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Dara Puspita - Dara Puspita 1966-1968

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Artist: Dara Puspita

Album: Dara Puspita 1966-1968

Label: Sublime Frequencies

Review date: Jun. 3, 2010

Thanks to the research of Steven Farram’s 21 posts on garage hangover, the collector world was introduced to the story and sounds of Dara Puspita (“Flower Girls”). For those who were living in Indonesia throughout the mid 1960s, Dara Puspita is remembered as an exceptionally popular club act that was a true rarity at the time; all four female members were able to play their instruments and sing. While much has been made about the influence of the British invasion on their sound, it’s an enduring testament to the power of their musicianship that Dara Puspita’s records have held high collector interest, with auctions consistently reaching $300-$600 despite their seeming ubiquitous and constant presence on eBay.

Although the band officially formed a few years earlier, it wasn’t until the mid ’60s that the main lineup of Titiek Adji Rachman, Lies Sutisnowati Adji Rachman, Susy Nander and Titiek Hamzah came into being. (Ironically, 1966 is generally considered to be the tail end of the girl group era, yet the years of 1966-1968 are the focus of the Sublime Frequencies release.) The British sound was popular among the younger generation of Indonesians, and Dara Puspita was well versed in both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, as evidenced on tracks like “Ibu (Mother)” and “Lihat Adikku (See My Little Sister).”

This proved problematic for the girls (and even for their friends and sometimes collaborators, Koes Bersadaura) — Indonesian President Sukarno, a staunch communist, referred to the Beatles influence as “a form of mental disease.” Consequently, Koes Bersadaura was banned from Indonesian radio, and both bands were the target of frequent questioning and harassment by the government. After one infamous concert the two played together, Koes Bersadaura were jailed for three months for playing a version of “I Saw Her Standing There” that prompted Sukarno’s government loyalists to riot. Dara Puspita luckily managed to circumvent any government–imposed imprisonment, and even capitalize on their Western musical styles after Major General Suharto’s bloody coup.

The tracks comprising this release are pulled from three albums on Mohammed Sidik Tamimi’s Mesra label and one album from the El Shinta label. With master tapes long lost, and Indonesian records being notoriously difficult to find in decent condition, Alan Bishop and his label mates set about finding multiple sources to compile the best possible sound sources available. It’s an impressive feat, and even those with deep pockets would be hard pressed to find a copy of any of this music that sounds better.

It’s a shame that the cover of the Bee Gees’ hit “To Love Somebody” was not included on this compilation, but we still get 26 tracks of rollicking garage rock from arguably the best female garage group in the world. Kudos to Sublime Frequencies for tracking the girls down and convincing them to allow their music to be reissued.

By Dustin Drase

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