The sec­ond com­ing of In­done­sian rock

For good or ill, in­ter­na­tional hip­sters are driv­ing an awak­en­ing of some clas­sic In­done­sian rock.

The Jakarta Post - JPlus - - Contents - by M. Tau­fiqur­rah­man

As with so many re­vival­ist move­ments in pop­u­lar mu­sic, it started with what mu­sic writer Si­mon Reynolds called “the hip­ster in­ter­na­tional,” a new world­wide neo-colo­nial class whose fun­da­men­tal mode of op­er­a­tion is the re­pro­cess­ing of cul­ture. Th­ese peo­ple, through the process of cu­ra­tion-as-cre­ation re­fine the raw ma­te­ri­als gen­er­ated by rooted cul­tures and cre­ate new cul­tural ex­pres­sions. The modus operandi of the hip­ster in­ter­na­tional is scour­ing mu­si­cal ar­ti­facts from Third World coun­tries, cast an Ori­en­tal­ist gaze at what they con­sider “cool” ac­cord­ing to the Western stan­dards, repack­ag­ing the mu­sic and, through a savvy pub­lic re­la­tions cam­paign, sell­ing the mu­sic as a trendy prod­uct. The tar­get au­di­ence is mu­sic fans in the West, but with so­cial media, it is also easy for the hip­ster in­ter­na­tional to tar­get con­sumers in the de­vel­op­ing world who are un­aware about their mu­si­cal past. Fans of pop­u­lar mu­sic in In­done­sia are well aware of rock le­gends like Koes Plus, Dara Pus­pita, AKA or Harry Roesli. How­ever, th­ese acts are re­mem­bered as pur­vey­ors of weepy love songs that have long be­come stan­dard fare for main­stream In­done­sian pop. Th­ese artists are in fact in­dis­tin­guish­able from mid­dle-of-theroad per­form­ers such as Deddy Dores or Favourite’s Group, who once ruled the air­waves with their pop bal­lads. Noth­ing il­lus­trates the process and its im­pact bet­ter than the reis­sue project of

Those Shock­ing, Shak­ing Days – In­done­sian Hard, Psy­che­delic, Pro­gres­sive Rock and Funk: 1970-1978. Cu­rated by celebrity DJ and full-time record col­lec­tor Eothen “Egon” Ala­p­att and re­leased in 2012, Those Shock­ing, Shak­ing

Days was sin­gle­hand­edly re­spon­si­ble for turn­ing old In­done­sian rock songs from the usual sus­pects like Koes Plus, AKA and Ah­mad Al­bar, as well as more ob­scure out­fits like The Brims, Rasela and Terenchem, into cool cul­tural prod­ucts. Through a deep archival re­search, the cu­ra­tors of the com­pi­la­tion–which in­cluded Egon, Chandra Drews (an In­done­sian ex­pa­tri­ate in The Nether­lands) and Cana­dian pro­ducer Ja­son “Moss” Con­noy– also gave new con­text to the songs. Mu­sic in the com­pi­la­tion was seen as the fruit of the artists’ re­bel­lion against the sti­fling reign of the New Or­der regime, ef­fec­tively in­fus­ing punk an­ti­au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism into old In­done­sian songs. Writ­ing in the liner notes, Egon said that the com­po­si­tions were “dic­ta­to­rial-top­pling shit,” that could send shivers down the spines of despots the world over.

Vinyl boom

Those Shock­ing, Shak­ing Days, re­leased on Egon’s la­bel Now-Again, was a run­away suc­cess and its cul­tural im­pact can­not be over­stated. Hard­core leg­end Henry Rollins, for­merly of the sem­i­nal Los An­ge­les band Black Flag, said that the com­pi­la­tion “might be one of the bestest [sic] ex­am­ples of sonic supremacy,” while the self-pro­claimed record nerd and Hol­ly­wood ac­tor Eli­jah Wood en­dorsed the al­bum in one of his tweets in 2012, call­ing it “in­cred­i­ble.” Crate dig­ging was never the same again. Mem­bers of the lo­cal hip­ster crowd who un­til re­cently lis­tened ex­clu­sively to Western mu­sic be­gan to look for first press­ings of vinyl records of mu­sic in­cluded in the com­pi­la­tion, which con­se­quently drove up prices for old In­done­sian records. A mint copy of Koes Ber­saudara’s To the So-Called The Guil­ties or the much-soughtafter vinyl of Ari­esta Bi­rawa Group’s Vol. 1 are now only avail­able with six-fig­ure price tags. What came after was what many con­sid­ered as a “vinyl boom,” the kind that the coun­try had never seen since the for­mat was ren­dered ob­so­lete in the late 1970s. High de­mand for “cool” In­done­sian mu­sic from the re­cent past had cre­ated an in­dus­try where deal­ers, record la­bels and cu­ra­tors be­gan to dig deeper into the coun­try’s mu­si­cal past to find undis­cov­ered gems and re­lease them both for the do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional mar­ket. Soon after Those Shock­ing, Shak­ing Days, the Toronto-based la­bel Straw­berry Rain reis­sued the leg­endary tril­ogy from in­die rock pro­gen­i­tor Benny Soe­bardja–Gut Rock, Night Train and Benny Soe­bardja & Lizard–to rave re­views. Prior to the project, Straw­berry Rain also did a bang up job in re­mas­ter­ing hard-rocking tunes from the Surabaya-based band AKA and re­leased them for the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket in a dou­ble-LP com­pi­la­tion aptly ti­tled

Hard Beat. Be­fore go­ing on hia­tus in 2013, Straw­berry Rain reis­sued Men­cari Tuhan (Search­ing for God), a Ja­vanese mu­sicin­flected folk al­bum first re­leased by the Yo­gyakarta-based col­lec­tive, Kelom­pok Kam­pun­gan in 1979. So many have tried to cap­i­tal­ize on the boom of In­done­sian mu­sic from the past, to the point where small record la­bels, like the Por­tuguese Nosmoke or the Amer­i­can Sham Palace, chose to reis­sue mu­sic from ei­ther the least in­ter­est­ing decade or the most un­trendy gen­res. In 2012, Sham Palace re­leased a com­pi­la­tion ti­tled In­done­sia Pop Nos­tal­gia: Pan-In­done­sian Pop, Folk, In­stru­men­tals & Chil­dren’s Songs, 1970s-1980s, to a luke­warm re­sponse from col­lec­tors, es­pe­cially as it leaned to­ward the whim­si­cal and kitschy side of 1980s pop. Also re­leased to a medi­ocre re­sponse was Nosmoke’s

Java-Java In­done­sia Scream­ing Fuzz, which fo­cused on some of the most abra­sive rock sound from the 1960s. Start­ing in 2014, home­grown la­bels be­gan to join the fray, reis­su­ing old ma­te­ri­als, mostly in­de­pen­dent mu­sic from the late 1990s and the early 2000s, sim­ply for the rea­son that master record­ings from the era were eas­ier to sal­vage. Re­mas­ter­ing the works did not re­quire an in­fu­sion of much cash–some­thing that is in short sup­ply for in­de­pen­dent record la­bels such as Ma­je­muk Records, El­e­va­tion Records, Sonic Fu­neral and De­ma­jors. How­ever, in re­cent months, some of th­ese la­bels how­ever have gone deep in dig­ging the archives. Ma­je­muk reis­sued Alam Raya, the pro­gres­sive rock mag­num opus from the Jakarta-based Abb­hama, an al­bum that was first re­leased in 1978. Ear­lier in March, La Mu­nai Records re­leased on wax Phi­los­o­phy Gang, the much sought-after al­bum from avant-garde com­poser Harry Roesli Gang, which, after its re­lease in 1973, cap­ti­vated mu­sic fans in the West with its mix of psy­che­delic, soul and jazz with ex­otic tra­di­tional In­done­sian sounds. Banned by the New Or­der for po­lit­i­cal­ly­charged lyrics and con­tro­ver­sial art­work, the al­bum has been on the wish list of all self-re­spect­ing mu­sic fans for years. La Mu­nai pressed 1,000 copies of vinyl for this reis­sue project, half of which will be avail­able for the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket. All th­ese reis­sues have put In­done­sia on the map. The coun­try now has be­come a des­ti­na­tion for record deal­ers and col­lec­tors, who hope that they can strike gold with their next re­leases. Zam­bia, Iran, Turkey and Brazil have long been a source of in­trigu­ing mu­sic, one that mar­ries mod­ern el­e­ments of pop and rock with cen­turies-old lo­cal tra­di­tions. At least now, for­eign­ers will no longer come to In­done­sia look­ing only for Ba­li­nese game­lan mu­sic.

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