The Jakarta Post
Retromania: White Shoes & the Couples Company perform at Folk Music Festival (Folk Music Festival 2018/File)
The shuttle bus driver that took us down from the Kusuma Agrowisata resort lobby, in Batu, East Java, into the restaurant below could hear my chattering teeth.
“It’s 13 degrees outside,” he said. “Maybe it’s because of the lunar eclipse, I don’t know.” That night, the cold wind was not caressing — it was punishing.
Finding warmth could mean anything over there; going over to the restaurant, putting on extra layers of clothing or retreating inside a blanket. All of that would distract you from the warmth that the stages of Folk Music Festival (FMF) emanated.
Now in its fourth edition, the FMF returned to the open green fields of the resort.
Held from Aug. 3 to 5, it categorically functioned as a normal festival and what separated it from others was right there in its name.
Folk music has a long history of telling stories about working on the railroads or gazing upon the chimes of freedom flashing.
The thing is, is “folk” really shorthand for acoustic, guitar-based music? Can it be irrespective to the lyrics about the plight of the folks that accompanied the genre’s infancy?
For its lineup, the FMF did not swing high; Danilla, White Shoes & The Couples Company, Efek Rumah Kaca, Mondo Gascaro and Adrian Yunan all came. But what was really surprising was the array of under-the-radar folk artists from several cities in Indonesia.
The Gang of Folk audition program was back on — the winners of which got to perform at the festival. There were four artists; Diroad from Palembang, Sepertigamalam from Pontianak, Holaspica from Bandar Lampung and Arief S. Pramono from Parepare.
The more established folk musicians drew the crowds in by the virtue of their reliable music.
Pusakata, a project from singer/guitarist Mohammad Istiqamah “Is” Djamad’s project after he left Payung Teduh, played a show that mostly resembled that of his old band, with a few new songs.
Bandung-based Tigapagi have not played a lot of shows. Their first LP, comprising just one, hour-long track called Roekmana’s Repertoire, was an expert display of confidence — strings fluttered in tandem with adroit guitar-playing.
They also invited singer Danilla to perform their duet “Tidur Bersama” (Sleep Together) and previewed the album that they were working on.
Speaking of Danilla, it was admittedly a little odd to see her brand of psychedelia-influenced jazz-pop at a folk music festival but her humor and her charm worked to her advantage, along with her excellent slow-burners.
She is also part of the trio called Daramuda, along with singer Sandrayati Fey and singer/former member of Banda Neira, Rara Sekar.
Appealing to nature for their lyrics and overall simplicity, Daramuda played their debut show at the festival.
The most political band among Indonesian hipsters, Efek Rumah Kaca, too, was as restless as ever.
Playing a set of tunes, such as “Melankolia” (Melancholia) and “Seperti Rahim Ibu” (Like a Mother’s Womb), they were also a musical cognitive dissonance at the festival, though I would argue that their lyrics are in keeping with those of the protest song — itself a feature, not a cog, in folk music.
Warmth also descended upon Malang-based folk band Wake Up, Iris!, consisting of guitarist Bie Paksi and violinist Vania Marisca. Playing on the grass field with their audience surrounding them was a nice sight.
Literacy was this year’s festival theme. So, panels of discussion were also held.
Writers Aan Mansyur and Mahfud Ikhwan led one where they talked about the literature of the eastern parts of Indonesia while Is and anthropologist Fuad Abdulgani talked about the lyrics of the east.
Syalow from the Bali-based website Balebengong, Ardyan M. Erlangga from VICE Indonesia and Tirto ID’s CEO A. Sapto Anggoro discussed the trials and tribulations of running a web portal in 2018 in Indonesia — an era where velocity is often better trade than, say, quality.
Anything could happen here. You could see the face of Indonesian classic horror icon Suzzanna on the screen while walking past a group of people sitting on picnic mats. You could hear a sitar and a tabla from White Shoes & The Couples Company’s set. You could be touched by singer Reda Gaudiamo’s crying and singing, in memory of her recently-departed one-half from her project, AriReda.
Perhaps when the festival was over, you forgot about the cold or, rather, no longer minded it.