Tanamur City: Indonesian AOR, City Pop, Boogie 1979 to 1991 / Cultures of Soul – By Cal Gibson

Super review by Cal Gibson, of The Secret Soul Society and Scruffy Soul Recordings.

Sometimes you just have to hold your hands up and admit that you know precisely zero about something: in this case I’m stating from the off that my knowledge of Indonesian AOR, City Pop and Boogie was, prior to checking this tasty little round-up, non-existent.

But music is music, right? It transcends boundaries, leaps over lack of knowledge and laughs in the face of constriction of any form – and as such it’s great to report that the nine tracks rounded up here by the expert in the field Harry ‘Munir’ Septiandry are pretty damn fly, guy.

There’s plenty of kitsch involved, no doubt, but as ever the twisting and tweaking of established cultural tropes by local Jakarta-based musicians results in some seriously funky outcomes that you’d be happy to lay down while the dancefloor warms up. Grace Simon’s Kenangan Asmara, for example, lives up to its translation ‘Memory Of Desire’. Featuring a brilliant drum break a minute and a half in, during which the local double-headed kendang drum – usually found in traditional gamelan music – is utilised to great effect. Simon’s pop-flavoured vocals and sax breaks combine to rustle up something pretty unique.

New RolliesSebuah Kenyataan meanwhile perches firmly on the funky AOR tip: the first Indonesian group to use a vocoder, apparently. Here the horns fire up a laid back groove and the sugar sweet singer bring the kitsch: think Supertramp hits the tropics and you’re almost there. Intriguing stuff.

Denny Malik’s Jakarta Kasmaran also crosses traditional gamelan with disco flavours and programmed beats: the end result being Shakatak-esque grooves and dancefloor-friendly chants. Easy to hear this one slotting in to all manner of sets – the right place and right time this would go off, without a doubt.

From 1983, Rafika Duri’s Catatan Kasih is another pop-soul workout: again luxurious lyrical stylings working nicely over slicked arrangements – Indonesian city pop in the place. There’s another nice drum break – a recurring theme of the compilation – before Rafika picks up the melody again. Known in Indonesia as a bossa nova specialist, she’s deep in pop heaven here. 

The nine tracks in total and a happy exploration of uncharted pastures for these ears. Quirky, kitschy, easy to digest but with enough meat on the musical bone for repeated spins: welcome to Jak- Rock, to borrow a phrase. Great global digging from Munir and the Cultures of Soul crew, and well worth investigating if you’re a leftfield disco lover. 

Tanamur City

Tanamur City – Indonesian AOR, City Pop, and Boogie – 1979 to 1991 will be released on December 3rd, by Cultures Of Soul. 

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