Some of Budi's 78-rpm gramophone collection. (Photo courtesy of Budi Warsito)

Travel Back in Time With Music Librarian Budi Warsito


MARCH 09, 2018

Jakarta. When eleven-year-old Budi Warsito one day caught a public bus on his own in Sukoharjo, a sleepy town near Solo in Central Java in the early 1990s, he had no idea of knowing that his chance discovery that day would eventually lead to a life-long fascination with all things vintage.

Budi found a package on an empty seat in the bus which a passenger had accidentally left. Inside it were old editions of Intisari magazines – Indonesia's Reader's Digest – from the '60s and '70s.

Budi said he wanted to read the magazines at first only because one of them was published close to his birthday.

"The covers were wrinkled and the pages were coming apart. But the old articles were fascinating," Budi said.

Years after the incident, collecting vintage magazines, records, cassette tapes, VHS and Betamax videotapes and other vintage goods has become one of Budi's most loved hobbies.

His passion for collecting vintage items developed in earnest when he moved to nearby Solo to go to high school.

"That's when I started buying old cassette tapes and vintage books. Since then, I've kept adding items to my collection," Budi said.

Before streaming and MP3s, compact discs, cassette tapes, 8-tracks and the now resurgent vinyl records used to rule the music world.

Budi started collecting or, as he prefers to call it, "archiving" old Indonesian music on vinyl records after he graduated high school and moved to Bandung to go to college.

"The first plat [vinyl record] I bought was a 12-inch album by Oslan Husein called 'Hanja Ada Satu.' At that time, it only cost me Rp 10,000 [70 cents]," Budi said. The same record now sells for more than Rp 500,000.

Budi also archives old records by international artists from many different genres but his most precious collections are almost all hard-to-get Indonesian releases.

Some of these include "Krontjong Miss Riboet" by Miss Riboet, released in 1928, "Komedie Stamboel Batavia" by Tio Tek Hong Record and "Krontjong Dardanella" by Tan Tjeng Bok.

Budi’s obsessions are vintage magazines and old records from 1910 to 1920, and that includes the jewels in his archive: 78 rpm gramophone records.

Some of Budi's collection of 78 rpm gramophone records. (Photo courtesy of Budi Warsito)

Even though antique stores can be found anywhere in the country, Budi said he bought most of the items in his collection from collectors and shops in Java.

"I get most of them from Jakarta and Bandung. Some from flea markets in Central and East Java," Budi said.

After years of adding things into his collection, Budi, who prefers to see himself as a librarian rather than a collector, now has more than a thousand vintage books, magazines and booklets that he stores at his home and at Kineruku, a cosy library cafe that he manages with his wife, filmmaker and artist Ariani Darmawan.

Budi also has an extensive collection of vinyl records, 78 rpm gramophone records, cassette tapes and reel-to-reel tapes.

Budi said what could be the most historically important item in his collection is a 10-inch 78 rpm gramophone record called "Extra Nona Siapa" by Siti Moedjenah.

Featuring the Populair Jazz Band, Moedjenah's song was probably released around the end of the 1930s by Tjap Banteng Paling Merdoe.

The song is also an adaptation of Charlie Chaplin’s version of a French traditional song in his 1936 classic Modern Times.

A 12-page booklet from the early 1940s titled "Columbia Origineele Opname In de Dhâlem van de Astana Mangkoenegaran Soerakarta" ("Original Recordings From the Mangkunegaran Palace in Surakarta [Solo]") is also one of Budi's favorites.

Despite the Dutch title, most of the text in the booklet is written in Bahasa Melayu – the precursor to Bahasa Indonesia – in the old Van Ophuijsen spelling.

The booklet, printed to accompany a series of recordings of gamelan music, was published before Indonesia gained its independence from the Dutch and one of the most unique collections in Budi's personal archive.

Budi Warsito's collection of 1940s booklet titled “Columbia Origineele Opname In de Dhâlem van de Astana Mangkoenegaran Soerakarta." (Photo courtesy of Budi Warsito)

Aside from collecting vintage goods, Budi also likes to research his archive and writes articles about his findings on his personal blog.

He said his articles sometimes provoke unexpected responses from friends and readers.

"I like to write about things that are rarely discussed on the internet, rare music albums like ones by Doel Kamdi from the Blo'on Group from the mid '70s, or Franco Bernie and Rani Lima Folk from the early 1980s," Budi said.

Budi said his blog opens door for him to meet people who share the same hobbies or memories with him.

"You'd be surprised how often I receive comments on my blog or e-mails from the members of the bands I write about, or from people who know about them or sometimes just a simple thank you note," Budi said.

Taking care of such a large vintage archive can be difficult. You can always dust off old books, magazines and booklets, but there is almost nothing you can do when the ink starts to fade and the pages start to come apart.

Budi said he has also been learning about archive preservation from, of all places, photocopy shops and YouTube.

"You can fix old books or magazines with glue, or sew the torn pages back together. Then you should put plastic covers on them. You should also put covers on vinyl records and cassette tapes, and keep them tidy on storage shelf," Budi said.

Budi also very rarely sells his collections. "I only let go of a few things. Some of the old records and magazines go to the vintage store – Garasi Opa ("Grandad's Garage") – next to the library. I find it hard to part with them. I like that they contain memories, not only mine but also of this country's rich musical history."