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Ken Raka: Electronic dance music takes the spotlight

Iwan Setiawan

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Thu, April 26, 2018  /  09:06 am
Ken Raka: Electronic dance music takes the spotlight

Feel the beat: Ken Raka performs at an EDM music event. (Ken Raka/File)

Electronic Dance Music (EDM) is back in all its glory as seen by the growing enthusiasm for festivals such as Dream Field in Bali, Djakarta Warehouse Party (DWP) in Jakarta, and the latest festival, Sensation, in Tangerang. This wave has also fostered the growth of young local producers.

Although EDM is synonymous with vibrant parties and fun dance moves,artists in the genre require discipline in the face of tough competition, and the constant need to continue expanding and cultivating their creative energies. If they don’t, they will be pushed aside.

Ken Amara Rakasena, better known as Ken Raka, is among them. Born in Jakarta in 1996, he finished as runner up of 2016’s The Remix, an EDM Music Competition produced by NET TV. Together with his friends Gerald “Gepra” Prayogo and Aqi Singgih, the vocalist of Alexa Band, Ken Raka formed Shout!

For three months, they made EDM remixes of a number of well-known songs by popular musicians in various genres, from Benyamin S. to Iwan Fals.

“It challenged our creative energy so much. Since as part of the TV program social media was used for voting there were many other important factors we had to consider in addition to the music itself,” said Ken, the third son of four siblings.

Ken is no stranger to art. His father is a choreographer, his mother a music producer and his sisters singers and dancers. His family are his biggest supporters.   

“There are dance classes at my home every day. I was also involved in dancing before, but I was more interested in the music that accompanied the dancing. My father also liked to experiment using music, which is not common,” Ken said, brushing his long hair away from his face.

“It aroused my curiosity about making music.”

Ken first learned about beatboxing on YouTube in 2011. He was also active on SoundCloud — an online audio distribution platform for aspiring musicians. It was through SoundCloud that he became familiar with EDM.

“Unlike in other bands where I need to work together with other musicians, I can express myself more fully in EDM.”

Ken tinkers with his laptop for more than 12 hours every day, listening to a variety of music, looking for programs, creating music, as well as learning from other EDM producers. He then distributes his music on social media. Ken saved his money to buy decent speakers and earphones, but his laptop is still simple.

When he was still a beginner, his music was far from perfect. Ken said that his creations had drawn critics, and was underestimated especially by senior producers.

“I was irritated at that time, but luckily there were some friends that kept encouraging me, gave me input and even offered to collaborate. One of them is Gepra, who stayed in Yogyakarta and had gone to music school before,” he said.  

Ken says his creative process is influenced by the music he hears.

“However, as an artist, I have to have my own character. So I need to keep creating music. We need to be idealists, but cannot be too idealistic,” he said.

He said it was a fine line to draw. “We cannot just follow the markets or trends, but we cannot just create music we want to play or listen to either. It’s not easy, but that is the challenge of creating,” he said.  

He recently teamed up with Jonah, a vocalist who had previously worked with another EDM producer named Osvaldo. With Jonah, Ken produced the single “Alright”, which was accompanied by a video clip. This single was released at the beginning of February this year and has received a warm reception.

Ken believes that EDM will continue to remain popular and is confident about pushing forward and continuing to learn and create.

“Music is not merely a job or hobby for me, it’s part of my life,” he said.

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