Gesang Martohartono

Singer-songwriter, Musical Artist

1917 – 2010

18

Who was Gesang Martohartono?

Gesang Martohartono was a renowned Indonesian singer-songwriter from central Java, and he is the composer of the song Bengawan Solo, a tune which has become famous throughout Indonesia, Japan, much of Asia, and some other countries in the world. The song is almost synonymous with the kroncong style of Javanese music. Martohartono was most commonly known simply as Gesang.

Gesang was born in the central Javanese city of Surakarta. His father owned a batik-fabric business, which however went bankrupt when Gesang was still in his teens, plunging the family into poverty. Gesang, a self-taught musician who was however illiterate in musical notation, supported himself and his family by writing songs and singing at local functions such as weddings and other formal occasions.

In 1940, during the Zaman Pendudukan Jepang in World War II, the impoverished 23-year-old musician composed a tune in the popular urban local style known as kroncong, a musical tradition of the region which combined Javanese chord progressions with Westernised vocal stylings, instrumental arrangements, and melodies. The style had its origins in the 17th century Portuguese influence upon the region, and was at the time associated with the urban poor and as such had somewhat of an unsavoury reputation, particularly among traditionalists.

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Born
Oct 1, 1917
Surakarta
Ethnicity
  • Javanese people
Nationality
  • Indonesia
Profession
Died
May 20, 2010
Surakarta

Submitted
on July 23, 2013

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