Pandai Besi Refresh Themselves and the Indonesian Indie Scene

7-Pandai Besi - Konser Daur Baur Bandung

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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.

By Alexis Stephens
February 5, 2014



Pandai Besi is a musical collective resulting from the mutation of the Efek Rumah Kaca band. In March 2013, they just completed the live recording sessions at the legendary Studio Lokananta Solo, and spawned an album titled ‘Daur Baur’. The album contains nine songs selected from two albums owned by Efek Rumah Kaca. Pandai Besi re-arranged and re-forged nine songs into a complex musical composition, presenting new interpretations that are completely different from the  original style of Efek Rumah Kaca’s music .


“If Pandai Besi  was  a new band and this is a new song material, then the Daur Baur album will be Indonesia’s best debut album since the first album of Efek Rumah Kaca…” ~Rolling Stone Indonesia

“..every second of the sound from this album should be well documented, so that future generations will know if there was once a solid pop music with strong character ever born from this era. ” ~Deathrockstar

“..the soft voice from Cholil Mahmud is a drama of its own, the music was composed more varied and magnificent. “Debu-Debu Berterbangan”  has angelic sounds, “Desember” and “Melankolia” present the orchestration layer. Even the song “Di Udara” is a long composition  full of choir. This recycling process makes it all quite different. Brilliant. ” ~Trax Magz

“The whole album is littered with welcome surprises. Virtually every track ends up far from where it began. Perhaps the best thing to be said about Pandai Besi is that the band sounds like it exists as its own entity, without the baggage of its main, more famous, persona. The songs make their original versions feel like demos..”  ~The Jakarta Globe

‘..It is an oasis for the Indonesian music industry and it’s a masterpiece that cannot be disputed anymore.’


The Invention of ‘Pandai Besi’

The birth of  Pandai Besi starts from Joyland Festival (June 2012), when Efek Rumah Kaca played a musical format that had a more ‘crowded formation’ because it was reinforced by some musician friends: Poppie Airil (Bass), Andi Hans Sabarudin (guitar), M. Asranur (Piano/Keyboard), and Augustinus Pandji Mahardika (Trumpet / Flute). The name Pandai Besi was officially used when they appeared at “Superbad Vol.45″ (November 2012). Superbad is a monthly music show featuring lots of potential bands from Jakarta and other cities, it is held regularly at The Jaya Pub presented by Indra Amenk and Keke Tumbuan (The Secret Agents).

A tight concert schedule, plus Adrian’s ( Efek Rumah Kaca’s original bassist ) health conditions ( that never healed completely) hampered the smooth completion of  Efek Rumah Kaca’s  3rd album, but ithas not at all dampened the creativity of Akbar and Cholil to continued ‘the job’; they try to find many ways to refuse boredom.

Limitations of musical skills, routine office work  and the health condition of Adrian became a trigger for Cholil and Akbar to find the right gap in order to continue working. As if to challenge themselves, they invited four musician friends who were deliberately selected for their different backgrounds and musical tastes to ‘recycle’ Efek Rumah Kaca songs . From this process Cholil and Akbar hope to find fresh energy and new inspiration.

Two times a week practicing in the studio on a regular basis, they finally managed to forge nine selected songs from two ERK albums. Over time, these formation also increased with the merger of Nastasha Abigail and Irma Hidayana on vocal division.


Nine Efek Rumah Kaca songs which have been recycled / re-arranged into ‘Daur Baur’ album are:


1.   “Hujan Jangan Marah”
2.    “Menjadi Indonesia”
3.    “Debu-debu Berterbangan”
4.    “Desember”
5.    “Melankolia”
6.    “Laki-laki Pemalu”
7.    “Jalang”
8.    “Di Udara”
9.    “Jangan Bakar Buku”

In March 2013 Pandi Besi successfully recorded the songs on the legendary Studio Lokananta which uses a system of joint financing by the fans (Crowdfunding method ). Every ‘supporter’ gets various rewards in the form of a physical release like cassete tapes, CDs, or vinyl, depending on which donations support package they choose. Approximately there were 600 people supported the Pandai Besi Crowdfunding within one month. (see ).

Due to overwhelming requests from the public who wanted to have a physical record from this album, on June 29th, 2013 Demajors Records officially released the Daur Baur album, and at the same time provided an opportunity for those who missed the crowdfunding program to have the album. Finally, in August 1st 2013, Pandai Besi had their first concert to launch and celebrete the succesful recording from the support of the crowdfunders.


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