The Jakarta Post
La Marupè by Theory of Discoustic (Theory of Discoustic/File)
Few Indonesian folk lyricists deftly commit the stories of Indonesia to tape.
Surabaya duo Silampukau tells the stories of prostitutes and kids playing on a soccer field in the city. But many others busy themselves with the oblique concept of self — think Tigapagi or Payung Teduh. These lyricists are not the mold of Indonesian folk music, because there is no mold to begin with. There will always be stories waiting to be told with each passing time.
Meet Makassar-based folk band Theory of Discoustic, comprised of Adriady Setia Dharma (keyboard), Dian Mega Safitri (vocals), Fadli FM (bass), Hamzarullah (drums), Nugraha Pramayudi (electric guitar) and Reza Enem (acoustic guitar, keyboard).
On their eight-track album La Marupè the stories from Makassar, set to a folk-prog soundscape, are told with delicate, often biting poetry.
The task to make a spiritual, folklore-based record could easily steer into a studious affair, but Theory of Discoustic masterfully, irreverently avoid this. Just to scan the sleeve of this thing is an exciting chore — each song has the folklore or customs that inform its lyrics.
Take the song “Tanah Tua” (Old Land), the most straightforward cut on the record. With a stomping percussion, simple electric guitar and ghastly keyboard, you will learn more about the Ammatoa people of South Sulawesi’s Bulukumba district and their perception of time.
La Marupè even opens with the kind of singing that’s recorded straight out of an organic cultural procession; this time, it’s about the dance that sailors in Makassar dance when meeting with the Yolngu people (“Tabe”).
Darkness also lingers on La Marupè.
The song “Arafura”, one of the few instances where Theory of Discoustic swerves from the land of Makassar or the island of Sulawesi, tells a story of the war between Indonesia and the Dutch in the Arafura Sea in 1962. Over a slow tempo and puzzling keyboard work, Dian’s elastic voice guides the listener into a sea of death and desolation.
Speaking of Dian’s voice, the singer doesn’t possess a powerful voice, but it is one that she uses to figure greatly in the band’s songs — she can let an ululation stay afloat when necessary. The one-two punch of “Janci’”, (the bugis word for “promise”) an orkes-Melayu-influenced track that segues into the next, “To Manurung” — both about the origins of the Bugis-Makassar kings — features Dian’s wonderful vocals, lending the record its spiritual, committed mirth.
Listening to La Marupè brought colors to my head — of the many faces that have seen stories unfold and heard them told. It is never an explosive album, but it seems to be guided by a consistent musical thread.
La Marupè also reminds me of the legendary album Guruh Gipsy by the band of the same name. Both of these albums do not approximate certain cultures; they might as well be guided by the virtue of recollection.
La Marupè is a testament to not only the limits that Indonesian folk music can cross, but also to the quiet force that is Theory of Discoustic.
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