“There may only be 500 people interested in the record I’m releasing, but I’m trying to find the 500,” said Phil Freeman, of whom Burning Ambulance is one of two tiny American footprints working. with Senyawa. “Wherever they are in the world, it’s perfect.”
Shabara gushed when he discussed the future feasibility of this program, detailing the organizational refinements he envisioned. And Rabih Beaini, the owner of the German product manufacturing label, suggested that groups, large and small, could increase their audiences by recruiting a plethora of cooperative partners. “You could have 100 labels reaching dark markets in countries where you don’t normally sell your music,” said Beaini from Berlin. “It’s quite utopian.”
But Stephen O’Malley – the co-founder of metal duo Sunn O))) and record label owner – has warned against reducing Senyawa’s idea to a new sales strategy. Several years ago, O’Malley invited Senyawa to perform with him at Europalia, a biennial arts festival, with each event dedicated to the culture of a different country. He reveled in their openness and enthusiasm.
“Senyawa approaches this record as a way to connect with a lot of people, a way to collaborate,” O’Malley said from his home in Paris. “So why does it have to be sustainable as a business? Of course, the music is sustainable. It has been around since the beginning of the species and is transmitted all the time.
But the added connectivity is already changing how Senyawa works. On February 20, the group began presenting Pasar Alkisah, a two-day virtual festival of performances, DJ sets, cooking classes and interviews, a massive act of coordination between the group and its dozens of partners.
In September, when Senyawa recorded “Alkisah,” he reunited again near Borobudur, the iconic Buddhist temple built in Java a millennium ago. Shabara and Suryadi have secluded themselves in a friend’s sprawling home there, surrounded by a patch of jungle and a panorama of converging rivers and twin volcanoes. It was a postcard version of Indonesia – and a perfectly ironic place to capture a less stereotypical perspective on the world’s fourth most populous country.
“We are normal musicians like anyone in the world who is experimenting. We happen to be Indonesians, ”Shabara said, his words flowing in a torrent. “If we want Indonesian musicians to thrive and be as respected as Western musicians, we have to think that we are part of the world, not the ‘third world’.”