The repertoire of the Indonesian band 'Amores' is an assorted musical history of the country
The musicians from Indonesia greet us in less than rudimentary English. As soon as we tell them we need to click their photos, they disappear into their rooms, leaving us wondering if they understood us. An agonising 15 minute-wait later, they emerge dressed in their traditional Ulos (a colourful cloak-like garment) and tali-tali (head band), hair neatly combed, face made-up and with guitars slung across their shoulders.
Just as the prospect of communication begins to look nearly impossible, they walk to the designated spot on the vast lawns of Choice House, Kumbalam, casually strumming strands of a staggeringly pretty tune. And as they pose, they break into a song, smiling and tapping their feet in what looked like unadulterated joy. All the confusion about an interview instantly melts in the symphony that ensues.
They are ‘Amores', a group of four musicians, who makes one realise that music really does transcend linguistic barriers. Hailing from north Sumatra and settled in Jakarta, these Batak singers have travelled extensively—Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Africa and Germany being some of the countries—for performances and their repertoire has a curious mix of Indonesian, Latin, Spanish, Chinese, French, English, Dutch, Korean, and now, Hindi songs. Three of them sing as well as play the guitar and Ervina Tiruma, the only woman in the group, also does percussion.
“We love India and we love Kochi,” they attempt to say, and make up for the lack of clarity by singing ‘Tum paas aaye…” to the amusement of a small crowd that has gathered to watch. “Yoon muskuraye…”, they continue, in heavily accented Hindi.
This number was a special for their first performance in India. A week has gone into the learning of the ever-green Bollywood number, they say. Playing in India has made them “very happy”. However, Anggiat Sihombing, the lead vocalist and guitarist, says he was a bit nervous.
‘Amores' was formed 20 years ago, says Bungaran Simorankir, one of the male singers and it has derived much of its charm from the famously assorted musical history of the country. Indonesia's music is a complex mosaic of European, Islamic and Western influences.
The native folk tradition, too, remains, though interpreted and remixed in many ways. Indonesian brands of pop, rock, jazz and hip-hop, too, have evolved over time and gained immense popularity.
“We sing everything,” says Anggiat. But none of the musicians of ‘Amores' has formally learnt music. They have just been listening to music “forever” on radio and television and been “singing always”.
The musical scene in Indonesia is vibrant, they say. Musicians love experimenting with styles and people are receptive to all kinds of music. Institutes teaching music, too, are many.
The current favourites among the young people are the Kroncong, a style which evolved after the Portuguese arrived in Indonesia, and the Dangdut, a widely accepted Indonesian dance music.
‘Amores', however, unanimously votes for the Batak traditional ‘Sing Sing So' as its favourite. “It is known and loved world wide,” says Simorankir, as they prepare to sing snatches of the ‘Sing Sing So' for our benefit.
Simorankir should be right about the genre's international popularity. The music is fascinating, dipping and rising like a serenade, Ervina's lilting voice blending so well with Sofar Sitindaon's throaty trills. “It is Sofar. Not so far away,” cautions Anggiat, and then all of them laugh out loud.
Though they can sing and play instruments, ‘Amores' does not write or make its own music. “We practise for an hour every day,” says Ervina, who joined the group much after it was formed.
After their India visit, they will perform in Jakarta.
What inspires them? An unexpected ditty is the answer—a captivating ballad full of delightful-sounding words, (Latin, they inform later) hoots and yodels.
‘Amores' believes in spontaneity. It does not seem to need elaborate stage settings or even microphones. Sofar's voice carries so much power and as the others join in, the effect is a real treat to a music lover. Their music does not seem rehearsed. It flows effortlessly and joyfully, leaving the listeners with a unique experience to cherish.
The group was in the city for a performance at JTPac.
Keywords: Amores band