The Jakarta Post
Glam punk: Zigi Zaga is a new band made up of veteran players of the underground scene. (Courtesy of Zigi Zaga/-)
Glam punk group Zigi Zaga may be new, but they don't lack experience.
Though it is unfair to the rest of the band, there is no denying that the group is most known as a “side project” of Eka Annash, lead vocalist of the popular garage rock band The Brandals.
The Brandals have been around for more than 15 years, released four albums and influenced a whole lot of underground bands both musically and attitude-wise.
Zigi Zaga has some of The Brandals' chaotic elements, but its sound is much more current and direct.
Formed three years ago, the band takes its sound from the 90s instead of the more classically infused retroism of The Brandals' version of rock.
The members of Zigi Zaga met as workmates at an advertising agency. Eka came up with a loose concept of having a band that was made up of two women and two men – a format that was not common in the local scene. It wasn't immediate smooth sailing as the band's first drummer had to quit due to work commitments while their first guitarist left in 2018.
The band is now made up of Eka, vocalist Rika Putrianjani, guitarist Emil Pahlevi (from electronic group Agrikulture) and drummer Wizra Uchra.
“I guess there was immediate chemistry that sparked and a few songs were written quite quickly. Next thing we knew, there was half an album's worth of material ready and in good shape,” Eka recalls.
Rika came up with the name Zigi Zaga, which was taken from a British skinhead chant usually shouted during soccer matches or pub drinking sessions.
To start off, the band got their feet wet by playing songs that were reasonably simple to play, mostly because they were all still new to their chosen instruments. Those covers included “Son of A Gun” by Scottish indie legends The Vaselines, “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett, as well as songs by punk and post-punk icons Patti Smith and Public Image Limited (PIL). The band felt that it was a unique “mixed bag of numbers”.
“We wanted to extract the aggressiveness, urgency, simplicity and most of all, the fun elements out of those bands and songs,” Eka says.
Though the band members all worship at the altar of older groups such as ESG, Talking Heads, The Cramps, The Go-Gos and the B-52s, they unanimously agree that the 90s is where Zigi Zaga's roots are – in particular Sonic Youth, Smashing Pumpkins and The Pixies. All of these bands formed in the 80s, but arguably found mainstream popularity in the 90s.
The 90s influence is not based on the current throwback worship found in music. Instead, it was a natural extension of the era in which the band members cut their musical teeth.
“I grew up in the 90s, so I was lucky to have that first-hand experience with the bands and music coming from that era. It was simply the best time in contemporary music,” Eka says.
“Some of the most important albums in rock were born in that decade, which was brilliant because those bands and musicians took the risk of melting all these genres into one strange yet fascinating mutation. So I've always imagined Zigi Zaga as a continuation of that spirit and aesthetic.”
Making music: The band Zigi Zaga just wants to have fun in making their music. (Courtesy of Zigi Zaga/-)
Though Rika writes most of the lyrics, Eka also contributes more than a few words – and he finds comfort he is able to go beyond The Brandals' more socio-politically aware lyrics for something that is more directly personal. He is also currently working on a solo project “very slowly” which is heavily influenced by Motown, Soul and “vintage R'n'B”.
With Rika trying on the lead vocals role only for the second time in her musical history and Eka donning the bass, the band aims to push itself into unknown musical territory.
“Usually, that's when unexpected things happen and make it more interesting. I wouldn't call myself a professional bass player just yet, but I'm getting there,” Eka says, adding that he loves the low “booming” sound that the bass makes.
“The type of bass players that I gravitate toward are the ones that carry those primitive elements,” he says, pointing to Sid Vicious “before heroin took over”, Duff Mc Kagan from Guns N Roses, David J of Bauhaus and Eric Avery from Jane's Addiction.
While The Brandals were, according to Eka, a band “born with a mission to display the brutal face of the real Jakarta”, Zigi Zaga just wants to have fun.
“Our current local independent music climate is considered very vibrant and productive. There are hundreds of albums being released monthly, which makes it all the more difficult to stand out,” he says.
“You have to be exceptionally good and slog twice as hard just to be noticed. But it was never our intention to begin with. We never wanted to be in the rat race. It's just a musical project that was born out of love of punk rock. We know what we are: a small independent band that just made its first step into the world. And that is good enough for now.” (ste)