January 31, 2011, 3:29 pm
Filed under: Indonesia, Java

Miss Riboet was the first huge star of recording in Indonesia and the Malay peninsula.  She was the lead actress of the Orion theatrical company, a tooneel troupe which was founded in 1925 in Batavia (Jakarta). In fact, she was so popular that by the time recording engineer Max Birkhahan made this recording in 1926 she already had her own series of “Miss Riboet Records.”

The label declares this a “Stamboel” recording, a western influenced genre of song that evolved out of the Indonesian theater known as “komedie stamboel.”
Komedie stamboel was a form of musical theater that started in the city of Surabaya in 1891 and quickly became a craze throughout Indonesia. At first, it featured plays of arabesque fantasy (Stamboel = Istanbul), mainly tales from the Arabian Nights, with Ali Baba being a favorite standard. The plays were sung and included musical numbers as in a western musical, using mostly western instruments. They were also influenced by Parsi theater. There is an excellent book by Matthew Isaac Cohen that gives an extremely detailed account of the origin of Komedie Stamboel.

By the mid-20s, when Miss Riboet began recording, komedie stamboel had already given way to the Malay theatrical form called bangsawan, and eventually tooneel, a more realistic form.
Apparently komedie stamboel had developed a somewhat unsavory reputation that led in part to it’s demise, some troupe leaders were accused of doubling as pimps for the actresses!
The music was often labeled as “Stamboel” on record, regardless of whether it was a stamboel, fox trot, tango, krontjong or traditional piece, such as this Javanese poetical form called Pankgkur.

>Beka B. 15099-II


10 Comments so far
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Thanks for uploading the Miss Riboet recording. The picture postcard is actually of Miss Riboet II (with Miss Dja) of Dardanella. Miss Riboet II was a Miss Riboet imitator.

Comment by asianperformingartsforum

Great, thanks for the clarification, I’ve taken down the photo until I can find the REAL Miss Riboet!

Comment by HAJI MAJI

Thanks for this. Although I’m only a dillettante I’m trying to learn more about Indonesian music.

Comment by JakartaJimmy

‘tooneel’ should be spelled ‘toneel’.

Kind regards,


Comment by Rob van Albada

thanks for the comment Rob.
My reference for “tooneel” was the book mentioned above, Komedie Stamboel, Popular Theater in Colonia Indonesia, 1891-1903.

It seems both spellings are used.


Comment by HAJI MAJI

I was mistaken. In those days the spelling was still ‘tooneel’ with double o. In the present spelling, only ‘toneel’ is allowed.

Kind regards,

Rob van Albada

Comment by Rob van Albada


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