Kroncong Music

Kroncong (pronounced "kronchong"; Indonesian: Keroncong, Dutch: Krontjong) is the name of a ukulele-type instrument and an Indonesian musical style that typically makes use of the kroncong (the sound chrong-chrong-chrong comes from this instrument, so the music is called keronchong), the band or combo or ensemble (it called as keronchong orchestra) consist of a flute, a violin, a melody guitar, a cello in pizzicato style, string bass also in pizzicato, and a female or male singer.


The name "Kroncong" may be derived from the jingling sound of the kerincing rebana, as heard in the rhythmic background to the music created by the interlocking of instruments playing on or off the beat. This background rhythm runs faster than the (often) slow vocal or melody, and is created, typically, by two ukuleles, a cello, a guitar and a bass. These instruments, especially the pair of ukeleles, interlock as do the instruments in a gamelan orchestra, and it is clear that the musical traditions of Indonesia have been applied to an orchestra of European instruments. Formerly they use also Portuguese musical instruments called cavaquinho, a four steel stringed musical instrument that looks like a guitar. Cavaquinho was then modified into prounga, a 3 nylon stringed instrument with low pitch and macina, a 4 nylon stringed instrument with high pitch.

One ukulele, called the "cak" (pronounced "chak") may be steel-stringed and the instrumentalist strums chords with up to 8 strums per beat in 4/4 rhythm. The off-beat strums are accentuated. The other ukulele, called the "cuk" (pronounced "chook"), is larger and may have 3 gut or nylon strings. The instrumentalist may pluck arpeggios and tremoloes using a plectrum, and the on-beat is emphasised. As a set, the cak and cuk form an interlocking pair that mostly gives Kroncong its characteristic kron and chong.

The cello may have 3 gut or nylon strings and chords are plucked rapidly, often with a unique skipped-beat, using the thumb and one finger. This instrument then adds both rhythm and tone. The guitar may play similarly to either cak or cuk but, more often, plays extended scalar runs that provide an undulating background to a chord or bridge chord changes. The bass often is played in a minimalist style reminiscent of the large gongs in a gamelan.

On top of this rhythmic layer the melody and elaborate ornamentation is carried by a voice, flute or violin. The violin or flute are used to play introductory passages (often elaborate), fills and scalar runs, both faster and more elaborate than the guitar. The vocalist sings the melody which, in traditional Kroncong, is slow with sustained notes.

The repertoire largely uses the Western major key with some arrangements in the minor. One departure from this occurs when Kroncong orchestras play Javanese songs (Langgam Jawa). Javanese music ordinarily uses scales and intervals that do not occur in Western music. Kroncong Jawa maintains Western intervals but adopts a 5-tone scale that approximates one of the main Javanese septatonic scales. When playing this style, cak and cuk leave their characteristic interplay and both play arpeggios to approximate the sound and style of the Javanese instrument the siter, a kind of zither. The cello adopts a different rhythmic style as well.


Kroncong music began in the 16th century as sailors from the Portuguese Empire brought Portuguese instruments and music to Indonesia. Lower-class citizens and gangs, commonly called buaya (a reference to "buaya darat" or crocodile on land, a term used to describe playboys to this day) adopted the new musical styles. Eventually, they were assimilated by the upper-class citizens. Paul Fisher writes,

The small kroncong guitar, also the name of a music, is derived from the Portuguese braguinha, sharing its root with the Hawaiian ukulele. Kroncong music is believed to have originated in the communities of freed Portuguese slaves in the 16th century. European influence from this time can also be heard in the music of the Batak people of North Sumatra, and from the end of the 19th century, the beginnings of guitar accompaniment incorporated within a distinctly Indonesian idiom in music from Sumatra, South Sulawesi and elsewhere.

Kroncong (currently spelled Keroncong in Indonesian) is now considered old-fashioned folk music by most Indonesian youth, although efforts have been made since the 1960s to modernise the genre by adding electric guitars, keyboards and drums, notably in so-called Pop Keroncong sung by Hetty Koes Endang. The melancholic spirit of traditional, acoustic Kroncong (so similar to Portuguese Fado music) has been recorded by Samuel Quiko and the members of his Jakartan Krontjong Tugu Orchestra, who have performed at the well-known Indo festival 'Pasar Malam Besar' in The Hague. Considered a Eurasian art form Kroncong features prominently each year at the Tong Tong Fair. The genre is also being evolved in new directions by Indo artists in the Netherlands.

The Evolution of Kroncong Music
Early Long Evolution 1552–1880

Since Portuguese sailors landed in Malacca (1552) and Portuguese slaves were freed in Kampung Tugu (north Jakarta) in 1661, a genre of music that was to become known as Keroncong has started to take shape. But the real keroncong music has not existed yet at the time. It has only began since 1880, when the main instrument of modern keroncong, the ukulele, was invented in Hawaaii. The so-called "long evolution" of 1552-1879 was a preliminary stage of development, leading to the creation of keroncong as we know it in 1880s. Since then keroncong is in a stage of development referred to as "short evolution" by Indonesian critics.

The Last Short Evolution 1880–now

The last short evolutions were taken place, divided in four short evolution periods

The Era of Tempo Doeloe (1880–1920)

Tempo Doeloe is Oldies Time (tempo=time, doeloe=oldies). Komedie Stamboel was an Indo touring comedy company that performed folk entertainment which was very popular during the end of nineteenth century (1891–1903) especially in East-Java. It performed 1001 night tales, European folk tales, as well as local folk tales. Examples are: Ali Baba, Cinderella, Si Pitoeng, etc. The tours were made by railway as well as ships. They toured to Malysia and all parts of Indonesia. Between the scenes there were musical intermezzos such as marches, polkas, waltzes, as well as kronchong music called stamboel.

During the Era of Tempo Doeloe or the Time of Stamboel Songs (1880–1920), there were 3 types of Stamboel Songs, i.e.: Stamboel I (Nina Bobo, Potong Padi, Soleram); Stamboel II (Si Jampang, Jali-Jali); and Stamboel III (Kemayoran). The Stamboel songs were 16 bars characteristic songs, and played in a fast tempo (like Allegro, as fast as 110 tick per minute). The songs were played in the following song structure:

Stambul I: The songs in these category such as St I Terang Bulan, St I Potong Padi, St I Nina Bobo, St I Sarinande, St I O Ina Ni Keke, St I Bolelebo, etc. and the structure is A - B - A - B or A - B - C - D (16 bars):

|I,,, |,,,, |,,,, |V7,,, |
|,,,, |,,,, |,,,, |I,,, |
|I7,,, |IV,,, |,, V7, |I,,, |
|,,,, |V7,,, |,,,, |I,,, ||

Stambul II: The songs in these category are St II Si Jampang, St II Jali-Jali. In these categories the song opens (in the first beat) with broken chord of I, then in the first 3 bars are in tacet position and at the end of first 4 bars directly enter the sub-dominant chord (IV); and the structure is A - B - A - C (16 bars):

|I . . . |. . . . |. . . . |IV,,, | (Open with Chord I, then in tacet position within the first 3 bars, after that directly to chord IV)
|,,,, |,,,, |,, V7, |I,,, |
|,,,, |,,,, |,,,, |V7,,, |
|,,,, |,,,, |,,,, |I,,, ||

Stambul III: The title Kemayoran is a Stamboel III category, misspelled as Keroncong Asli, but it consist of 16 bars, it means staboel category. The structure it is Prelude - A - Interlude - B - C (16 bars):

Pr |I,,, |,,,, | Prelude 2 bars
A1 |,,,, |,,,, |
A2 |II#,,,|V7,,, | 'Modulation 2 bars to the Double Dominant
In |,,,, |IV,,, | Interlude 2 bars
B1|,,,, |I,,, |
B2|V7,,, |I,,, |
C1|,,,, |,,,, |
C2|V7,,, |I,,, ||

The Era of Kronchong Eternity (1920-1960)

After World War I, American Popular Music came to the ballroom music in hotels in Indonesia. The musicians mostly came from the Filipino (such as Pablo, Sambayon, etc.), and the new American Pop Songs consist of 32 bars, and it also influenced the local music. Like Indonesia Raya (composed in 1924) also has 32 bars long. The Bengawan Solo was composed by Gesang in this Era. The center of development moved to Solo City (Middle Java), and it has slower movement (like Moderato, use 80 ticks per minute).

Langgam Keroncong: This structure has a binary form like pop songs: Verse A - Verse A - Bridge B - Verse A (32 bars long). Here is the structure:

Verse A | V7,,, |I,,, | IV, V7, | I,,, | I,,, | V7,,, | V7,,, | I,,, |
Verse A |V7,,, | I,,, | IV, V7, | I,,, | I,,, | V7,,, | V7,,, | I,,, |
Bridge B |I7,,, |IV,,, | IV, V, | I,,, | I,,, | II#,,, | II#,,, | V,,,| Modulation to the Double Dominant as usual in Bridge of pop song
Verse A |V7,,, |I,,, | IV, V7, | I,,, | I,,, | V7,,, | V7,,, | I,,, |

Stambul Keroncong: Stambul Keroncong has a unique structure (A-B-A-B') x 2 = 16 bars x 2 = 32 bars, a modification of Stambul II that only has 16 bars, and doubled becomes 32 bars as Stamboel Keroncong (to adjust as new standard song 32 bars).

The structure of Stambul Keroncong is as follows: sign - means tacet

|I - - - | - - - - | - - - - |IV,,, | Opening break chord I and directly enter chord IV
|IV,,, |IV,,, |IV, V,|I,,, |
|I,,, |I,,, |I,,, |V,,, |
|V,,, |V,,, |V,,, |I,,, |
|I,,, |I,,, |I,,, |IV,,, | these 16 bars is repetition of first 16 bars, but no tacet position, it means in full play position
|IV,,, |IV,,, |IV, V, |I,,, |
|I,,, |I,,, |I,,, |V,,, |
|V,,, |V,,, |V,,, |I,,, |

Keroncong Asli The Keroncong Asli has A - B - B' structure. The song consists of 8 rows, and all together 32 bars long. The first PRELUDE consist of 4 bars played instrumentally (same as 7th row, in the middle there is a modulation (4 bars), then comes INTERLUDE (4 bars long too). The structure then as follow:

|V,,, |I, I7, |IV, V7, |I,,, | prelude 4 bars taken from 7th row (B3)
(A1) | I,,, | I,,, | V,,, | V,,, |
(A2) |II#,,, | II#,,, | V,,, | a modulation as long as 4 bars to the Double Dominant
|V,,, | V,,, | V,,, |IV,,, | interlude 4 bars become standard for all songs
(B1) | IV,,,| IV,,,|V7,,, | I,,, |
(B2) |I,,, | V7,,, | V7,,, | I, I7, |
(B3) |IV, V7, |I, I7, | IV, V7, |I,,, |
(B2) | I,,, | V7,,, | V7,,,| I,,, |

Kronchong Cadenza The harmony theory explain about cadenza, i.e. a chord progression for full or half stop of a song. There are 4 candenzes in the classical harmony theory, i.e. as follows:

a. Perfect Cadenza, i.e. chord progression of V-I for full stop a song
b. Unperperfect Cadenza, i.e. the song ended with chord of V7, such as II-V7, IV-V7, VI-V7, etc.
c. Interupted Cadenza X-VI, t.e. if the song ended with chord progression such as V-VI, II-VI, etc.
d. Plagal Candenza, i.e. chord progression of IV-I like "Amien" in prayer
e. Even Tierce de Picardy is not a cadenza, but it usually used in the end of a minor key with full close in a mayor key
f. Kronchong Cadenza, was developed in kroncong music, i.e. a chord progression of I-I7-IV-V7-I will ended a kronchong song.

The Era of Modern Kronchong (1960–2000)

Kronchong Music continued to develop in the vicinity of Solo City. Some the Kronchong Musicians moved to other parts of Indonesia, like Yogya or Jakarta.

Javanese Genre The gamelan influenced to kroncong music, including the Javanese Modal Tunes that already exist in these areas. The characteristic of Javanese Music are Javanese Modal Tune (Pelog or Slendro Pentatonic Mode); the use of so called siter (a string instrument plucked like lying harp); kendang (Javanese drum) which was played by plucked cello; kempul (a metal instrument like gong but lying position); metal and wood marimbas; gongs, and the style of Javanese Singers. The songs structure still use pop song. i.e. Binary Form: A - A - B - A or sometimes A - B - C - D with 32 bars long. It began in 1958 composed by Anjar Any (1936–2008), the famous song is: Yen Ing Tawang Ana Lintang (If there is a star in the sky), and borned together with Waljinah the winner of local radio singer contest at Solo in 1958.

Keroncong Beat Rudy Pirngadie and his goup at Jakarta (Yayasan Tetap Segar / Foundation) in 1959 that promoted Kronchong Beat for accompanying various songs, lokal or foreign music, and in 1964 he join the New York World's Fair USA for introducing kronchong music to global audiences. Idris Sardi (Indonesian Violin Virtous) present a hit pop song entitle I left my heart in San Francisco with kronchong beat, but he fined by the US Music Authority, due the violent to US Copyright.

The Kronchong Beat promote various songs, including use of major and minor scale, quartel or triple beat, use more various chords, etc. Exactly, global music genre could be performed by an accompanying Kronchong Beat.

Campur Sari An area so called Gunung Kidul (at Yogyakarta) in 1968, a local musician named Manthous introduced so called Campur Sari, a collaboration of gamelan music and kronchong. Now it have been developed in vicinity around Solo, i.e. Solo City, Sragen, Ngawi.

Kronchong Koes-Plus Koes Plus, a famous rock pop musician origin from Solo that introduce kronchong music in rock style (1974). The Group produced albums in kronchong style music, one of the song is entitled Kroncong Pertemuan which in the use of combined on Stamboel II and Langgam Kronchong (see above for each structure).

The Era of Millennium Keroncong (2000-now)

Even the kronchong music in the millennium (since the year of 2000), that the pop music industry until now does not produces as industrial music, but some groups have been make experiments on it. The group called "Keroncong Merah Putih", the kroncong group in Bandung that made some experiments on it which use the elements of combined rap music with background of kronchong music. Furthermore Bondan Prakoso fusion kroncong and hip-hop with his group, Bondan Prakoso & Fade 2 Black. We still waiting so far of this experiments and we hoping that it will be developed as the millennium kroncong. In 2008 @ Solo International Keroncong Festival, Harmony Chinese Music Group make some different atmosphere to Keroncong by adding Chinese musical instrument as main component & they called the genre as Indonesian Chinese Keroncong.

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