May 17, 2010
Dara Puspita (Flower Girls) was Indonesia’s most successful girl band of the 1960s. While there were many popular female vocalists in Indonesia at that time, they nearly all relied on the services of a backing band. Dara Puspita was one of the few girl groups who actually played all their own music as well. They hailed from the city of Surabaya in East Java and first formed in 1964 with the line-up of sisters Titiek Adji Rachman (Titiek A.R.) on guitar and Lies Soetisnowati Adji Rachman (Lies A.R.) on bass, along with Susy Nander on drums and Ani Kusuma on rhythm guitar. In April 1965 Lies left the band for a month to finish school and was replaced on bass by Titiek Hamzah. When Lies returned she took the place of Ani on rhythm guitar and Titiek Hamzah stayed on as bass player. It was with this line-up that the band set out to conquer the world.
In 1965 the band relocated to Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, and soon gained a reputation as a sensational live act, bashing away on their instruments, screaming out their songs and jumping up and down. Even though it was often hard to hear the songs through all the mayhem, audiences thought it was great and often joined the band to dance around on the stage. The band’s stage act and the songs they played were clearly influenced by contemporary British bands such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, whose music at the time was banned in Indonesia. The Jakarta band Koes Bersaudara (Koes Brothers) was actually put in gaol for playing rock and roll, but it seems that Dara Puspita was never seriously troubled by the authorities, although they were warned not to perform Beatles’ songs.
Why Dara Puspita was never targeted by the authorities is a bit of a mystery, but was probably due to them being still relatively new on the scene in Jakarta and having not yet released a record. In late 1965 the political situation in Indonesia swung 360 degrees and rock and roll could be played again with impunity, so when Dara Pupita’s first album, Jang Pertama (The First), was released in 1966 they had little to fear. There is no mistaking the influence of other bands’ music on many of the songs here, such as the Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction riff in Mari-Mari (Come On, Come Here) or the Dave Clarke Five’s Glad All Over in Tanah Airku (My Homeland).
Dara Puspita followed up their first album with the self-titled Dara Puspita later in the year and in 1967 put out two albums, Green Green Grass and A Go Go. The title track from the latter album, and the song Believe Me, are good examples of the band’s beat credentials.
The band was a popular attraction in Indonesia and also in the region, playing to enthusiastic crowds in neighbouring countries, such as Thailand and Malaysia. In 1968 they took the almost unprecedented move for an Indonesian band of trying their luck in Europe and spent the next few years touring in England, Holland, France, Belgium, Spain, Germany and Hungary. They even played in Turkey and Iran. While in England they recorded two singles for CBS and recorded another for Philips in Holland. In late 1971 the band returned to Indonesia and played a number of concerts, but enthusiasm was starting to wane and in April 1972 they played their last show. Susy was keen to keep going and together with Titiek Hamzah recorded a number of albums using the Dara Puspita name, but it was really the end.