Musicians Boni Putera, Bambang “Ho” Mulyono and Titi Juwariyah added Indonesian language students at Helena College in Glen Forrest to their list of fans this week after a visit to the school.
The trio gained fame after appearing in Canadian journlist Daniel Ziv’s documentary Jalanan, which was shot over five years and was screened to critical acclaim in 2014.
The documentary focused on their former lives as homeless buskers in Jakarta and explored themes of poverty, homelessness, health, wealth, music and films, as well as their own personal stories, their music and its development.
Since the documentary was released, a crowd funding site has raised enough money to buy each performer a home in Jakarta.
The Australian Indonesian Youth Association organised for the performers to visit three schools in Perth – Helena College, John Curtin Senior High School and Peter Moyes Anglican Community School – and speak to students.
Before finding fame, Boni lived under a bridge in a sewer in Jakarta with his wife and three children, Ho lived on the streets and played music on buses to earn a living, and Titi, also a mother of three, busked to earn money for food.
Titi still sends half her earnings back to her family in the provinces of Java.
She now runs a forum and organisation for buskers in difficult circumstances to help get them a better life.
“It’s important for people such as buskers to have aspirations and enterprises and hopes and dreams and see street musicians in a different light,” she said.
Describing Jakarta as a “huge melting pot of people, noise, pollution and crazy busy”, Ho said many people gravitated to the city to find work.
“Because there are a lot of traffic jams, buskers can earn a lot of money because people give you coins to entertain them when they are stuck,” he said.
“I know you can’t busk here but I will try it on a bus.”
Ho finished high school and secured a job as a clerk in an office job at Freeport, a mining company, but his urge to be a musician was strong.
He played bars at night and started stealing from his employer to buy drinks.
When his thieving was discovered he was sacked and went to live in Jakarta, where he met Boni, who told him how to earn money as a busker.
Boni left school in Year 2 because he wanted to support his mother, a maid who washed clothes.
“We were very poor and I wanted to help the family so I went busking on the streets and made an instrument out of bottle tops and a piece of wood,” he said.
“When I got home my parents said ‘did you steal this money?’. I earned it busking, I was proud of my success.
“I left home and made friends on the streets and taught myself to read with the signs on the buses, but I can’t write, although I write songs. I tell my friends to write the words down that I compose so I don’t forget them.”
Year 11 and 12 students at Helena College asked the trio questions in the Bahasa language, including if Boni was proud of his house under the bridge.
“I was not proud of my house under the bridge but it was survival and I lived there for four years,’’ he said.
“We did renovations on that space and we made it into an industry. We made keyrings and wrist ties and sold them.
“I get inspiration for my music from under the bridge and it is like the base camp for us as street performers in Jakarta.”
Since the documentary’s screening the performers have even been invited to have lunch with Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
“The President has asked civil servants to watch Jalanan because we are part of the culture of Jakarta,” Ho said.