The New Culture 040210

KunoKini: Keeping Musical Traditions Alive

KunoKini is not your everyday drums-guitar-vocals band: The foursome play indigenous instruments from around the country, and some from abroad.

Their sound is a fusion of different traditional Indonesian styles with the more modern echoes of Bob Dylan and Bob Marley. The band members have built a strong reputation for themselves at home and internationally as an innovative, yet conservational band, hence the name KunoKini: kuno meaning “traditional” and kini meaning “now” in Indonesian slang.

The band wants to change people’s perceptions of what music is considered cool. “Indonesian youths have forgotten traditional music. They’re more comfortable with modern music,” says Akbar Nugraha, a band member.

KunoKini was formed in 2003, when Akbar and his friends Firzy, Adhi “Bhismo” Bhisma and Beby of Paramadina University were invited to perform at the Folklore Festival in Wismar, Germany, to back a traditional dance troupe. It was their first performance abroad and the musicians were overwhelmed by the standing ovation they received.

The band headed overseas last year and performed in the Friends of Indonesia event in Sydney, where they were again well received.

Firzy slyly admits that the rock-star reception boosts their confidence. “Those kinds of shows really lift us off our feet,” he says. “We’re definitely more together as a band now.”

KunoKini has always used traditional instruments, such as the klontang, a tonal instrument from the Dayak Ngaju tribe of Kalimantan; the kerang, a seashell used by tribes in Jayapura, Papua; and the gemuruh, a rumble drum. They also play non-Indonesian instruments, such as the djembe, a traditional West African drum; the tong drum from China; and the well-known Australian Aboriginal didgeridoo.

The band always offers an unconventional performance, in which the musicians constantly swap instruments.

Their performances have been critically lauded by local newspapers, a number of which have compared them to the late Harry Roesly, the legendary Indonesian musician who used traditional instruments.

With all the praise they are getting, it seems an appropriate time for them to release an album. “We plan to release it by the middle of this year,” Akbar says.

The band’s manager, Maria Darmaningsih, says the band has collaborated with more modern local artists — such as the rap group Ras Muhammad and the Australian rapper Nova — and plans on doing the same on their album.

Bhismo says the group’s only goal is to attract fans with the same objective as them: “To bring forward the traditions of Indonesia.” Indo Dance 2009 KunoKini will perform live alongside other local bands Bengkel Night Park, Senayan, Central Jakarta Saturday, May 23, starts 7 p.m. Tel. 021 722 9535 Photo: KunoKini performing at the Galeri Nasional as part of the 2009 Jakarta Biennale. (Marcel Thee, JG)
Originally published in The Jakarta Globe May 6, 2009
The New Culture akan menjadi kolom khusus dari Marcel Thee, diambil dari tulisan nya di koran Jakarta Globe.

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