There is one particular song in Indonesia that was banned by Suharto regime for more than 32 years. The song is called “Gendjer-Gendjer. ” It is because the affiliation and referential with the fail- coup by Communist Party in Indonesia in the 60.
As a child when I grew up, we have to be careful to ask our parent why we cannot sing this song. The reality is that, in Java we eat delicious side dish made of Gendjer. Genjer is is an aquatic and invasive weed native to tropical America, with latin name limnocharis flava.
My fellow blogger explained it more details:
Gendjer, whose Latin name is limnocharis flava, is an aquatic and invasive weed native to tropical America. The plant was brought to Asia where it grew rapidly into a pest to rice growers. Before the Japanese invaded Indonesia in 1942, food was plenty and Indonesian farmers did not even consider eating genjer, which they used only for animal feed mix. However, life conditions were harsh under the Japanese occupation and food became so scarce that people started to eat the plant, which turned out to be quite edible. A composer in Banyuwangi, M.Arief, was inspired by the change in people’s palate and decided to write the song, Gendjer-gendjer, as a reminder of the hardships of war. The song became so popular in Central and East Java that, according to some records, it was often used as the closing number in wayang and ketoprak performances.
The song is using Javanese Osing language – The song goes like this:
Gendjer-gendjer nong kedok’an pating keleler
Emake thole teka-teka mbubuti gendjer
Oleh sak tenong mungkor sedot seng tole-tole
Gendjer-gendjer saiki wis digawa mulih
Gendjer-gendjer esuk-esuk didol ning pasar
didjejer-djejer, diuntingi, podo didasar
Emae’ Jebeng podo tuku nggowo welasan
gendjer-gendjer saiki wis arep diolah
Here’s my translation:
Gendjer-gendjer are scattered in the field
A woman harvesting them
She has a basket full and then going home
At dawn, the gendjers are taken to the market
Neatly tied in a bunch and then were offered
Mother Jebeng buys plenty
Now the gendjer is ready to be cooked
What so scary about that song? I really have no idea. But one thing for sure, because the connection with Communist Party in Indonesia – It feels like spelling black magic when it was sung.
Just like witch craft, some people in Indonesia circulating rumors and believed in an infamous party that about how one hundred members of Gerwani (Indonesian Women’s Movement, a PKI-affiliatied organization) danced to Gendjer-gendjer as they mutilated the six generals and threw the body parts into a well!
No clear evidence whether that sadist story is true or not, but for nearly 32 years we HAVE to believe it.
I love internet. And living in this land of freedom, enable me to contact my fellow bloggers around the world whether they have Gendjer-Gendjer song. From the kindest heart of them, I able to collect 5 versions of them. They are :
Lilis Suryani – Genjer – Genjer (1962).mp3
Emake Thole – Genjer-Genjer (Unknown Year).mp3
Bing Slamet – Gendjer-Gendjer – v1 – (Unknown Year).mp3
Bing Slamet – Gendjer-Gendjer – v2 – (Unknown Year).mp3
Lilis Suryani – Genjer- genjer (Versi Remix) – (Unknown Year).mp3
I don’t post the multimedia file in this post. In Indonesia, the word communist is still shunned, and so is anything associated to that, including the song. But if you are interested to listen to it, please contact or post any comment.
My favorite one is number 2 – strangely enough the “sinden”/chanteuse/group who performed it is called Emake Thole. The year is unknown but must be late 60 – the time I couldn’t comprehend the meaning of the song. I was still a baby.
BLANJA WURUNG tranlation THE POSTPONEDSHOPPING
Recently I had family reunion in the Iedul Fitri day. Iedul Fitri is the celebration day that was held post holly Ramadhan month inIndonesia. I found Iedul Fitri occasion is equal to Christmas : the joy, the shopping madness, the presents, the stress and the family reunion. And like it or not, I have to go with the flow.
When I am talking about family reunion, it involves the side of family – younger or older – that maybe I only see them once in 5 years! This year I saw my in-law who is very excited talking about art, especially when I was talking about Gendjer-Gendjer.
According to him Gendjer-Gendjer is witten by Dhalang Letre. This dhalang, infamously wrote several composition with lyrics criticizing the government. Dhalang Letre is a member of LEKRA (Lembaga Kebudayaan Rakyat/People’s Culture Bureau) – a communist’s party vehicle. Of course, everybody knows the fate of Dhalang Letre, knowing that he was a LEKRA.
My in-law also said that there is one composition of Dhalang Letre that was more profound than Gendjer-Gendjer. The work is called “ Blanja Wurung.” Blanja Wurung tells a story about the dissapointment of the character because He can’t afford to shop the basic needs due to the fact of the rocketing price.
I did not write down the lyric when my in-law sang it, so I will update this post when I got the lyric or maybe the music soon.
I also received a lot of encouraging comments and stories from the elders about LEKRA arts (dance, music, and literature). All are fascinating, include the way LEKRA manipulate the message through art in communist style!
Maybe this post will encourage you to contribute any information regarding LEKRA art for educational purpose to all of us. Send me if you have.
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