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Hip-hop artist speaking to the lower class through dangdut

Masajeng Rahmiasri

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Wed, June 1, 2016  /  12:49 pm
Hip-hop artist speaking to the lower class through dangdut

Marzuki 'Juki' Mohammad or known as Kill The DJ, a Javanese hip-hop musician. (Libertaria Music/-)

Throughout their career, artists may change their music style, even if they leave their musical core intact. Such is the case with Marzuki "Juki" Mohamad a.k.a Kill The DJ, a Javanese hip-hop musician.

Kill The DJ has always been known for his signature mix of gamelan, a traditional Indonesian ensemble, with an old-school hip-hop sound. He has always used a flowing rhyme in his songs, be it when he is rapping in Indonesian, Javanese or English. Most of his songs are infused with criticism of political or social conditions in Indonesia.

Through such music, Kill The DJ and his collective, Jogja Hip-Hop Foundation (JHF), have embarked on the Center Stage U.S Tour, an east coast-west coast tour initiated by The New England Foundation and the U.S Department of State in 2012.

(Read also: Yogyakarta’s touch of hiphop)

However, in 2015, Kill The DJ began venturing into new genres through a collaboration with Libertaria team's producer, Balance. The collaboration leads up to May 18 this year with the release of a new album entitled Kewer-Kewer, consisting of 10 songs in a genre they dub ‘post-dangdut electronica’.

This genre mixes the unique tambour beat of dangdut, Indonesian folk and popular music with the modernity that is electronica touch. Through its music and the simple lyrics, the group intends to reach Indonesian working classes.

“Whatever the condition [of our life], we can continue voicing our opinions and express ourselves. So, even when we talk about the hardest things, we can do it happily," Juki said, referring to the album's message.

Kewer-Kewer features collaborations with artists including Riris Arista and renowned singer Glenn Fredly. Acting as a producer, Kill The DJ covered the creative aspects of the album including initial concept and songwriting, while his partner, Balance, took care of the technical aspects. 

Regarding the huge change in genre, he said, “This is a fun experiment because it is free from conventional values. I mean, such as ‘music has to be like this, lyrics have to be like this’. Those kind of values.”

Kill The DJ insisted he was not 100% switching genres, “It is not because we want to be a dangdut group. I want to speak to the lower classes, using their language, while also still being my own self in Libertaria. The songs are about the problems that I am thinking and worrying about." 

He admitted that he had received protests from sound technicians for trying to mix electronica with the tambour of dangdut, which didn't mix. However, the team managed to pull through and finish the new album.

 (Read also: Hip-hop Agus no mainstream banker)

The musician came back into the public’s radar after being featured in the Indonesian box-office movie Ada Apa Dengan Cinta 2. Under Libertaria, he created an original soundtrack for the fim, titled Ora Minggir Tabrak. The song was performed in Cinta's clubbing scene in Yogyakarta. “ I am friends with [producer] Mira. They must have their own judgement. Perhaps because they think I am cool?” he said about his involvement in the movie. (asw)

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