Saturday, February 26, 2011


Years ago one of my Indies uncles told me that when he was growing up in the montaine area of Western Java, local amateur performers would tour the town on the holidays of each cultural community and play music as requested. The instruments were often old brass band pieces, scratchy violins, native reed instruments. Plus a drum and gong.
Or mostly drums and gongs and the odd trumpet.
Such an ensemble was called a 'ronsebons'.

The repertoire consisted of tunes from the Indies-Portuguese, Dutch army marches, dance music...... and local variations, interpretations, inventions. The full Betawi music selection, in other words. As much as the talents and application of the musicians could encompass.
It was all music suitable for the breaking of the fast for Muslims, Christmas for Dutch and Chinese, Chinese New Year, the queen's birthday.....

Often there were melodies recognizable to everyone. La Marseillaise. The Wilhelmus. God Save the King.

And Marching Through Georgia.

As Oom ('uncle') Haak explained it, you have never experienced Marching Through Georgia until you've heard it performed on rebab, klintang, and rattle-drum, with a bamboo flute.

Marching through Georgia is a tune that transcended its origin very fast and very widely.
The lyrics have not always stayed true.


The Japanese version is an Enka classic dating from the early Taisho era.
It's a song gently jabbing at local culture in the capitol city, written by Satsuki Soeda in the second decade of the twentieth century.

Both Japanese versions below feature female vocalists.


At this point you probably understand two things.

ONE: the reason why an adhoc brass band is called a 'ronsebons' in East-Indies Dutch. More charmingly rouncy-bouncy than the performance of these young ladies it can scarcely get.

TWO: why the next version is almost unbearably cute.


The anime version is from 'Taisho Era Baseball Girl' (大正野球娘 Taisho Yakyu Musume - "Greatly Righteous, field ball, maiden"), about two teenage highschool girls in 1925 who decide to form a baseball team to overcome rigid gender roles and the stereotyping of women.
Yes, it's kawaii to da max.

[Lyrics here:
Please do sing along. ]


I don't know about you, but after watching that first video several times, I want that all-girl ronsebons to tour the United States. That's one dynamite act.
We need them in San Francisco.

No, I have NO idea why the lead singer holds a large stuffed pig. Or is that a bunny rabbit?
But it's essential; it's coming too!

They also did a version of Hava Nagila. It can be seen here:

Minority Orchestra:

NOTE: It actually isn't "fight - fight - fight" but "painopainopai".
I have no clue what that means.
Nor do I understand why it seems to be about food.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.


Tzipporah said...

That was way too upbeat for this time of day.

Maybe for any time of day.

The back of the hill said...

You think so?
The first one always puts a big smile all over my ponim.

But your comment totally rocks.
I expect that others will wholeheartedly agree with your assesment.

I'm still baffled by the stuffed pig, though.

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