Artist Interview: wahono


Part of experimental band Zatua, behind cult label Divisi 62 and producer who has released on Maddjazz, Indonesia's wahono is pushing his nation's music envelope on a global scale. Keep watch.

How’s the experimental music scene in Indonesia?

I would say that the experimental / left-field music scene in Indonesia is maturing and broadening its horizons. Groups like Senyawa, Karinding Attack and Hanyaterra have been gaining international momentum for the past few years - to me they are the people who have been spearheading the whole movement.

What would you recommend to someone as a primer introduction to Indonesian music?

Just like any other classifications of musical styles, the term 'Indonesian music' cannot really exist on its own. To me, there can never be an absolute definition to a particular style of music. Tomorrow the definition of ‘Indonesian music’ - or any other type of music for that matter - can already change. The exchange between what is local and what is global is happening more so than ever, so does the blurring of boundaries between genres and regions. This is something that we try to highlight in our label DIVISI 62 - interpreting and regenerating what we consume while being conscious of Indonesian tradition and values. Over the years, there have been a number of classic works by Indonesian artists. I would say that these works defy the 'Indonesian music’ category, because they represent what the creators were absorbing at the time - that includes a lot of Western and other Asian influences as well. Some examples would be:

Ken Arok - Harry Roesli

Badai Pasti Berlalu Soundtrack - Eros Djarot, Chrisye

Mencari Tuhan - Kelompok Kampungan

Can you give us a list of 5 Indonesian records from your listening library?

Here are 5 Indonesian records that I’ve been listening to a lot recently:

1. Waldjinah - Walang Kekek

2. Java - Sundanese Folk Music (UNESCO Musical Atlas)

3. Keroncong Parade Compilation

4. Kongso Adu Djago - Gusti Pandowo

5. Mus Mulyadi - Siksa Kubur

How much of your nation’s music that you love did you have to actively dig for or was it already part of your natural upbringing for example in your environment, family or surroundings?

I grew up on all kinds Western music. My father would share with me a lot of musical references from his youth - from jazz, soul/funk, 70s/80s pop, you name it. One of the things he would share constantly was local progressive rock and pop music. I was so baffled by what the Indonesian youth’s creative spirit was about back then. They were able to integrate political and cultural narratives in their works so well - an approach that have become a fundamental model for me. Recently, I have been digging a lot of traditional music from Indonesia - particularly Javanese and Sundanese - that I neglected when I was growing up. I have more capacity to appreciate them now.

What would be a respectful approach towards sampling that you do? 

In my definition, ‘respectful’ sampling is when the original piece of music is not being devalued and degraded, but rather taken to another place that the original piece was not able to go to on its own, beyond its initial intentions. This require producers to really know the narrative of the original piece of music as well as its technicalities. This idea applies to both sampling on a microscopic and macroscopic level.

What is your personal approach to making music? Can you tell us a bit more about your process? You often bring together various sources from vinyl to synths to handmade instruments - how does it all come together for every record?

My approach varies every time. I have come to a point in my creative process where I am able to free my mind and leave things to chance - though it is important to have a narrative/concept and sonic nuances beforehand. More often than not, I would start with a simple idea, make quick decisions and just let things happen. Whether or not I'm satisfied with what I came up with is another matter. I have realized that, when I embrace error, I get to know myself more. There is no formula, I want to be as expressive and natural as possible.

Preference: Electronic or acoustic instruments? And why?

Absolutely no preference. Everything I can hear is an instrument to me.

Most unexpected sound source or device you’ve used?

Broken FM radios and the sound of the garbage man shouting outside my house.

How much of what you do is about making a statement or making music? And do you think as a musician it is important to be making your music speak more?

I aim to tell a story and leave room for interpretation in everything that I do. Statements are a matter of perspective, they can change depending on the context, they are subjective after all. I am more concerned with the implication of a statement through the use of metaphors and symbols. What the work means and how it is perceived is not entirely for me as a creator to decide, it is for the audience. I believe that works of art that can stand the test of time have meaning that go beyond the creator and the work itself.

Greatest takeaway of your time at Berklee? How has it helped you as a musician?

The people I've met and the lessons that I've learned outside of the classrooms, for sure. My experiences during those times helped me to become a well-rounded human being, more so than just a musician.

Midnight Shift presents Hodge & Marco Bernardi (UK) with Wahono
3 Jun 2017
Kilo Lounge
10pm onwards

Marco Bernardi
Jamie React