Written by Aida Rashid
Photo Credits: The Wknd
Surabaya is a beautiful metropolitan city located in East Java, Indonesia; and it’s never been prettier with Silampukau’s grace of anecdotal poetry in the form of a full-length album called ‘Dosa, Kota & Kenangan’.
I had the privilege to have a chat with the guys behind the Surabaya-based duo outfit, Eki Tresnowening and Kharis Junandharu last week when they came down to Kuala Lumpur for The Wknd’s Buka Panggung showcase that featured them as the main act and joined by a myriad of The Wknd alumni from the likes of Deepset, The Impatient Sisters, Milo Dinosaur and NJWA.
A certain level of camaraderie, finesse, and nuance is almost always to be expected with this band, but after given practically 4 days to practice and jive with the sessionists, the show fell nothing short of amazing.
Silampukau has been around the independent scene since 2009, and have released an EP & an album since. They are mostly known for their dreamy folk experience infused with their delicately crafted storytelling-like lyrics.
Their debut album that was released in 2015 is a conceptual compilation of the ordinary stories of ordinary people living in Surabaya. Told with grace, humility, and a tinge of romance, ‘Dosa, Kota & Kenangan’ touches the non-glamorous & the non-extravagant experiences in Surabaya — and what’s better told about a city if not by the people living in it themselves?
‘We aren’t politicians. But what is left that’s not been told, is the most important thing that should be. The small things & the small tales that pass us by everyday.”
The concept of the album is a combination of folk in the instrumentation, and worldly, mundane experiences in the writing. ‘Our mindset while in the process of making this album was really about wanting to make it thematic whereby all the songs on the record would follow the one concept that we’ve decided. And we will do the same with our future works,’ laments Eki. “Projek kami memang thematic, mindset kami waktu proses itu memang mahu menjadikan satu album bersama 10 lagu itu mengikut tema, satu konsep kalau kedepan, kalau kami temukan konsep lain juga kami akan mempunyai mindset yg sama.”
‘Balada Harian’ talks about the mundane lives where we all wake up in the morning just to get through the day, as life itself loses it’s meaning day by day. ‘Doa 1’ is told from the perspective of a hopeful man wanting to make it in the world with his music, but not with restrictions of the mainstream. While the song that seemed to be a crowd favourite, ‘Puan Kelana’, is a romantic plea for a distant lover, “tiap kali langit meremang jingga aku kan merindukanmu”, and more interestingly it is largely infused with French-folk influences in the instrumentation and also in the writing.
‘There is no personal backstory or experience to the song, it’s all fiction. What we wanted to do was we wanted to experiment with merging the Malay element with the French-folk element, as Indonesia also has a Malay cultural background same as Riau and the others,” says Kharis.
Despite the glaring influence however, the duo don’t really just listen to French-folk.
‘We like Tom Lehrer, French music, and we also like Mariachi, we don’t have any specific music influence. We listen to a lot of things.”
“Usually when it comes to Indonesia and its music scene, the first thing we’d think about is Jakarta. But Jakarta isn’t the only city with a rich independent scene. ‘In comparison to Jakarta, yes there may be less involvement in the music scene. However, in terms of releases, there has been an increase since 1, 2 years back. They were also being marketed in Jakarta. The scene in Surabaya is underrated, but it’s there and it’s big. It’s been active and growing since the late 80s, early 90s,” reflects Eki.
Silampukau is the manifestation of making it big with humility, resilience & hope in a capitalistic, dog-eat-dog industry. ‘We hope that the independent scene flourishes, and we hope it gets stronger and it stays together to help one another — that we reach to a point that we don’t need to depend on major labels anymore.’