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Monday, October 22, 2007

Legendary Indonesian singer, Lilis Surjani, passed away on Oct 7 2007.

Legendary singer Lilis Surjani, a true national treasure of Indonesia, passed away on October 7, 2007. She died after a long battle with cancer but even from her hospital bed, managed to sing a couple of songs shortly before she passed away (the youtube video of this made me cry- which i accidentally watched when searching for clips of her singing)

In my own opinion, Lilis Surjani had one of those rare voices that could simultaneously make you laugh and bring tears to your eyes when you hear it... laughter for knowing how beautiful life can be, and tears because the beautiful things in life are so fleeting .. her voice will live on..

here's some history in english about Lilis Surjani (sometimes spelled Suryani):
"The famous singer Lilis Suryani who died recently on 7 october 2007, was from a simple family and lived in the Gang Kelinci neigbourhood in Jakarta [which] is near the Pasar Baru Area in Central Jakarta. Behind the big stores of this well known shopping district is a totally different microcosm with narrow alleys and even narrower side-alleys, teeming with life, this is Gang Kelinci or ("Rabbit Alley") I do not know if it still exists today, Jakarta is changing rapidly.
At the age of a schoolgirl, Lilis Suryani already wanted to be a radio-star. Since she wanted help reaching her goal, she just went to the house of Titiek Puspa for advice. Titiek Puspa was a very well known singer already with quite a career, an important fact, she was also a composer, of her own songs and also songs for other artists. Titiek Puspa did not send her away, she even wanted to help the young girl. So she introduced Lilis into the world of music. One day Titiek Puspa accompanied Lilis back home to Gang Kelinci. Seeing the neigbourhood, packed with people everywhere she became inspired to write the song " Gang Kelinci " for Lilis Suryani. This song became one of her best-known ones. So this song is from her real life.
Another song from her is "Bintang Leo" ( The Constellation or, sign of Leo ) which is really her sign as she was born on august 22, 1948"

--special thanks to Huub for sharing this story.. information about artists like Lilis Surjani is rarely written in English. I hope more will be written about the popular musicians of Indonesia in the future... the world should know about singers like Lilis Surjani.

heres some added information about Lilis Surjani from my friend, Huub:

"..The text [above] is taken from old Indonesian music and other magazines.
There are still heaps of them in my house, daring from 1968 till recently.
Also to be found on Internet: interesting Indonesian blogs and websites of Indonesian Newspapers.
But in this case one must be able to read Indonesian.
More facts about Lilis Suryani: Her praise song for President Sukarno "Untuk PJM Presiden Sukarno"... The founder of the nation liked the singer, she also visited his palace. The President did not like all musicians however: The group "Koes Plus" was sent to Jail. They were jailed because Sukarno did not like the attitude and stage-acts of western groups ( like The Rolling Stones and The Beatles) he feared that their lifestyle would influence the youth in Indonesia. The all girl group "Dara Puspita" nearly had the same fate. Koes Plus and Dara Puspita did live concerts on stage in the same style as groups from Europe and USA.

Lilis Suryani was after the fall of President Sukarno critisized singing "communist" songs ( Genjer-Genjer )
It is a song of pity for the very poor who only feed themselves with a sort of herb that is growing alongside roads ( Genjer ).
The song was adopted by members of the communist party, and became one of their hymns.
At the second presidency "the new order" this song was forbidden

and he continues...

"To continue: Genjer just a sort of herb that grows alongside rivers.
As I stated before "Genjer genjer " was originally not a commie song, but just a song of pity, when during the Japanese occupation many people died of starvation and others could only survive by eating genjer. Especially in the province of East Java the situation was hopeless. In the fifties and sixties still many poor people were to be found in this province.
The communist party was not forbidden under president Sukarno, the founder of the nation.
A group of Generals with their leader Suharto were not content with the situation. Sukarno was forced to resign, thousands of communists and so-called communists were killed or arrested and put in jail for many years. There was also a socialist party under President Sukarno. After the Suharto-coup this party was forbidden also but the punishments were not as severe as with the commies. So the song "Genjer-genjer" became a taboo-song. In fact this pityful song was annexed by the commies and sung during their meetings.
Lilis Suryani had also a few song in which she praised the military, this was during the "cold war" with Malaysia in the sixties under president Sukarno. A strange thing is she is still populair in Malaysia.
It could be [that] she apoligized for her dress, I dont know if she was accused by someone or some group. [i had asked this because of information i read on the blog link below stating that she formally apologised for singing beatle-like songs]
The most criticized musicians were the groups who did stage acts with hip-shaking and other kind of gestures.
Under the Sukarno regime this was considered un-Indonesian and undermining the morals of the young people.
Sukarno was anti-western in his speeches and many people were afraid he would become a communist himself.
Especially people in the USA were afraid Indonesia would become new communist Nation in Asia, like North Korea and North Vietnam."

THANKS for sharing the information Huub!!

here's a cool blog post with some mp3s of Lilis for you to listen to.


At 11:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Carlito for the info. I happened upon Genjer-Genjer on U-Tube several months ago and fell in love with the song, not knowing what it was about, who sang it etc.

Thanks to others and you, now I know. Thanks again, you are a true Netizen.


At 12:05 AM, Blogger DJ Carl Hamm said...

Thank YOU Paul,
check the Podcast archive on the top of my page here and you'll find several shows that feature Lilis Surjani and others .. one podcast, just about a week ago, i played a 45 by her called OO7.. she is shown on the cover with a tommy gun style machine gun... i think it was maybe even one of my two most recent podcasts.. check it out, and any other 60s Lilis Surjani you can find.. her voice.. you will love every song she ever sang!!

At 4:25 PM, Blogger Matthew Forss said...

Hi all,
I'm looking for Lilis Suryani records to buy. Please send me your list to:


At 2:52 PM, Anonymous patries wichers said...

Thanks for giving this information. In my search for songs of the island where my parents come from -Java- I also 'found' this song on youtube because of it's beauty, how Lilis sings it it's just wonderfull, gracious and humble at the same time. And with all the history behind it it get's a certain weight and a motivation for me to sing a version of it, greetings from Patries in Antwerp Belgium

At 9:39 AM, Blogger DJ Carl Hamm said...

Hi Patries! thank you for your comment, now i have to hear your group!!! also, please check out my podcast archive, i have done many sets of Indonesian music over the years and Lilis Surjani is surely one of my all time favorites.. her voice and music is beautiful and inspiring.. please let me know if you do record a version of one of her songs

At 7:58 AM, Blogger Dolmance said...

I wasn't even aware of 60's and 70's Indonesian music of any sort back in 2007 and I'm only learning of Lilis Surjani's passing now, after I've immersed myself in those wonderful sounds. She was amazing and her best records are some of the best records ever. I would have loved to have seen her perform.


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