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The Solemn or Energetic Indonesia Raya?


In case you haven’t heard the Indonesian Anthem used in the Beijing Olympics, this is the one.

This anthem was heard when Indonesia won the gold medal for men’s double in badminton last Saturday, continuing the gold medal tradition of badminton in the Olympics since 1992.

But what interest me is the version of Indonesia Raya used by the committee. As you can hear from the video above, it is the exact Indonesia Raya I heard from the games.

First of all, it is not about one or three stanza of Indonesia Raya which came into discussion a year ago. But it’s more about the interpretation of the national anthem.

The version used in the games is the wind arrangement of the work. It is a steady, energetic and fast-paced music. It is absolutely not wrong, as this interpretation was used in early years of the anthem, especially from 1928, when it was first introduced to public, to 1940’s.

The propaganda video made by Japan which was made during Japanese occupation also uses the more pompous and energetic interpretation. Usually it lasts less than one and a half minutes.

I, myself, was quite accustomed to the Joseph Cleber’s arrangement version. This version was done after discussions with President Sukarno and was finished and recorded by Orkes Simfoni Radio Republik Indonesia (RRI) in 1949, as the first symphonic recording of the anthem. This symphonic arrangement is based on Amir Pasaribu’s piano arrangement.

The arrangement was and is still widely used in many occasions, and I believe many Indonesians were quite accustomed to the sound of it.

The issue is that the symphonic version made by Jos Cleber use “maestoso con bravura” as its default tempo. It resulted to a more heavy and slow performance of the piece written by Wage Rudolf Supratman in 1920’s who writes it in “tempo di marcia”. This arrangement stresses more on the solemn side of the anthem.

And of course it lasts approximately 25% longer than the first approach. I must say that Indonesia Raya was quite long as a national anthem, plus it’s heavyweight 1 1/2-octave range.

All of which background is pretty irrelevant, as from listening to 205 of them I have realised there are actually just two types of anthem: the perfunctory, lifeless ones, and those that make the effort to be different. Shame that 190 fall into the first group. ~ from Alex Marshall, Guardian

I found the first approach quite interesting if not amusing. But, I cannot stop wondering whether Indonesia Raya was included in the Marshall’s shame group. If he listened to the recording similar to the first video and put the anthem in the shame list, I think I have nothing to argue. But if he listened to the other one, I would love to have some discussion…

Any comments, my dear readers?

~ sorry about the bad English…. Just want to join some interests shown by music writers in national anthems during th Olympics.

About mikebm (1339 Articles)
An arts journalist, a conductor, an educator, a young arts manager whose passion drove him to leave a multinational IT cooperation to study Arts Administration and Cultural Policy in London and went back to Indonesia to build the scene there.

2 Comments on The Solemn or Energetic Indonesia Raya?

  1. 1st, thank u very much for posting it in english πŸ˜€
    ur english is better than mine πŸ˜€

    i just know about that kind of thing about music from ur post
    and i don’t really understand about music
    i’ll learn more about it later, stanza, interpretation, history of our national anthem… after finishing my study
    hope, u’ll help me to learn it later.
    Keep posting in english. πŸ˜€

  2. thanks… tapi ga juga ah….

    mari belajar bersama kalo gitu…

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