Indonesian indie music artists and bands
When you hear the same popular songs being played over and over again no matter where you go, you’ll eventually yearn for new tunes to tingle your eardrums. Luckily, the Indonesian indie music scene is vast and diverse – giving you a steady supply of sunny songs, contemplative tunes and epic sounds to choose from.
To kickstart your listening adventure, here are 8 Indonesian indie musicians you should check out on YouTube or Spotify to find out which ones are up your alley.
1. The Trees & The Wild – a sublime combo of folk and post-rock
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Formed in Bekasi, West Java in the mid 2000s, The Trees & The Wild still continues to wow audiences with songs that are beautifully eerie. Once an obscure MySpace project, this group combines folk, post-rock, and some unusual pop elements, which result in music that is humble and epic at the same time.
You won’t regret watching the band perform live as these people don’t pull any punches and will surely give you goosebumps. But that doesn’t mean listening to unforgettable tracks such as “Empati Tamako” and “Tuah / Sebak” from their phenomenal 2016 album Zaman, Zaman, on your headphones will make the experience less special.
2. Jirapah – not your usual indie rock band
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Jirapah came into being in New York, but is now based in Jakarta. A string of singles and EPs such as Thank You, Max and the more recent Bits have been released by the frontman, Ken Jenie, since 2008. In 2019, the band finally presented its 9-track debut album, Planetarium, to a bunch of eager fans.
The band’s relocation has transformed Jirapah’s music in an organic way. This is clearly reflected by the band’s increased use of Indonesian lyrics. Other than that, you can also hear how this indie rock unit also draws from a wide range of influences such as jazz and afro-pop.
3. Vira Talisa – retro pop with Indonesian and European influences
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Jakarta-based musician Vira Talisa had humble musical beginnings. While she was studying art in France, she frequently uploaded home-recorded songs onto her SoundCloud account. It didn’t take long for it to blow up, and she’s committed herself to a full-time music career now that she’s back in her hometown.
Vira’s music and aesthetic can be quickly linked to retro pop, and her clever mix of Indonesian and European influences was one of the reasons she rose to fame as quickly as she did. Her body of work includes multiple singles, a self-titled mini-album in 2016, and a full-length album called Primavera (2019). She has also done collabs with other indie artists.
She sings about love, heartbreak, and other relatable themes in Indonesian, English, and French. The night was brighter when you lingered / And love was a mystery til you walk by my side / But my heart’s singing and tonight I’ll be fine, she sings in “Walking Back Home”. Her latest work in Primavera expresses such sentiments in a sunnier way that will undoubtedly put a smile on your face.
4. Bedchamber – connoisseurs of dream pop
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Bedchamber is a Jakarta-based band whose first EP, Perennial (2014), came into being following a series of serious jamming sessions. The members’ chemistry, impressive skills, and dream pop charm made it all too easy for them to become instant indie darlings.
The band’s first full-length album released in 2018, Geography, meshed together many different elements – from shoegaze to Chinese and Egyptian influences. This album proves that as the band members entered a new phase in life, so did their musical direction.
But don’t let the sweetness of their music fool you. The songs in Geography reflect the process of making sense of life. Roll in my ride / See how it slides / How will it sound to me? / How will I stop this run to me?, go the lines in “Ride.” While the mood of the song itself is positive, Bedchamber doesn’t hide its somberness. The last line is telling: Heart’s pounding, blood’s rushing, time’s running out, we’re sinking.
5. akan – a fresh revival of the best of 2000s alt-rock
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Jakarta-based band akan is relatively new, but its loud, high-energy music that’s paired with the lead singer’s soft voice immediately turned heads. Though it maintains a mysterious presence on social media, it garnered attention on Spotify and quickly earned a spot on a popular rock playlist.
The group’s self-titled debut album came out in 2019, and it’s almost impossible to not think of the best of 2000s alternative rock while listening to it. What sets it apart from that era is the freshness of their chord progressions and subtle touch of post-punk.
All of akan’s lyrics are in Indonesian and they paint a picture of everyday struggles. You’ll be able to relate and sing along to lines like Aku yang bertahan / Dalam Kesunyian / Ku coba melawan / Semua yang merasuki sukma. Taken from “Musim,” they roughly translate to “I’m holding on / in silence / I try to fight / everything that’s possessed my soul.”
6. Danilla – soothing yet haunting jazzy vocals with attitude
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If you’re into smooth, jazzy vocals, Danilla should definitely go on your playlist. Her distinctive voice blends with the bossa and jazz of her early work as much as it does with her later foray into the realm of psychedelic sounds. She sings in Indonesian and English, and the soothing yet haunting quality of her voice goes well with both languages.
Her first full-length album, Telisik, was released in 2014. This was followed by Lintasan Waktu in 2017, and an EP titled Fingers, in 2019. Her songs are deeply personal, but in a way that doesn’t shut out potential listeners. She also doesn’t shy away from controversial topics, which is proven by her song “Junko Furuta” that pays tribute to a Japanese girl who was tragically raped and murdered in 1989 – so if you like singers who aren’t afraid to touch on disquieting issues, give Danilla a listen.
7. Mothern – synth wave paired with high-energy vocals
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Mothern is a genre-fluid duo from Jakarta, which means you’ll get to treat yourself to different elements including pop, rock, and synth-wave all at once. The energetic, high-pitched vocals also contribute to the range of emotions they convey. It’s no wonder that Mothern has managed to get traction with a strong EP and a handful of singles.
If you live in an urban area, you’ll get what Mothern is going for. While the lyrics are quite universal, the mood conjured by the concoction of sounds makes it an undeniable product of city life.
Their songs act like a mirror that shows you what it’s like to live in a busy city, such as in their single, “Circles” that sums up the feeling of not being able to stop time in a place that’s too fast-paced: I tried to run, I tried to hide / I tried so hard to keep the fire burning / I keep running in circles. The beats of this song will make you want to dance while the lyrics will make you contemplate.
8. White Shoes & The Couples Company – the perfect fusion of retro pop, jazz, and disco
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The White Shoes & The Couples Company is a group that’s widely known for its distinctive approach to retro pop, which is fused with jazz and disco. Though White Shoes draws inspiration from old Indonesian movie soundtracks and other musical elements of bygone decades, it is still grounded in its own time, making the group’s music authentic and relevant.
Throughout its long career of over a decade, it has released many singles, several EPs, and two full albums, The White Shoes & The Couples Company (2005) and Album Vakansi (2010). Their unique take on nostalgic music makes White Shoes one of those rare bands that can destroy generational barriers. There’s no way you don’t want to dance or sing along when you’re listening to any of their songs. You also won’t be disappointed if you watch them live because the members know how to work a stage no matter how big or small it is.
Indonesian indie music artists and groups to check out
Pick up your phone or go on your computer and check out these awesome indie music artists from Indonesia. While the sheer number of genres and sub-genres might seem intimidating at first, you vibe with them, you’ll enjoy going down the rabbit hole of modern Indonesian music.
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