The Jakarta Post
Bring it on: Kartika Jahja, of Tika and the Dissidents, delivers powerful vocals of heartbreak and acceptance. (Curtesy of Yusrizal /Sofar Sounds Jakarta)
You’re invited to a gig, we can’t tell you the location, and you won’t find out who’s playing until you arrive. But it is guaranteed to be amazing.
For International Women’s Day, the Indonesian branch of global music network Sofar Sounds hosted an extra special gig in an underground bunker to put talented female musicians center stage.
A play on the word “sofa”, Sofar Sounds was set up by a group of friends in London, who were fed up of going to gigs where crowds would shout over the music whilst glued to their phones and musicians could give lazy performances to an inattentive and intoxicated crowd.
Silence your cell phone: Audience members sit crossed legged listening to musical talent of Ska-influenced band SKASTRA. (Curtesy of Yusrizal /Sofar Sounds Jakarta)
Sofar Sounds was founded to host gigs in their front room -- sat on the sofa, with the goal of curating secret performances in an intimate settings that are all about the music.
Sofar Sounds Jakarta started in October 2017 with its first event taking place in an abandoned house with no roof.
Rasti Sryantoro is part of a music-loving team of three women and two men – all volunteers, who are united in their dedication to curating one gig a month that features ever-changing musicians.
Constantly growing in popularity, tickets remain free and applicants are entered into a random ballot, where there is generally a one-in-five chance of receiving a golden ticket.
The secrecy surrounding Sofar Sounds is an essential component of its magic.
Audience members have no clue of the music they will hear until the musicians take to the stage. An email will appear in their inbox the day before the show disclosing the secret location.
Aside from preventing gate-crashers appearing at events with bigger name performers -- as was the case when Efek Rumah Kaca graced the Sofar stage, this is to introduce the audience to musicians they will likely never have heard of but that are undoubtedly talented.
International Women’s Day was celebrated at March’s Sofar event to focus on brilliant female musicians, as well as highlighting continuing gender inequality.
Despite being a vast underground space with a minimalist feel, art gallery Rubanah was transformed by the Sofar Sounds team into a cozy front room.
Giant rugs were unrolled for the audience to sit on, which soon spilled over as the room filled. Fairy lights and International Women’s Day posters adorned the walls, reminding Kartika Jahja – singer of Tika and The Dissidents – of “her college dorm room”.
The gig kicked off with groovy ska-influenced band SKASTRA, with Alduri Asfirna’s soulful, silky vocals accompanied by bass, guitar, keyboard and life of the party Faris (Sutow) Sutowijoyo on trombone.
Playing a stripped-down set that emphasized the off-beat of the bass, it was a laid-back set to ease the audience into the night.
Keeping it simple: Sky Sucahyo’s delicate indie folk tunes take the audience on a rollercoaster of emotions. (Curtesy of Yusrizal /Sofar Sounds Jakarta)
A highlight of the night was surely Sky Sucahyo, possibly the least established of all the performers, whose admission of having the nervous jitters gave her an adorable, likable presence on stage, helping to create a real connection with the audience.
Sky joyfully dedicated her set to “all the women working nine ‘till five, or eight ‘till six every week, sometimes weekends, and also all the women who just watch Netflix and eat junk”.
Strumming her ukulele with guitarist Alvin Baskoro, the audience was treated to folksy acoustic tunes; the sort of music that makes you want to close your eyes and sway.
“Happy Death Day”, written to commemorate the 18th anniversary of her father’s death, mixed heart-wrenching lyrics with quirky humor and a kazoo solo left the audience belly laughing with tears in their eyes.
The master of ceremony of the evening, Xandra Suryana, joked with the audience who crossed and uncrossed their legs whilst cracking open a can of beer or two. Despite some chatter, the crowd remained totally enthralled by the music.
Shining star: Monita Tahalea delivers a passionate performance. (Curtesy of Yusrizal /Sofar Sounds Jakarta)
Probably the most well-known performer of the event, Monita Tahalea began her singing career after finishing fourth on Indonesian Idol Season 2. Hers was the most polished of all the performances, as she floated across the stage with ease, singing catchy lyrics over exuberant guitar melodies.
With the sophisticated sway of a 1920s Parisian cabaret, Tika and the Dissidents brought marching beats to finish the night with a bang. Kartika’s strong vocals filled the space as she strutted about the stage oozing confidence.
A feminist activist, Kartika’s politics frequently shape her lyrics; however, the audience were treated to a moving song of heartbreak, because even “feminists hurt when they’re dumped”.
In her final song, “Unlearn the Fight”, Kartika’s lyrics packed a punch about the importance of embracing difference.
Closing the night, Kartika declared that female musicians should be free to be “soft spoken and sing softly or wear ripped jeans with a beer in their hand on stage […] to be whatever you want to be and express yourself however you want to”.
Speaking to The Jakarta Post, Sky Sucahyo echoed these words, explaining that it could be hard to be taken seriously as a female musician; especially in an industry that at times placed higher value on prettiness than musical talent.
Sofar Sounds is a celebration of musical diversity; a radical space for performers to shine exclusively through their music, free from gimmicks or audience expectations. As Jakarta’s worst-kept secret, Sofar Sounds will surely go from strength to strength. (ste)
-- The writer is an intern at The Jakarta Post.
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