Slamet Jenggot: Indonesia's Mad Inventor of Weird Musical Instruments

Musician, painter and architect Slamet Wiyono invents his own musical instruments. (Photo courtesy of Putri Raya)

By : Diella Yasmine | on 8:03 PM March 15, 2018
Category : Life & Style, Music

Jakarta. Bekasi-based architect, painter and musician Slamet Wiyono, better known as Slamet Jenggot, or "Bearded Slamet," never thought his hobby of dismantling mechanical components would inspire him to create his unique – some say mad – musical instruments.

Slamet created his first instrument in 2012 using auto spare parts he found on the side road or he collected for free from auto repair shops.

The still unnamed instrument is a hand-cranked music box built with over 500 kilograms of steel and aluminum plates, put together using metal bolts.

"The way I work is very organic. I avoid using a welding machine to combine these aluminum and steel pieces for my instrument," Slamet said.

The Frankenstein-like instrument activates a bass, drum, guitar, kick drum, cymbal and other instruments to produce whimsical, strangely harmonious music.

Slamet Jenggot began to work on his new instrument in 2012. (Photo courtesy of Putri Raya) Slamet Jenggot began to work on his new instrument in 2012. (Photo courtesy of Putri Raya)

For the 66-year-old artist, machine is one of mankind's greatest inventions through which we can do things that cannot be done by the body or the mind.

"I am always fascinated by the relationship between art, technology and science. To me, my work shows how these three elements can work together to create a unity," he said.

Slamet said his educational background plays a big role in the way he makes his "mad" instruments.

"My work combines art design and machines. I studied architecture and I have a passion for all things automotive.

Slamet's huge and intricate instrument also included several kitchen implements such as scales, portable stoves and frying pans.

Viewed at a glance, the instrument might resemble the shape of a motorcycle. But Slamet said he never intended it, because he wants people to have their own interpretation of the object.

"People often ask why I created this monstrosity. I said, this is the way I express my fondness for art and a creative way to voice [my] anxiety about the world," Slamet said.

He said some elements in the instrument actually represent his disillusionment with political discrimination, intolerance and greedy leaders. The scale, for example, for him represents all the imbalances in Indonesian politics.

Not for Sale

Many of Slamet's artist friends and visitors to his gallery in Bekasi often encourage him to sell his musical instruments but he said he would never do it.

"I like what I create and I have no intention to sell it. Many of my artist friends said I can make a lot of profit but this is not about money. It’s about my passion," Slamet said.

Unlike many conventional music instruments, Slamet's creation does not follow a diatonic scale.

"When I perform, my instrument cannot follow the guitar, drum or piano, they have to follow me. Because I did  not create it to follow a conventional musical scale.”

Slamet opens his workshop every Saturday and Sunday to teach people how to make musical instruments like he does and everyone who is interestic in kinetic art.

Slamet said university students, artists and music lovers often regularly join his workshop in Bekasi, just outside Jakarta. He also holds several other workshops outside his home.

Kinetic Artist

Slamet's latest project will be showcased in the 2018 Asian Games in Palembang and Jakarta in August. This one will be a much bigger work though the concept is similar to the old one.

"They asked me to create 15 kinetic art installation made of aluminum and steel, just like what I did," Slamet said.

Slamet now has two studios, one for his paintings in Durent Sawit, East Jakarta, and the musical instrument workshop at his home. He said he's not planning to open up any more studios in the near future.

"I prefer to have people come to my house. It's always nice to have people around," Slamet said.

Although not a household name even in Jakarta, Slamet has built quite a reputation among Indonesia's art communities. He has performed in many music festivals and also takes part in staging plays.

He was also a friend of the late grand old man of Indonesian pop, Urip Achmad Ariyanto, or Mbah Surip, and has shared stage with legendary folk-pop singer-songwriter Iwan Fals, Indonesia's Bob Dylan.

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