Lir-Ilir: Dolanan Song of the Javanese

Essay written by Nurwanti on Sunday 4, December 2016

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This is a short essay about a dolanan song in the Javanese. This essay will explain the meaning of this song.

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[Lir-ilir song is one of the results of Javanese culture in the form of sound art. Many people assume that lir-ilir song is one “tembang dolanan” song that commonly sung by the Javanese children in the traditional game. Yet, lir-ilir song lyric contains a moral message that is loaded with religious value, responsibility, discipline, and hard work (Kusumarini, 2012). Thus, the song which created by Sunan Kalijaga contains many moral messages that need to be assessed. So, in order to understand what are the moral values that contained in it, the author uses the theory of semiotics of Saussure as the basis theory for a study that followed by several additional theories. (Semiotics is the science of signs studying the form of pins, which can appear in a variety of text types). Here is a complete translation of the lyrics lir-ilir and meaning in Indonesian and English and the meaning as well that has been analyzed not only from its super structure but also from its base structure: Lir-Ilir (Bangunlah) (Wake up) The meaning of this verse is sunan as religious preachers call upon the people to immediately get up from adversity and together move towards better things. In other words, sunan also invites people to rush to meet a new era. And one of the better things and the new era is Islam with openness heart and joy. Lir-Ilir, tandurè wus sumilir (Bangunlah, tanaman sudah bersemi) (Wake up, the plants already blossomed) From the Javanese perspective the word "sumilir" is meant a condition in which the rice plant was almost ready for harvest. Based on Saussure and his theory about sign (signified and signifier) the word “sumilir” here is signifier that signified Islam at that time; Islam as a religion that has been said to be ready to adhere. This is because; it has been the existence of sunan who spread Islam beforehand. Thus, people should immediately get up and move to welcome Islam. Why have rice plants in addition to other crops? Why not use other plants? This is because in 1470 when Sunan Kalijaga spreading the religion, the majority of the population of Java (particularly in East Java) grow rice as their crops. And rice is the staple food of the Java community. In other words, rice selected as a signifier for a close relationship with the local community. Tak ijo royo-royo tak sengguh temantèn anyar (Demikian menghijau bagaikan pengantin baru) (They were green as newlyweds) The green color is selected in this lyric for "ijo" (green) is a signifier of color that signifies the greatness of Islam. (Even some Islamic parties in Indonesia uses green as the color of their political parties, such as: PKB and Bulan Bintang). Further, Javanese community at that time regarded the green plants as the lush plants. Moreover, they also claim it as a good sign that indicates abundant harvests. Thus, this verse use the word “ijo” as an indicator that indicate the arrival of Islam is a proud thing and fun, the entire community should welcome it with joy; the same joy as when the newlyweds event was held. Cah angon, cah angon, pènèkna blimbing kuwi (Anak gembala, anak gembala panjatlah (pohon) belimbing itu) (Shepherd, Climb the star fruit tree.) Shepherd in this verse signifies a leader. And star fruit here have been selected as a signifier that signifying the five pillars of Islam (because of star fruit has five serrations or five sides), among them: shahada, prayer, charity, fasting, and pilgrimage. The fifth pillar of Islam should be taken by the entire Islamic community, despite having to go through a difficult path that is full of struggle. Then, the meaning of this verse is the leader must lead the society to obey the five pillars of Islam. Why should be the leader that mention in the verse? This case is in line with Foucault theory about power. Foucault sees power as a subject which is a product of power. In other word, the notion of power is not only repressive but also productive. Thus, the word “cah angon” which means the leader here emphasize the hope of Sunan Kalijaga for the leader to be the role models of the public. Once, the leader gives a good example or good attitude it will be followed by the society. In addition, it is a hope; if the leader follow Islam and obey all the five pillars of Islam, the society might do the same thing. Lunyu lunyu yo pènèken kanggo mbasuh dodotiro (Walaupun licin dan susah tetaplah kau panjat untuk membasuh pakaianmu) (Go on and climb the tree, even though it is hard and slippery; to wash your clothes) This verse clearly stated that sunan want the leader to lead the society to obey the five pillars (that already mention before), even though the road is long and not easy as it seems. Yet, Sunan Kalijaga hope the society will still be on the right track to obey the five pillars for the shake to wash their “dodotiro” or clothes. Javanese culture, recognize dodotiro as a particular type of fabric that is used only in important ceremonies, such as weddings and other ceremonies. By this case, the word “dodotiro” or clothes is signifies hearth, attitude, soul, and mind. Further, sunan urge people to continue to apply these five pillars of Islam as an antidote dirty heart that is full of envy and jealousy, as well as a guide in behavior, tranquilizing of the human soul, as well as the limitation that we take as a consideration in our way of think and way of live. Dodotiro, dodotiro, kumitir bedhah ing pinggir (Pakaianmu, pakaianmu terkoyak-koyak di bagian samping) (Your clothes were torn in the side) The meaning of this verse is hearth, attitude, soul, and mind that have been torn apart and not as clean as it used to be; it has been a part in the individual, which must be corrected immediately. Again, the word "dodotiro" used in this verse – That is because Sunan Kalijaga want to show that the verse is really appreciate the identity of the Javanese. As proof, dodotiro was chosen as a symbol than other fabrics, such as china’s silk which is equally well-known at the time. This is done with the purpose; Javanese will feel close to the verse and feel appreciated. In other words, Sunan Kalijaga is using Javanese norms against the wisdom of the Javanese culture to reinforce the meaning of the verse to be easily accepted by the society. In line with Derrida that says there are two ways in selecting the social identity of someone, which are: based on its racial identity and ethnic identity. Sunan Kalijaga takes the right side, which is in the area of race and ethnicity in making this verse. Dondomana jrumatana kanggo sèba mengko sorè (Jahitlah, benahilah untuk menghadap nanti sore) (Stitch and reform it together and to worship this evening) The meaning of this verse is in order to repair the broken hearth, attitude, soul, and mind people need to build the awareness and the willingness. Human beings are easily distracted, tended to decrease in the quality of worship and run the obligations of their self, if it is not offset by the improvement in the management. Therefore, humans are asked to always improve and rectify so that in the future humans are ready when one day summoned to the God. This verse contains a figure of speech - metaphor, which symbolizes the word "dondomana” (stitch it) with the word "jrumatana" (repair it), to find a new meaning that is the meaning to clean themselves before it is feasible to meet and worship the God. Then, why should be worshipping in the evening? Javanese community believe that sacred time is the time when there was a shift conduction between noon to night or more often called "surup-surup" by the Javanese, which is mean a few minutes before the evening call to prayer echoed. Javanese consider this time sacred because they believe, in these times a lot `of bad things happen, such as the emergence of devils that often disturb people. Therefore, Sunan Kalijaga exploit this trust and advised people to remain in the home or in the mosque to secure themselves while remembering the God in order to avoid danger. Hence, the notion that one way to avoid danger is to remember God. Mumpung padhang rembulanè, mumpung jembar kalanganè. (Mumpung bulan bersinar terang, mumpung banyak waktu luang) (While the moon was shining brightly and a lot of free time) Moonlight in this verse signifies the sense of occasion that can still be clearly seen with both eyes. In addition, the moonlight is also indicated as a sign of health. This is further supported by said afterward that use the word "Jembar" which means wide open. Thus, the meaning of this verse is when a human was healthy and still has plenty of free time; human beings are called upon to do things that have been outlined in the previous verse (Kusumarini, 2012). This verse has a norm that while people have the chance, they must be used it as well as possible, before they regret it. Yo surako surak hiyo. (Bersoraklah dengan sorakan iya) (Shouted to cheers: yes) This verse means that if all previously reached agreements on the temple then answer is abuzz with word “yes” in unison. The answer is done as a sign of approval for all contents of the verse that have been offered before. The verse “surako surak hiyo” here is closely associated with Javanese culture who always wants to be together and unite when happy or sad. This is evidenced by the existence of other Javanese proverb that says: “Rukun agawe santosa, crah agawe bubrah : yen padha rukun mesti padha santosa, yen padha congkrah mesthi padha bubrah/rusak” (Sabda, Peribahasa Jawa). All in all, one of the ways to spread Islam in Java is doing by the propaganda (that carried out by the sunan. The number of sunan that is known by the society is nine. All of them were great in spreading the Islam, yet one of the most noticeable is Sunan Kalijaga. This is because, Sunan Kalijaga have very different methods to the others sunan in spreading Islam. In other words, Sunan Kalijaga prefers to teach Islam to the methods unusual, namely through cultural lines. In addition, Sunan Kalijaga more often played using words that ultimately impact on perspective or direction of a person's thinking. Culture through lecture method is one the effective method of spreading Islam; whereas, in the past (13 AD) the Java community at that time was under the rule of the Majapahit kingdom which is predominantly non-Islamic. Lir-ilir song is one of the evidence that proof the methods which used by Sunan Kalijaga is very different and unique. Moreover, people do not realize that the song which is considered as tembang dolanan have the implicit meanings that implied Islamic way of lives. Broadly speaking, the values of lir-ilir song can be classified in two ways of explaining the relationship with God and man's relationship with humans being. Firstly, the songs lir-ilir contains five major significance in the teachings to Islamization, among them: a call to remember the creator, the patience to always try, an invitation to always seek forgiveness and repent of all sins, teaches how precious time and opportunities in this life, as well as a self-reflection to always remind the death and the end of the day. Secondly, this song teaches as human beings we must show respect, appreciate others, be patience and giving advice from one to another or even remind others mistake - especially we are also advised to always do what is good and demand as well as to teach science on the other. Even in the last verse part, explained also that lir-ilir also teach togetherness which is in accordance with the values of Javanese culture. Therefore, because of the content and value therein lir-ilir song; this song is remain as a relevant Javanese culture that widely known until today.

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    It'd be better to drop the italics.
    yap thanks. @risuta

    I think this is a technical error occurred when I upload it,
    I'll fix it.

    Well what do u think about the content?
    I personally love Javanese traditional songs so much and I like your analysis on Lir-Ilir. Your explanations are quite clear. What about Javanese traditional lullaby entitled "Talelo Lelo"? It also has moral messages. Keep writing! Smile Wink
    thanks @TrisnaAprilia
    "Talelo-lelo"? sounds interesting, perhaps you any suggestions to focus the analysis in the field of what?
    Anytime... Wink
    Umm may be the value of nationalism? Smile
    Nationalism? Sounds worth to try. @TrisnaAprilia

    Do you have any idea how to construct it?