Is Barasuara a Rock Band?

Written for Sounds From the Corner Producer Notes

Pic: Screengrab from instagram.com/barasuara

Pic: Screengrab from instagram.com/barasuara

Today, what’s your first thought when you hear the word “Rock music”?

Mine is Nickelback.

During the 90s, for the sake of televised industrialisation, the infamous MTV had made the term “Rock Music” as this big and cramped empire, consisted of moguls with saturated video music, leather pants and semi growls. So for us kids from the third world country, Nirvana was indeed, “as rock as” The Cure, Smash Mouth or Depeche Mode. So sad, but true: Indonesian kids during the MTV era were the perfect target for this attempt.

We thought we knew Rock music and we thought we were so cool, when actually the polarised information from the old media outlets skewed our perspective towards the rich and vibrant musical environment. However, despite the fact that MTV tricked and pigeonholed our point of view towards Rock music, we should still thank them for the handsome delivery of pop culture (and don’t forget: waves of Americanisation). I’ll give you credit for that.

The term rock music slowly became irrelevant when the Internet brought media, audience and the gatekeeper on the vessel. The Pandora Box was opened, knowledge exchange was fuelled by the online acknowledgement and a huge natural selection from the bands defining their own terms was inevitable, leaving bands who still nodding to be defined as rock band being perceived as nothing but bumbling and clownish (no offense, Scott Stapp). The Internet was (and will always be) a monumental fuck you slam-dunk for giant-greedy music corporations, leaving MTV crippled, airing bland videos from Korean Girlbands and re-run of Pimp my Ride (talking about MTV Asia). Today, I can say proclaiming your band as a Rock band, is either lazy, or poorly informed.

So the next question is, today where does Barasuara stand? Is it a Rock band? One thing for sure, it is not just Rock music. From the first time Iga Massardi sent me raw sketches of Barasuara – couple years ago, I promptly managed to save a permanent empty space in my head for further anticipation, resulted in stable satisfaction. Listening to the early demo tapes, I was playing hide and seek with my expectation until finally Sounds From the Corner had the chance to produce so far our best session this year. Believe me, the band is far from Rock.

As chief curator and songwriter, Iga Massardi’s ability to really maximise his own character is one of the most impressive advantages of Barasuara as a musical unit. What I studied from his role in Barasuara could be condensed in one sentence: Innovation is vital, but consistency is key. I’ve been friends with him since Junior High School but these think-pieces are so far his most mature and bulletproof work.

Originally formulated as a one-man project, Iga’s decision to grant democracy to other members of Barasuara is spot on. With that line-up, making the rest of the member as additional players will be plain foolish. Already well-known bandmates Marco Steffiano, Gerald Situmorang, Asteriska Cabrini, Puti Chitara and TJ Kusuma are not only doing what they told to do, but also contribute substantial amount of power and clarity into the songs. Listening to the session, I am continuously awed by Marco’s smart, loud but tidy drumming. Producing the right sound, in the right time with the right volume is not a skill any drummer could do, especially faced with Barasuara’s steady but shifty approaches.

Songwriting is fresh and responsible, sound treatment is top-notch. Arrangement department is a nutritious delicacy for the hungry souls: you will recognise some Tinariwen juice, Sondre Lerche appetiser served with Jack White as Entree and some DD Dumbo as dessert. While the existence of backup singers in a band usually ended with question marks, the tranquility promised by Asteriska and Puti is far from ineffective, in fact they are the secret game changer of the whole Barasuara experience. Another thing that I noticed from Barasuara is they put real effort to avoid cliches. Right when you start to identify the pattern of the songs, suddenly they mutated into a different dimension, revitalised the songs for a moment before finally entering the punishing closure.

It is always our aim to introduce good music to a wider scale of audience, and Barasuara is the perfect accomplishment of that mission. Thank us later, these six songs are fresh from the oven, presumably your first proper encounter with the band. After watching the session, I should ask you one last time: Is Barasuara a rock band? You decide. Ladies and Gentlemen, Sounds From the Corner presents Barasuara!

Comment 1

  1. Rezzando J. Sinaga March 7, 2015

    Barasuara.. Brilliant!! Iga’s idealism is very magnificant before The Trees and The Wild, Tika and The Dissident and Soulvibe.. and how are you, Teguh? Masih ingat saya?

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