When an English musician plays "sampe"

id We The Fest

President Jokowi joins "We The Fest" crowd on Friday (11/8).The mostly young festival-goers were ecstatic to see him, and some yelled requests for a selfie with the President. (ANTARA/Desca Lidya Natalia)

Jakarta (Antara) - The sun was ready to set on Jakarta's evening scene, the time showed 5:30 on that warm Saturday evening, and the next group of performers were getting ready to display their musical skills to the audience of the 2017 We The Fest, a 3-day music festival event held in JIExpo, Jakarta's renowned exhibition centre.
         
The preparation looked like a regular set-up, with microphone checks here and there and the plugging and unplugging of amplifiers and guitar jacks, but there were some musical instruments that looked rather out of place compared to the usual band set, as they featured quite a lot of weirdly-shaped golden apparatuses and wooden attributes.
         
It was not until the band was fully set that it became clear that the group that was about to perform was featuring Indonesia's own traditional instruments, including Gamelan, Gendang, the xylophone-like Gambang, and Sampe, which resembles a modern day guitar that originated from the country's Dayak tribe, often found in the Eastern part of Kalimantan.
         
Kunokini, as cited from their official page, is a group that combines traditional musical instruments of Indonesia and other countries, which is then mixed with contemporary music. The mix of such contrasting elements has given birth to a fresh and bold new genre of sound, where traditional art and culture are revisited in a more popular way, making it an easier sound to be accepted by all parts of the community.
         
In literal translations, Kuno means ancient and antique, and it refers to the traditionalism brought forward by the band. Meanwhile, Kini means modern and new-aged, as it also brings the element of contemporary music into their modern music making.
         
The band looked ready to perform, and the setting sun's orange hue was turning the brassy tones of the Gambang even more golden. All of a sudden, someone, who clearly was an additional member of the performance, walked in. It was none other than Bristol's own musician Laura Kidd of 'She Makes War.'
    
Decked in a floral dress, a pair of boots, and her bob-styled blonde hair, she effortlessly picked up the Sampe and started checking its tune and sound, making sure that they were in line with the rest of the musical instruments, including her own blue guitar.
         
"I came here all the way from Bristol, England. I feel very lucky that I got to spend seven weeks here in Indonesia. I have never been here before, and it is indeed very lovely. Cheer up if you love Indonesia!," she said, as the audience shouted in a loud voice to show their excitement.
         
"I am going home tomorrow, and I am going to take lots of crazy memories with me," she added, as the audience cheered even louder than before.
         


A part of a cultural exchange
    
Kidd, along with her Irish fellow musician Dani, were part of the program, initiated by the British Council in Indonesia named the 'UK/Indonesia.' During the seven-week long exchange scheme, they were paired with Indonesia's Kunokini and were practicing music with them at their studio in Depok.
         
The British Council in Indonesia believed that currently, there were very little cultural exchanges taking place between Indonesian and the United Kingdom, despite the two countries being hugely creative and there being a vast amount of gains from getting to know each other. For that reason, UK/Indonesia will start to address this through a program of interventions throughout 2016 to 2018.

After seven weeks of bonding and exchanging their views and knowledge on music, Kidd and Kunokini had composed a song together. "Me and Mas Bismo, who is a member of Kunokini, composed a song together. He was really interested in me trying out the Sampe, probably just because it will be funny," she remarked during an interview, giggling through her words.
         
"He is such an enthusiastic person about sharing Indonesian culture, and it was very generous of him to do that," she added.
         
Having been to the Samsara festival in Europe, Kidd admitted that it has been an interesting experience in contrast with the music of Kunokini.
         
"That is the reason why I came here. The group is just full of energy, and they are really nice guys. I was playing the Sampe today, and I am playing this with utmost respect to the people who play this properly. In my experience, that was so moving. I could pick it up and play something, but it is nice that people can be welcoming," she explained.
         
When asked about her decision to sign up for the UK/ID Residency program, she admitted that the idea of coming to an entirely foreign country was one of the reasons that she decided to apply for the program.
         
"It is just the idea of coming to a culture I know nothing about and a country I have never seen. None of my friends in England have ever been to Indonesia and so they do not know anything about it. That just really appealed to me, and that is why I applied," she revealed.
    
The evening went on as Kunokini performed a number of songs, some of which featured Kidd and Dani. They had also gotten their chances to perform their own music before the Indonesian audience that seemed to have gained an interest toward the British performers.
         
They have now returned home with a pocket full of newly learned culture, music experiences, and undoubtedly, new supporters from Indonesia.
         
"Thank you, Indonesia, you are all beautiful!," Kidd shouted, as she ended her performance in Jakarta. 

ANTARA

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Editor: Hisar Sitanggang
COPYRIGHT © ANTARA 2017

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