A Story About Remixing Ibu Waldjinah’s Version of Kembang Katjang

I recently fell in love with a song called Kembang Kacang whose original author (as of now) I do not know. However, the version I found was sung and recorded by the venerable Ibu Waldjinah in 1959 when she was just 14 years old.

Ibu Waldjinah has sung and recorded over 1500 songs and appeared on over 200 releases, true musical royalty. You can read more about this incredible woman here:

I’d used it to open up a DJ set when I was on Hör radio, but I thought it would be great to remix it after seeing a really incredible DJ set with Yung Singh in June 2022 at Panorama Bar for CTM. The feeling of hearing Punjabi music mixed with drum n’ bass, embodying distinctly ‘non-white’ grooves and rhythms in Panorama is difficult to describe, but I’d venture it was a meaningful catalyst to start working on the remix.

Shortly after seeing the set, I began work on my version of Waldjinah’s Kembang Kacang, with its keroncong ‘sway’ brought to the fore with my 160bpm breaks.

Fast forward to a couple of months later and I was chatting with my friend Helmi (who was in Solo at the time) and joked about how cool it would be to be able to ask Ibu Waldjinah’s permission to remix her track. ‘Oh, I met Waldjinah a month ago she lives near by…let’s have a call!  I might be come by her house and ask her in person.’

And so began the little journey which culminated in what you now hear:

Of course, my Indonesian vocabulary is quite limited, let alone my Javanese, so I was grateful when my dear friend Bilawa offered to translate a more formal request to her. Some other folks involved are the ever eloquent meLê yamomo who also introduced me to Citra Aryandri (from DeCoSEAS) who helped me ferry the letter to Waldjinah’s son, Bambang Herry who read the letter to her.

Finally, on December 6th, thanks to Helmi, I got to video chat with her son over WhatsApp in which he communicated with Ibu Waldjinah’s blessing to remix her version!  I hope you enjoy it.

For posterity, here is the momentous letter:

 

Berlin, 5 November 2022

Kepada Yth. Ibu Waldjinah,
Nama saya Morgan Sully, seorang keturunan Indonesia yang tinggal di Berlin.  Lewat surat ini saya ingin meminta izin untuk menggunakan dan membagi sebuah bentuk remix dari lagu “Kembang Katjang”. Sebagai seorang musisi/DJ, saya ingin membagi karya remix ini secara luas, dan menciptakan “ruang” di pertunjukan saya, di mana remix ini akan dimainkan.

Saya menemukan musik anda ketika meneliti latar belakang Indonesia saya (ibu saya adalah keturunan kepala suku Melanau di Kalimantan), dari sebuah tulisan dari Mad Rotter. Saya langsung jatuh hati ketika mendengarkannya. Suara anda menyentuh perasaan saya, dan saya ingin berbagi perasaan ini pada orang banyak saat malam atau pertemuan sosial berlangsung.
Ada komunitas masyarakat diaspora muda yang besar di sini. Saya rasa mereka pun akan ingin mendengarkan musik Anda diputar di lantai dansa. Hal tersebut tidak hanya akan menjadi perayaan mengenai dari mana kami berasal tetapi juga di mana kita berada, menghubungkan berbagai generasi dan jarak. Akan menjadi kehormatan bagi saya, jika Anda mempertimbangkan untuk mengizinkan saya untuk membuat remix dan membagi lagu Kembang Katjang. Terlepas dari mementaskan remix ini sebagai DJ, saya juga akan membuat karya remix ini bisa diunduh dan didengarkan secara cuma-cuma. Saya akan sangat dengan jawaban Anda. Untuk itu saya ucapkan terima kasih.

Salam hangat dari Berlin
Morgan Sully

//////

Berlin, November 5, 2022

Dear. Mrs. Waldjinah,
My name is Morgan Sully, an Indonesian descendant living in Berlin. Through this letter I would like to ask permission to use and share a remix of the song “Kembang Katjang”. As a musician/DJ, I want to share this remix work widely, and create a ‘space’ in my show, where these remixes will play. I found your music while researching my Indonesian background (my mother is descended from Melanau in Borneo), from an article by Mad Rotter.

I immediately fell in love when listening to it.

Your voice touches my feelings, and I want to share this feeling with a crowd during a night or social gathering. There is a large community of young diaspora people here and I think they too will be touched listening to your music playing on the dance floor. It isn’t just a celebration of where we come from but can also be a celebration of where we are, connecting various generations and distances. It would be my honor, if you would consider allowing me to make remixes and share Kembang Katjang. Apart from staging this remix as a DJ, I will also make this remix work available for free listening and download. I look forward to your answer and for that I thank you.

Warm greetings from Berlin
Morgan Sully


Thanks a lot, Helmi for making the visit for us to speak on Whatsapp together, and thanks a lot Bilawa for eloquently translating the letter.<3

And here’s a link to download the track for your own DJ sets (mastered by Enyang Urbiks | 하은영 <3):

Download