Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | 23:16 WIB

Discover Benyamin Suaeb at the“Biang Kerok” archive exhibition

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Jakarta, IO – Benyamin Suaeb was a legend! His unique works and distinctive speaking style made the man, fondly known as “Bang Ben”, an artist’s reference point. 

Benyamin Suaeb was a versatile Betawi artist. He was born on March 5, 1939, and passed away on September 5, 1995. He was an actor, comedian, and singer who sang his songs with unusual lyrics and melodies. Bang Ben’s songs are mostly warm, humorous, and often filled with social criticism. 

To commemorate Bang Ben, the Irama Nusantara Foundation, an organization focused on digitally archiving Indonesian popular music, is hosting an exhibition to introduce Bang Ben in a contemporary way. They have collaborated with the Benyamin Suaeb Foundation to present “Biang Kerok: The Benyamin Suaeb Archive Exhibition” at the Kebangkitan Nasional Museum in Jakarta. 

Biang Kerok
(IO/Umamah)

This exhibition, running from June 2 to July 14, 2024, offers an unconventional way to get to know Benyamin. The exhibition is inviting the public, especially music enthusiasts, to witness Bang Ben’s greatness in the museum that has been transformed into a nostalgic space. Visitors can listen to Benyamin’s music and explore his life story through a historical series titled “Jalan Idupnye Bang Ben.” 

The exhibition will introduce Bang Ben’s figure to the young visitors about who he was, how he began his career and his upbringing in a village in Kemayoran, Jakarta. Benyamin had shown an interest in the arts even as a child. At the age of 4, in 1943, he and some friends started the ‘Kaleng Bekas Band,’ using discarded items to make music. 

Born and raised in Jakarta, young Benyamin pursued his education in Bandung. After returning to Jakarta in 1957, he began his music career with the band Melody Boys, later known as Melodi Ria. Throughout his illustrious musical career in the Indonesian music scene, Benyamin produced over 75 albums, both solo and in collaborations with other artists, including his phenomenal duet with Ida Royani. Bang Ben’s contributions also significantly boosted the popularity of Gambang Kromong, a traditional Betawi music that is influenced by various cultures around Jakarta: “Bul Bul Efendi,” and “Ondel-Ondel.” 

Biang Kerok
(IO/Umamah)

Another interesting feature of the exhibition is a collection of vintage cassette tapes and vinyl records that visitors can play and listen to. Visitors can enjoy a new experience by listening to music through headphones connected to music players featuring many of Bang Ben’s tracks. 

Not only songs, but the music players also feature recordings of radio broadcasts popularly hosted by Benyamin. His distinctive Betawi accent makes all his statements sound humorous, with a hilarious choice of words that were unique and lively without losing their meaning. He could elicit pleasant responses from his speaking partner. 

Benyamin’s passion for radio was not merely impulsive. He once worked as a broadcaster at Radio Aristiara AM 738 (now known as Kiss FM), where he hosted ‘Ente Tanya Ane Jawab.’ He even had a duet with Jujuk Srimulat on the Aneka Ria Safari. His commitment to radio resulted in his very own Bens Radio, a station that strongly promoted Betawi culture. He began trial broadcasts on the AM 846 frequency in 1990. 

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Biang Kerok
(IO/Umamah)

Bang Ben’s distinct Betawi dialect boosted his career not just to success in voice acting, but also to standout in performance art. Bang Ben made his acting debut in 1971 in the film “Dunia Belum Kiamat.” His performance drew attention and paved the way for his acting career, which began in 1972 with the film “Intan Berduri.” In 1973, he won the Citra Award for Best Actor for his performance as Jamal in the film. Bang Ben was not pleased with his acting accomplishments, and this encouraged him to hone his skills, starring in 10 feature films throughout 1973. He won another Citra Award for Best Actor in the film “Si Doel Anak Modern” in 1977. His prolific career spanned countless works until his passing on September 6, 1995. On December 6 of the same year, the Jakarta Provincial Government named a street ‘Benyamin Suaeb,’ connecting R. E. Martadinata Street and Kemayoran Gempol Street in Jakarta, in his honor. 

The entire “Biang Kerok: Pameran Arsip Benyamin Suaeb” exhibition is open to the public, with an entrance ticket only costing IDR 2,000. (Un)

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