Pandai Besi Refresh Themselves and the Indonesian Indie Scene

Friday, 14 February 2014 14:42 | Read 3854 times | 
Pandai Besi Refresh Themselves and the Indonesian Indie Scene




By Alexis Stephens, original article on

February 5, 2014

Sometimes a band needs a hard reset in order to refresh their creative juices. Indonesia’s Efek Rumah Kaca (English: Greenhouse Effect) hit some creative doldrums in between their second and third albums. Bored by the routine of performing the songs they became famous for in the Indonesian indie rock scene, they decided to create a brand new project, Pandai Besi.

Efek Rumah Kaca’s Cholil Mahmud (vocals) and Akbar Faisal (drums) approached some friends to re-interpret songs from their two albums — the self-titled Efek Rumah Kaca  and Kamar Gelap — and make them more lush, psychedelic, and most of all — fun. With the help of Andi Sabaruddin (guitar), Muhammad Asranur (keyboards), Poppie Airil (bass), Agustinus Panji Mahardika (trumpet), Nastasha Abigail and Irma Hidayana (backing vocals), Pandai Besi recorded the album Daur Baur.

I spoke with Muhammad Asranur, known as Asra, about how the album came about. He remarked, “When we started this project, we didn’t have any expectations. We just wanted to have fun. When you perform on stage, it becomes a job. And by covering their own songs, [Efek Rumah Kaca] doesn’t have to worry about paying anyone for the rights, because they own the copyright themselves.” With Daur Baur, Pandai Besi infuses the sounds of Efek Rumah Kaca with a baroque, orchestral fullness. Cholil Mahmud’s vocals are made ever more haunting, filled-out by back-up singers and brass. The imagery for the music is dark, psychological, and borders on the bizarre. (The spooky ballet dancing in the trippy video for “Laki-laki Pemalu” is a great introduction to the band’s personality.) Through recycling, Pandai Besi unlocked hidden powers from within their members’ previous work.


Asra explained that Pandai Besi’s inspirations are both local and Western, “Everyone has people who are influences. We were influenced by old Indonesian bands from the 1970s, The Carpenters, Procol Harum, and our founding fathers.” Under the reign of Sukarno, the first president of Indonesia, rock music was banned in the country. Grassroots rock sounds emerged underground evolving out of traditional Indonesian and Malay sounds. Pandai Besi are fans of the jangly, psychedelic rock that made its way into local movie scores. They even recorded their album where much of that music had been recorded historically, at the country’s oldest studio. Opened in 1956, Lokananta holds over 40,000 recordings, including speeches by president Sukarno.

In the 1980s and early 1990s underground rock, punk, and metal in Indonesia became politicized, helping to oppose the oppressive Soeharto regime. Since maturing as a democracy following Soeharto’s fall in 1998, the indie scene has thrived. Asra commented, “[Indie music in Indonesia] started growing a long time ago, in the early ’90s. We were all listening to a lot of Britpop from England. It’s been growing ever since. At this time, it’s all over Indonesia.” As is evidenced in their name, Efek Rumah Kaca has been an issue-based, participating in efforts raising awareness about climate change, corruption, and protecting the endangered orangutan.

An early motto for the group was “Pasar Bisa Diciptakan,” which translates to “The market can be created.” They proved it true by crowdsourcing the funding for Daur Baur directly on their website. Six-hundred Efek Rumah Kaca fans contributed to the cause and because the demand was so strong, Pandai Besi released the album on vinyl, which hadn’t been planned beforehand. Asra commented, “80 percent of the album was crowdsourced through our own website and went directly to our band bank account. Efek Rumah Kaca has a really strong fan base.”

After the success of Pandai Besi, Efek Rumah Kaca are back to working on their third album to be named Sinestesia (English: Synesthesia). Sadly, another one of the causes of the original extended break from the band was a sickness caught by their bassist Adrian Yunan Faisal, which left him blind. Asra explains how his experience has influenced the new record, “The album only has six songs. We gave the songs to him and asked him to imagine what colors he sees when he hears the songs. That was the concept for the album. All of the songs are really long—like ten-to-twelve minutes. All of the members of Pandai Besi contributed to the album. It’s darker and more complex than Efek Rumah Kaca’s previous work.”

It seems like Pandai Besi was exactly what Efek Rumah Kaca needed to get their groove back. Their success was a surprise, but doesn’t really effect the core member’s work. “[Lead singer Cholil Mahmud] has told us many times that Pandai Besi doesn’t effect Efek Rumah Kaca,” says Asra, “If it does well or if it doesn’t go anywhere at all, it doesn’t matter.” Pandai Besi will be hard at work on their sophomore effort soon after Sinestesia is released.






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