It sometimes feels like Indonesian music has nothing to offer but cheesy pop and dangdut, but if you dig just below that ear-ache inducing surface, you’ll find that the Indonesian indie scene is amongst the most vibrant and diverse in all of the region. In fact, Time Magazine once declared that Indonesia had the “Best Alternative-Music Scene” in Asia and we’d argue that remains true to this day.
There’s something about Indonesia’s pancasila-fueled acceptance of different cultures that makes our independent musicians keen to embrace a wide variety of styles and influences, while still adding their own unique spin, of course. And with a large and growing youth population and a constant onslaught of innovative up-and-comers, our indie music scene is also as dynamic as they come.
But that also means it can be hard to figure out which bands you should be listening to if you aren’t intimately plugged into that scene. So here are our recommendations for five of Indonesia’s coolest up-and-coming indie acts that you may not have heard of yet. We’re hoping that somewhere on this list you’ll find your new favorite band. (And if you’re an uber- hipster who has already heard them all before, feel free to let our readers know about all really cool obscure bands we should be listening to on our Facebook page.)
This Jakarta-based rock band combines hard driving guitars with soaring vocals about adolescence, self-identity, soul searching, and corroding faith. Take bits of inspiration from bands such as The Ramones, The Wipers, and Fugazi, Rites of Spring, Husker Du, and Dinosaur Jr, they’ve built up a song style all their own. They’ve performed in cities around the region, including Penang, Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore, as well as guerilla-like gigs all over Jakarta.
For more music: https://soundcloud.com/vaguemusic
2. Hightime Rebellion
Hightime Rebellion has quickly amassed a rabid fan base thanks to its unique fusion of pop, funk and rock, with psychedelic beats and a house music bass line, all tied together through the sultry voice of its female vocalist, Miyane Soemitro.
For more music: reverbnation.com/hightimerebellion
Stating, “we are the most pretentious fucks you’ll ever hear” on their Facebook page should give some idea of Amukredam’s post-rock approach to hardcore. Citing Ampere, Orchid, Daitro, Navio Forge and “other obscure bands you wouldn’t recognise,” as their influences, Amukredam can be harsh and disharmonic, but you can find many layers to their raw intensity if you are willing to listen.
For more music: amukredam.bandcamp.com
4. Deugalih and Folks
To follow his passion in folk music, musician Deu Galih created the ensemble known Deugalih and Folks. The single “Earth” below is a great display of their varied and lush sound – from the Irish folk influence on the flute and snare drum in the intro to the Led Zeppelin-like psychedelic throughline and vibrating violins. It all comes together to create a sound that is ethereal yet impassioned, one unlike any other in Indonesia.
For more music: soundcloud.com/deugalih
Originally named Alphalpha (after the character Alfala from “The Little Rascals”), L’alphalpha plays around with the post-rock and shoegaze genres, combining the dreaminess of semi-ambient sounds with whimsical storytelling lyrics to take listeners on a sonic journey to some warm and fuzzy alternative universe.
For more music: https://soundcloud.com/lalphalpha