Didi Kempot, campursari legend and Indonesia’s ‘Godfather of the Broken Heart,’ dies at 53

Didi Kempot performing in Yogyakarta in June of last year. The treasured campursari legendary singer and  Indonesia’s ‘Godfather of the Broken Heart’ passed away in Solo this morning at 53. Photo: Instagram/didikempot_official
Didi Kempot performing in Yogyakarta in June of last year. The treasured campursari legendary singer and Indonesia’s ‘Godfather of the Broken Heart’ passed away in Solo this morning at 53. Photo: Instagram/didikempot_official

The Indonesian music scene is in mourning again as treasured campursari legendary singer Didi Kempot passed away this morning at a hospital in Solo, Central Java. He was 53 years old.

Lilik, the singer’s older brother, said that Didi Kempot’s passing was due to extreme fatigue from overworking, while the hospital’s spokesman told reporters that he’d arrived unconscious and died of cardiac arrest.

He will be buried in Ngawi regency, East Java.

Born Dionisius Prasetyo in Solo, Didi Kempot belonged to an artistic family. His late father, Ranto Edi Gudel AKA Mbah Ranto, was a comedian while his late older brother Mamiek Prakoso was a member of the comedy group Srimulat.

Didi Kempot began his musical career as a street musician in the mid-’80s, and performed from Yogyakarta to Jakarta. He changed his stage name to Didi Kempot, the latter being a portmanteau of Kelompok Penyanyi Trotoar (Sidewalk Singers Group).

Didi embraced the campursari genre because he wanted to raise its popularity among the younger generations. Campursari literally translates to “mixture of essences,” and refers to a crossover of contemporary Indonesian music genres such as Langgam Jawa and Dangdut.

The legend’s campursari debut was marked with the release of a single titled We Cen Yu in the late ‘80s, but Didi Kempot shot to fame after Stasiun Balapan, named after a train station of the same name in Solo. During his lifetime, he reportedly wrote over 700 songs, mostly in Javanese, with love, sadness and heartbreak as dominant themes. Didi’s songs illustrate the common experiences shared by everyone, and imbued with the message that a broken heart is part of the cycle of life and that we can all stand tall even after the tears. 

Just like the single that brought him mainstream success, many of Didi’s songs are set in a certain location to make him closer to his fans, such as Terminal Tirtonadi (Tirtonadi Bus Terminal in Solo) or Pantai Klayar (Klayar Beach in Pacitan regency, East Java).

In the last couple of years, Didi Kempot experienced a renaissance in his career, as he captured the hearts of younger audiences. His recent shows were packed with millennials in the front row singing their hearts out because they were ambyar ⁠— a catchphrase in Didi Kempot’s music meaning “broken in pieces,” referring to romantic heartbreak.

He received new nicknames such The Godfather of the Broken Heart and Lord Didi, while his fans are called Sobat Ambyar (friends of the brokenhearted).

This morning, Twitter has been flooded with his mourning fans, promptly trending Didi Kempot and #SobatAmbyarBerduka (friends of the brokenhearted in mourning) on the platform.

In February, Didi Kempot was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from Billboard Indonesia for his dedication to traditional music. Didi Kempot planned to hold a big concert to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his career at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, Central Jakarta in July. He recently held a charity concert from home, which was streamed live, and reportedly raised IDR7.6 billion (around US$5 million) for people who were impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

 

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