MTV Indonesia writer and musicianDenny Sakrie, left, was sought after for public speaking engagements, thanks to his knowledge. Photos courtesy of Morfem and Antara

Denny Sakrie: End of Great Era

JANUARY 09, 2015

With his sudden passing from a cardiac arrest on Saturday at age 51, Indonesian musicologist Denny Sakrie brought an outpouring of grief.

It was not only from friends and family who knew him personally, but music fans who took to him as someone whose passion and historical knowledge of music acted as a compass of what music to listen to and how to listen it.

Though only a hobby musician himself, Denny was a pillar of old-school music fandom — a treasure in an era of singles and MP3 files. Just a day before he died, Denny updated his blog with an article about legendary New Waver Fariz R.M.

Through his writing and guest speaking appearances — not to mention constant gigs as a commentator covering music-related topics on TV, radio and the Internet, as well as his active social media accounts — Denny played a crucial part in preserving the history of Indonesian music.

Publicly, he promoted and spoke a lot about it, sure — but the Maluku-born Denny did much more than that.

His collection of ultra-rare vinyls was often used as a reference for articles — Rolling Stone Indonesia's list of "Greatest Indonesian Albums" would never have existed were it not for Denny's records, chief editor Adib Hidayat, who called Denny a "walking music encyclopedia," tells me -- and he embraced both real-world and Internet discussions about local music past and present, often a source for university theses.

Denny enthusiastically wrote liner notes and recorded endorsements (disclaimer: including a few of mine) with little more expectation than to be involved and to make a connection.

Denny Sakrie began his career in the 1980s as a radio announcer at Makassar's Madama radio station before relocating to Jakarta in the early 1990s to work at other stations, including Prambors, FeMale and M97, while also working as a contributing writer for publications including Tempo and Kompas.

Denny was in the midst of finalizing the release of his book, "100 Tahun Sejarah Musik Indonesia 1905-2005" ("100 Years of Indonesian Musical History, 1905-2005"), a detailed account of the local music scene, with in-depth stories on the country's record labels and some of the most influential yet forgotten acts.

"There must have been hundreds, if not thousands, of his writings on Indonesian popular music from the '50s, '60s, '70s, and 2000s," says Wendi Putranto, Rolling Stone Indonesia's executive editor.

"We'd all agree that there are very few resources for Indonesian musical history; [Denny] was a historian, intense and passionate about writing on the subject on his personal blog, almost daily. This was done so that the younger generation would understand the roots of music from their own country — something that this country couldn't provide and which Denny did."

Alvin Bahar, a writer in his early 20s for the magazine HAI, says that for people his age, Denny's writing helped form and direct their musical trajectory.

Alvin, who learned about veteran bands such as Guruh Gypsy and the iconic " Badai Pasti Berlalu " ("The Storm Will Surely Pass") soundtrack from Denny's online writings, says that the younger generation listened to Denny because despite his all-encompassing knowledge, he was as in-tune with current music trends as he was with older ones.

"He really was a music observer," Alvin says. "People his age are often unfamiliar with [current] bands such as Auman or Sore. Without the documentation that was his writing, we wouldn't have known about such things such as [1960s music magazine] Aktuil or the time Deep Purple played a show here."

Alvin says young music writers like himself aspire to be as knowledgeable about different kinds of music as Denny was.

Indeed, as frustrated as he sometimes seemed through his social media posts about the younger generation's more lax attitude toward music (asking easily Google-able questions, though perhaps just an indication of wanting his approval), Denny was never stingy about his almost computerized knowledge of music.

Adib says Denny was never able to say no to musical queries — no matter who they came from or when, recalling many instances in between seminars and judging duties when Denny spent what few breaks he had talking to students or fans.

Along with a few close friends that included Aksara Records founder David Tarigan, Denny helped usher in the vinyl revival trend, which has sustained the lives of many local bands and labels, and invigorated the record store business such as in Blok M Square's basement area and in Kemang. If ever there was an advocate for the record store days and record fairs of recent years, it was Denny.

As a literally daily visitor to Blok M Square's increasing number of vinyl-dedicated stores, Denny was a ubiquitous presence, along with the bag full of records always on his shoulder.

"He was the music nerd in all of us," says Elevation Records founder Taufiq Rahman, whose releases were championed by Denny. (A few days before he died, Denny declared the label's release by Palembang band Semak Belukar the best album of 2014.)

Taufiq compares Denny's role in Indonesian music with the job that H.B. Jassin played in local literature, for which "Indonesian literature is in better shape because of him."

"It's the same with Denny Sakrie; people turned to him asking questions, asking him to give context about what really happened back then," Taufiq says, adding that "Keeping tabs, cataloguing [records] — this explained Denny's voracious appetite for collecting."

"It would be difficult to find someone who could compete with [the depth of] his writings," says Wahyu Nugroho, lead singer of Bangkutaman and writer for MTV Indonesia, who spent many hours record-hunting with Denny for his own website, Gila Vinyl. "He was really someone you would have fun talking to, especially about vinyl," Wahyu adds.

Perhaps Denny's greatest legacy was showing how to live from a passion, even if it meant being very creative with how to earn a living. Indeed, he was a harbinger of the increasing number of music fanatics living with no fixed job but through various creative means.

Eric Wiryanata, who has run the website Deathrockstar since 2002 (disclaimer: I was a co-founder) says it was Denny who made him quit his office job.

"He told me that he wanted to be closer with his daughter and working a nine-to-give job would make that impossible. I saw how he not only survived, but was able to spend time with his child and sustain his musical collection. I quit my job the next week," Eric says.

Some of Denny Sakrie's writings can be found at dennysakrie63.wordpress.com.

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