Remembering Djaduk Ferianto

By: Patricia Kusumaningtyas |

One of Indonesia’s leading figures in music and performing arts, Djaduk Ferianto, passed away last week. With a career spanning for decades, he has contributed to Indonesia’s arts and music scene in a way that is indelible for years to come.

Djaduk Ferianto came from a family of artists. It wouldn’t be strange for him to continue the work in the same vein; he was heavily involved in acting, theatre, and creating music scores for films. With his brothers Butet Kertaradjasa and Purwanto, Ferianto established a keroncong troupe, Orkes Sinten Ramen, as well as aiming to reconcile traditional keroncong music and other contemporary genres. Besides dabbling in the world of film and keroncong, he is a pioneer for Indonesia’s own jazz scene; he established Yogyakarta’s own premier jazz festival, Ngayogjazz, that still continues on to this day.

If I were to choose the most affecting work Djaduk Ferianto has made—one that affects me the most, personally—it would be his film scores, especially his work for Soegija. The main theme from the song comes from a traditional Catholic mass song; throughout the film, he arranged other traditional songs to follow the flowing, beautiful mass of violins. The film’s narrative resonated with my family from all generations—my affinity towards film and music, my dad’s hometown, my grandparents’ colonial experiences, and all of our identities as Javanese Catholics—but most importantly, Ferianto’s music made the emotional reaction and the association stronger than it usually is. Ferianto’s score for Soegija reminds all of us that art, especially music, can be a medium for tolerance and inclusivity.

We can say for sure that Djaduk Ferianto does a lot to the preservation and continuation of Indonesian music, and he will continue to inspire further generations of artists. May his legacy lives on.

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