February 9, 2009 / 5:55 AM / 10 years ago

Indonesia's "Beatles" back in tune 40s years on

JAKARTA (Reuters Life!) - It’s been 40 years since Koes Plus topped Indonesian charts with songs influenced by The Beatles, and now a new crop of musicians inspired by the band’s style are helping to tune them in with the crowds again.

“People remember our songs in their hearts, our songs are still popular, for example many groups still cover our songs, all around Java,” Koes Plus vocalist Yon Koeswoyo told Reuters.

About 50 different bands now cover Koes Plus, and all are so popular that a local radio station recently organized a concert for fans, bringing Koeswoyo and the “T-Koes,” a band which is made up of his son, Junior, and other musicians.

Fans sang along and danced down memory lane during the intermission, admiring posters of the band from their heyday.

“I’ve liked Koes Plus since the 1970s, so now I am taking my daughter and sons who also like Koes Plus very much,” said fan Winda, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

Koes Plus is credited with being one of the founders of the Indonesian pop rock culture in the 1970s. Generations of Indonesians have sung along to their hits and their songs have also been covered scores of times by other artists.

The band has produced 14 albums and over a thousand songs, branching into various styles, and now younger fans say they can also relate to their music.

“I like the songs and the lyrics. It’s easy listening and right on target about our daily lives,” said Maya, a young fan.


The forerunner of Koes Plus was another band called Koes Bersaudara or “Koes Brothers.”

That band, formed in 1960, was initially comprised of five brothers from East Java who penned hundreds of songs influenced by The Beatles’ catchy melodies, incisive guitar solos and concise lyrics.

Koes Plus scored a number one hit with their only English song “Why do you love me” that was also popular in neighboring countries, including Australia.

However their Beatles’ style caused legal problems for the members in 1965 and the government then accused the band of promoting decadent Western culture and jailed the members.

Now, only Koeswoyo remains from the original band as the other members have retired or suffer ill health.

“Yes, we were imitating The Beatles but not all of it is imitation and we did not adopt all of their culture. Koes Plus is still Indonesian,” Koeswoyo said.

Koes Plus’ songs cross various music genres, but many feel they are relevant to daily Indonesian life, regardless of time.

“The difference between new bands and Koes Plus is how long they last,” said music analyst Bens Leo.

“New bands produce two or three albums, then they’re forgotten, but Koes Plus have produced 14 albums and bands are still covering their songs.”

Of the Koes Plus wannabes, “T-Koes” is one of the most popular and its young members say their various styles drew them to the original band’s music.

“After I heard their songs, I began liking Koes Plus because they have various types of music and it’s not monotonous like some of the modern groups,” said 12-year-old T-Koes performer Jaru.

Editing by Miral Fahmy

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