Sunday, January 16, 2022

Iwan Fals - Ngalor Ngidulnya, Volume 1 (2020-2021)

I have to warn that this album isn't for everyone. Do you speak Indonesian? If so, you'll hopefully love this. But if not, you may well skip it, since all the songs here are sung in the Indonesian language. I figure very few people will download this, but who knows, maybe word will get out to some Indonesian groups and it'll find an audience.

Have you ever heard of Iwan Fals? Unless you've spent time in Indonesia, I highly doubt it. But I lived there for two years at one point, and in my opinion he's heads and shoulders above all other Indonesian musicians, a musical genius. He's often referred to as the "Bob Dylan of Indonesia," and with good reason. His music career started in the late 1970s, and he's still going strong today (as I write this in 2022), with a new album released in 2021. 

He's particularly known for the quality of his lyrics, and he's served as kind of the social conscience of the country, with many protest songs about poverty, injustice, corruption, and so on. (As an example, the second song here, "Ambulans Zig Zag," is a critique about the poor state of Indonesia's public health care system.) In 2002, Time Magazine listed him as a "Great Asian Hero." Also in 2005, the Asian version of Time Magazine published their opinion of the top 100 Indonesian songs of all time. Fals had the number one song, as well as the most songs on the list. Here's his Wikipedia entry if you want to know more about him:

Iwan Fals - Wikipedia 

If you've never heard his music before, this probably isn't the best place to start. These are all unreleased versions of songs he started posting on YouTube during the Covid pandemic, just as many musicians have done in other countries. They're all in a solo acoustic format. As such, there's more of a focus on the lyrics. Probably a better place to start for someone who doesn't speak the language is the full band stuff. which has often been rocking and catchy. I could try to put together an introductory best of collection of that kind of material, if people are interested.

Fals got started doing these acoustic versions in late 2020, typically doing one song a week. As I write this in January 2022, he's still going with it. So I have four more albums in this series after this one, hopefully with more to come. They're all original songs taken from his many albums. But the original versions were typically done with a band, and these acoustic versions are often quite different.

The YouTube videos these songs are taken from are usually quite long, typically ten to twenty minutes long. Most of that time t is him talking into the camera (in Indonesian), with one song performed at some point in there. So I've gone to some effort to extract only the songs and leave all the rest behind. The talking doesn't have much replay value, and has zero value if you don't speak Indonesian.

The sound quality is generally pretty good, but it's variable. Even though all the songs were recorded inside his house, it seems he's varied his recording setup and his location slightly from time to time, which has sometimes changed the sound quality. There are a few songs in this long series that I didn't include because the sound quality wasn't as good as the others. But overall, this sounds about the same as other 2020 home recordings I've posted at this blog.

This album is 50 minutes long. Most of the songs from this album are better known ones from the early part of his long career. Oh, and by the way, the name of this series, "Ngalor Ngidulnya" is the name Fals has given to all these videos, and roughly means "hanging out" in Indonesian.

01 Bangunlah Putra Putri Pertiwi (Iwan Fals)
02 Ambulans Zig Zag (Iwan Fals)
03 Puing (Iwan Fals)
04 Sarjana Muda (Iwan Fals)
05 Doa Pengobral Dosa (Iwan Fals)
06 Yang Terlupakan (Iwan Fals)
07 Oemar Bakrie (Iwan Fals)
08 22 Januari (Iwan Fals)
09 Bung Hatta (Iwan Fals)
10 Opiniku (Iwan Fals)

For the album cover, I took a screenshot from one of the YouTube videos of the songs featured here. I think it was "Doa Pengobral Dosa."


  1. By the way, if anyone has recommendations for truly exceptional musicians who sing in languages other than English, please share them. I try not to limit myself to just English based music, if it's something really exceptional.

    1. I'm a fan of Japanese psychedelic blues rock guitarist Shinki Chen, his album "Eve" by his group Speed, Glue, and Shinki is a real banger of a record. He has a solo album, but it's really out there, as is the album "Social Gathering" by one off super group Food Brain, which he was involved in. Working with him on his solo album and in Food Brain was keyboardist Hiro Yanagida, whose album "Milk Time" I really love

  2. I'm a frequent visitor to your website, and another American who spent a few years living in Indonesia... It's a wonderful surprise to see something by Iwan Fals posted here! Please keep these concerts coming! Makasih banyak!

    1. Hey, that's great! I'm kind of wondering if anyone at all will appreciate this album, so it's good to know at least one person will. :)

  3. Non-English recommendations: Breton (which I don't speak myself): Alan Stivell
    German: Singer Wolfgang Niedecken and his Band "Bap" (he releases music under both names) sings lyrics in the Cologne dialect which is only intelligible with a lot of practice to German speakers from other regions, so no need for you to feel left out ...
    Though I have no idea how much material there is out there to compile "albums that sould exist" ...

  4. I'm a Canadian who visited Indonesia a number of times in the early 1970's and, more recently (late 1990's to late 2010's), has worked a lot in Indonesia. I love the place and the people. Unfortunately I have have only acquired a "small talk" level as almost everyone I worked with spoke English very well. I'm intrigued by this posting and really looking forword to listening. The only Indonesian artist that I'm familiar with is a folk band called Silampukau. Terimakasih.