to sing that. Until next time …..”

That was a good break for us. On the way home I expressed the thought which had been lingering in my mind. “ Ning, isn’t strange? Fifty years ago our Malay folks looked with contempt and disapproval at Malays in proper dresses dancing gracefully to the sentimental music because it was a western culture. And today, we see on TV crowds of young and old Malays swaying their hands in unison, delirious at boys and girls jumping and wriggling on stage in dresses I feel completely disgusted.”

“You are behind time, darling!” she responded with a wry smile.

Indeed I am. A lot of water has gone under the bridge (of Bengawan Solo)

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan yntuk kemanusiaan


Cat-from-Sydney said...

Dear Pakcik,
My Mama has seen the actual river Solo, in the botanical gardens of Bogor a long long time ago. It made her sing the same song then... purrr...meow!

kaykuala said...

Dear Pak Cik,
I'm seeing a nostalgia series building up with much enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is being awaited for by those others who are faithfully following. Many may be able to relate to what they see posted. This would even snowball to a rekindling of memories of the 60's I would think.Bengawan Solo is a perfect start. There's P Ramlee, Elvis, Cliff Richard and a host of them. That's only sing song. There are many others besides. There are dressing, food, vehicles, entertaining ,films and many others and pastimes to draw on. Get the ball rolling,! Why not?


yongzu @ 9W2YZU said...

Assalammualaikum Pakcik,

I can't help but sang the song... ha ha ha..

Learnt it when I was a girl guide... that was a long long time ago.

Life has its irony some times...

GUiKP said...

When I presented a signed copy of GUiT as a gift to a distinguished scholar, now in his late 60s, he read a few sentences, and then took out a CD of Bengawan Solo, and put them side by side. Instinctively, I took a photo of him smiling with the two treasured gifts.

Al-Manar said...


One day Pakcik might still get there. You are a well traveled person and have the privilege of seeing a river which, in my mind, exists with all the beauty of a dream because of the song.

Incidentally I have been visiting your site looking for documented postings of your voluntary work, that I admire.

Al-Manar said...


You and I, belonging to about the same era, may look at these with nostalgia; not every one. I need to be weary of this, Hank. You do all these in poetry which sadly I find it difficult to understand other than admiring the poetic rhythms. I value your comments, sir.

Al-Manar said...


"Life has its irony ..." I fully agree with your philosophical expression. As a Muslim we take all these as a challenge that we keep improving our outlook in life.

You were a girl guide, the start of your very active pastime. I never was a scout nor a sports person, hence I move at a slower pace with more time to reflect. It is nice to see you again.

Al-Manar said...


For an instance I read your comment as '.. a signed copy of GUiKP ....' and felt disappointed that I had not known your work. Is this a premonition of something coming?

What a coincidence it was, the book and CD of Bengawan Solo. Since you did take a picture how about making a posting on this, your first in 2012, please?

Abam Kie said...

young girls and boys like me should be exposed the classic songs so that we will cherish the good old time better...

Kama At-Tarawis said...

salam. my mom & dad were among those, to paraphrase your goodself "... Malays in proper dresses dancing gracefully to the sentimental music ...". this piece of yours reminded me of them..

ninotaziz said...

Bengawan Solo...reminds me of days with Kak Julie Sudiro. I miss her, and really should pick up the phone.

Al-Manar said...

daddy zuki,

We have to ask the minister in charge of mass media to get TV and radio start looking for bakat keroncong, asli dan sebagainya dan kurangkan apa yang ditunjulkan sekarang - shape, shake and sex!

Al-Manar said...


Makcik and Pakcik miss the days when Julie was the resident singer at the Lake Club. Those were the days, our days, long gone.

Al-Manar said...


Believe me, having moved through the generations, we welcome the odd footage of old films showing those gracefully swaying figures.I wonder if UK BBC/ITV still runs the annual dancing competitions, a programme to watch and skill to admire.

Temuk said...

I hope Daddy Zuky's wishes will one day come true. Let us hope that RTM1 or RTM2 will have slots for asli music programs - there are so many of them, such as Ghazal, Keroncong, Dondang Sayang, etc.

Al-Manar said...


Conscientious efforts need to be done by TV and radio in promoting traditional musics and songs, playing down the great slide towards the trendy western. New talents have to be found and developed to match the likes of Orkid Abdullah, Sharifah Aini etc.

But the way things are going, I am afraid it is just a wishful thinking on our part, Cikgu.

Seri Suryati said...

pakcik i love this song....

Al-Manar said...

Seri Suryati,

I would love to hear your voice singing this truly enchanting song.
I tried to email you a couple of times without success. Boleh email Pkcik on almanar@pd.jaring.my?

Datanglah selalu