Paul F. Agusta, Contributor, Bandung
Bandung. About a decade ago, a simple mention of the name brought to mind a city with the most vibrant, exciting, and innovative artists to color the Indonesian music landscape. For some people, this is no longer the case; the old standard venues, like the Saparua Sporting Hall, no longer hold regularly scheduled concerts. Some artists have moved on to other things, either hitting the mainstream airwaves or embarking on the adventure of raising a family, or taking on more ""stable"" occupations.
All this may lead people to believe that the music has finally faded from this pleasant city in West Java, once dubbed the Paris of Java by the Dutch.
But as of 2000, to hold the impression that the indie world has faded would be very wrong. With new labels like Fast Forward Records coming up, and artists like Mocca breaking out on the airwaves, rumors of Bandung's musical demise have been greatly exaggerated.
""Right now, it's at it's most vibrant,"" said Helvi, co-founder of Fast Forward Records and guitarist for the garage rock band Teenage Death Star. ""There's always something going on every week somewhere in town ... it's never dead.""
The only real change that a visitor to Bandung may notice is the kind of music that is now popular.
""Right now, it's going more towards indie pop acts like Mocca and De Milo,"" continued Helvi, whose label releases and distributes Mocca. ""But there are artists and scenes for every kind of genre, be it rock, punk, metal, hip-hop, ska, or reggae"".
This tendency may be why some people say the scene is dead; they simply may not be into the kind of music that is currently popular. So before you pronounce the demise of the indie scene, ask yourself this, which scene do you mean?
If you're looking for the once legendary metal scene in Bandung, or the once immensely popular Ska scene, they're not as active as they used to be. Trends change, scenes fade, what is cool now is possibly lukewarm by next month. But for Bandung's indie musicians, all that doesn't matter. They keep on making the music they want to make and doing their best to keep the scene alive.
""We can't stop trends from changing. Music is like language, it can't die,"" Pecuy, the vocalist and guitarist of the once highly popular Ska act, Dirty Dolls.
Although in some circles, the Bandung Ska scene is believed to have gone the way of the dinosaurs, and the Dirty Dolls all have day jobs, they have been playing hard at their music, and are participating in an international Ska compilation album scheduled to come out later this year. There are several other bands, Ska and other genres, following this double path of day jobs and night dreams.
The bassist of Pure Saturday is luckier than most in that his ""day job"" is as a freelance musician, playing in cafes or on albums as a backup for other artists. In his free time, along with Satrio, who both sings and manages, Adi on guitar, Arif, second guitarist, Udi, the drummer, he helps keep the pioneering indie band Pure Saturday alive and kicking.
Jerry, the vocalist from Agent Skins, is more typical of the current indie band trend in that his day job has little or nothing to do with music. His work as a graphic designer puts food on the table, and plans to go back to college to get a degree in film.
""We might be swallowed up by our own lives, but there will always be people to make music in this town. There is always regeneration,"" Jerry told the Jakarta Post in Bandung recently.
The above musicians, and the up-and-coming indie boys and girls, may not have as many regular venues to play in as their ""forefathers"" did, but if you want to hear some interesting music off the Indonesian mainstream, there are plenty of gigs being advertised on flyers at distros or on campuses, and on radio and in local media.
If you don't have the time to scout around for this information, the one sure place to find some good indie fare is the bimonthly indie concert held the French Cultural Center on Jl. Purnawarman No. 32.
So when in Bandung, do not despair, the indie scene is still there, and shows no signs of dying out.