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Musical wrap-up: Year of surprises

Stanley Widianto and Dylan Amirio

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Thu, December 28, 2017  /  10:15 am
Musical wrap-up: Year of surprises

Some of the best Asian hip-hop acts graced this year’s installment of Asia’s largest electronic music festival, Djakarta Warehouse Project (DWP). (JP/Ben Latuihamallo)

With Do-Re-Mi and the right swagger, there are more than a million ways to make music. If there’s one constant in a year, it’s music, made and played through the heat and the cold. There’s plenty of music to go over this year, more than what we can cover. And folks, it’s a doozy. So here’s our recap of the gems and the hullabaloos that crashed through the local music scene.


Driven by the independent scene’s penchant for quick releases yet unburdened by the promotional missives that are part and parcel of the industry in, say, the United States, most album releases of 2017 came as a surprise.

We’ll begin with singer-songwriter Danilla, whose Telisik (See) of 2014 was her first album. Her brand of moody pop made enough of a mark to turn her follow-up Lintasan Waktu (Time’s Passage) into an eagerly awaited release when it arrived on the scene in August, awash in slowcore and psychedelia.

Earlier in the year, indie rock band Scaller put out their debut LP, Senses, with little to no fanfare. Then they put on their “Spirit of the Thing” solo concert in March. Six months later, the opener for that concert, rock band Anomalyst, released their debut album, Segara, in September.

Cult indie rock band Melancholic Bitch also returned with NKKBS Bagian Pertama (NKKBS First Part), while rock band .FEAST released its MULTIVERSES. On the electronic side, Dipha Barus released a single with singer Nadin, “All Good,” as the Bottlesmoker duo put out their album Parakosmos.

Over in the folk camp, two new artists, Jason Ranti and Oscar Lolang, both released debut albums, respectively Akibat Pergaulan Blues (Thanks to Blues Relations) and Drowning in a Shallow Water.

And of course, Payung Teduh, whose vocalist Is recently announced his imminent exit, put out the pop-leaning “Akad” (Marriage), with their debut album set as an upcoming release.

Pop has seen the return of some familiar faces, with Andien’s Metamoforsa(Metamorphosis),  Agnez Mo’s X, Isyana Sarasvati’s Paradox and Naif’s 7 Bidadari (Seven Angels) as this year’s new releases.

Legends Guruh Soekarnopoetra and Yockie Suryo Prayogo also showed a new lease on music by appearing at the Archipelago Festival. Lastly, Fariz RM also won the lifetime achievement award at the 2017 Anugerah Musik Indonesia.


Aside from the Java Jazz Festival and Jazz Goes to Campus, 2017 also welcomed foreign festivals entering with their debut or latest editions to the lucrative Indonesian market, with the two most notable events taking place in Bali.

Bestival, the long-running British festival, arrived on Bali’s shores for the first time in October, bringing a well-curated lineup of eclectic performers and acts such as Alt-J, George Clinton, Pendulum, De La Soul and more.

The myriad music festivals in Bali this year proved that the island was worth the draw. Ultra-Music Festival, the gargantuan American EDM festival — similar to December’s Djakarta Warehouse Project — held its third Bali edition in September, boasting a who’s who of current DJ stars such as Kygo, Hardwell, Nicky Romero and Zedd.

Local entertainment powerhouse Ismaya Live also took advantage of the Balinese surge with their own annual festival, Sunny Side Up, running as the companion festival to their annual We The Fest in Jakarta, which ran three days for the first time. The two festivals shared international acts such as Phoenix, Hot Chip, Charli XCX and Jonas Blue.

Other local festivals, such as the long-running Soundrenaline Festival in Bali, stuck to their tradition of bringing several international names to the fore, with the likes of Australian cock-rock stalwarts Jet, Dashboard Confessional and indie rock duo Cults gracing its stages.

JIExpo Kemayoran hosted two festivals: the aforementioned Java Jazz Festival and Synchronize Festival, with the latter featuring both fresh blood and older legends from The Trees and the Wild, and all the way to folk singer Ebiet G. Ade. 

On a smaller scale, many locally run festivals graced the music scene this year. Both the Archipelago Festival and the Noice Festival delivered a lineup that balanced local and international talents very well. The Archipelago Festival made an effort at delivering a more informative experience through a two-day event of panels in October.

Major regional music festivals also came to the fore this year, the notable ones being the Prambanan Jazz in Yogyakarta, the Dieng Culture Festival in Dieng, Central Java, and the Jazz Gunung on the East Javan slopes of Mount Bromo. These festivals showcased the strengths of the highly overlooked regional talents of traditional music, who particularly melded jazz qualities with their own traditional influences.

Jazz it up: UK funk jazz band Renegade Brass Band performs at this year's festival.Jazz it up: UK funk jazz band Renegade Brass Band performs at this year's festival. (JP/Jerry Adiguna)


Yogyakarta-based composer and pianist Gardika Gigih put out a thrilling, hour-long LP called Nyala (Lit) in November, featuring collaborators such as Banda Neira’s Ananda Badudu, cellist Alfian Aditya, violinists Suta Suma Pangekshi and Dwi Ari Ramlan, guitarist Febriann Mohammad and more. It’s a complex, multi-faceted and ultimately breathtaking record for the young composer.

The second 2017 album of note is Senandung Senandika (Reflective Song) of jazz-pop band Maliq & D’Essentials, an orchestral, full-blown pop album that recalls all the enduring qualities that have cemented Indonesian pop music while finding and reaching new heights.

Barcelona-based project Filastine & Nova — consisting of the husband-wife mixed duo of Indonesia’s Nova and the US’s Grey Filastine — put out Drapetomania, an odyssey of 12 songs that jumps from soft to body-crushing beat to the backdrop of the ills of the world. Combining Indonesian instrumentation and modern bass-driven beats, loops and leads, Drapetomania is one of the most stellar pieces of Indonesian performing arts.