Non-mainstream music, popularly categorized as independent or indie music, is gaining a following in the country’s music scene as more and more people — especially youth — listen to it.
Previously considered of lesser rank than straight-up pop musicians, indie musicians are now caught in the limelight with the initiation of Indonesia Cutting Edge Music Awards, www.icema.co.id.
ICEMA encouraged music buffs to vote for their favorite bands through the website until June 29. Winners are to be announced on July 18, said Denny Sakrie, the music journalist who chaired a panel of judges who came up with categories for the many kinds of alternative music.
“Popularity is relative, it’s all segmented these days. Music needs different levels of appreciation, and to really listen to music you need to make the effort to look for music you will like and listen to it,” he told youthspeak in an interview.
Each voter is allowed to cast a ballot for one nominee for each category, and only once.
“That won’t be a problem … the fan base is already clear. Each voter clearly knows which singer or bands he or she likes,” said Sakrie.
With Sandra Asteria, music director of Trax FM; Adib Hidayat, a writer and editor in chief at Rolling Stone, Eric Wiryanata, writer and creator of deathrockstar.info, and Indra Ameng (Ruang Rupa curator and manager of White Shoes and The Couples Company), Sakrie was responsible for creating all 18 categories. The groupings included singer/songwriter, reggae and ska, metal song, comedy song, emo, hip hop and all with strong contenders, whether the music came out of old timers or up and comers. The panel of judges hand picked winners for two special categories: album cover artwork and album packaging.
Sakrie said Indonesian music was not “going downhill” as some have said. ”There’s a lot of good music in Indonesia, but it rarely gets TV exposure or shows up on billboards. This music is hard to find unless you make extra effort to seek it out.”
And that is where ICEMA steps in, not only as a medium to expose the true colors of Indonesia’s indie scene but also to celebrate the surviving, even thriving, indie music.
Efek Rumah Kaca
One indie band that would make it in any crowd, with its combo of captivating melodies and rebel lyrics on political, social and moral themes, Efek Rumah Kaca made it into two categories: Favorite Band or Duo and Favorite Alternative Song. Actually the last category was Kenakalan Remaja di Era Informatika, which literally translates as “juvenile delinquency in the information era”.
Unlike some of their peers, ERK decided not to promote themselves so their followers would vote for them. “We don’t want to push our fans, we want them to naturally vote for us. The indie scene is loyal. When they like a piece of music or a band, they continue to support them,” said frontman Cholil Mahmud.
“Everyone nominated for ICEMA are winners, because we are all passionate about music. We are all appreciated. Even if we don’t win, we’ll still join this party.”
The self-proclaimed bedroom musician, who used to play for his pillows, was nominated for Favorite Singer-Songwriter along with Frau, Zeke Khaseli, Leonardo Ringo and The Wispy Hummers.
His interest in music developed since he was 14, but traveled several side roads before he found his musical life. He had a career in advertising, opened his own online marketing consulting company with his wife and thought of sending his music to radio stations back in 2008.
“Turned out they played it on air. At the time I thought ‘Oh that’s nice’, but I didn’t take it seriously.”
When he decided to put out his music directly on the Internet he connected with his audience. In just two years he developed two albums, webcast live performances, built a dedicated fan base and got a song placed in a feature film.
“After only two years, I‘m getting recognition and with such prominent judges, too. I’m very happy that we have this kind of event that celebrates music so respectfully,” Sofyan said.
* Rain, Mandy and Wikan contributed to this article