Written for Sounds From The Corner
Seriously, what’s inside self-taught poet Mohammad Istiqamah Djamad’s head?
It must be something really sluggish, fruitful but in the same time poetically daunting. It takes bold courage to digest Payung Teduh literacy journey, the lyrics are floating in this obscure border between pure intimacy and something vaguely beyond, out of reach.
Is – his simpler name – sings first person, mazes simple feelings with maestro vocabulary, patiently waiting at the end of the road for you to romanticise. A type of music that triggers you to finally take foolish, emotion-driven decision in your life.
When I decided to treat Payung Teduh’s music delicately, it raises vulnerability, works strangely with various circumstances: it bends voluntarily with the weather, the speed of your vehicle, people chirping around you, old memories hidden somewhere in your pocket and ultimately, your heart screaming for more. Poisonous solitude. Raw honesty.
The other three – Comi Aziz Kariko, Ivan Penwyn and Alejandro Saksakame – are professional jugglers. They herded Is’ lyrics carefully, making sounds that are necessary, far from boisterous. Before catapulted into the spotlight by Dunia Batas – Payung Teduh’s debut album – Is and Comi were jam buddies in Universitas Indonesia. You could blame the picturesque Teater Pagupon, cultural den that groomed their lush approach into keroncong and jazz nuance. Schooled with more moody touch of arrangements, their years in the theatre group is the same reason why I think Payung Teduh’s music is shaped cinematically, with careful precision of tender feelings.
The tranquility promised in Payung Teduh’s music leaves you with limited choice: somewhere between contemplation or relaxation. The grey area between those two would be feeling sleepy and unmotivated, which become main reason why I’m telling you not to listen to them to boost your mood in the morning, or to whip your ass while studying for exams and deadlines. Those exact same reasons are also why i think their live performance is quite tricky, especially in big stages and festivals. Sometimes you need to be lively and expressive to really dominate the stage, and in their case this would be a problem.
But there is nothing tricky from Payung Teduh’s popularity. The quartet’s instant fame proofs that people miss good music with good lyrics. The attempt to “normalise” keroncong music into something more tangible is another strong point from the Depok-based quartet. Asked about their music in an interview with BBC Indonesia, they revealed that the calming, soothing mood is deliberately embraced to counter Jakarta’s tiring life. “Jakarta is already super hectic, at least our listener could sit down and relax a bit with our music,” they explained.
There are small numbers of Indonesian bands that could establish a strong presence of locality in their music – especially lyrically – and they are definitely one of them. And you can really sense the honesty in their music. There is nothing superficial, and baked with a serious degree of commitment.
I like the way young people (this doesn’t mean that I’m old!) in Indonesia now associate themselves with certain bands to allocate certain values of intelligence, for the sake of self-defining. It’s the easiest way to build your presence, whether it’s a #nowplaying hashtags or after-gig Instagram posts. And the great Payung Teduh, is the perfect band to spoil you with those values. Boys and Girls, Sounds From The Corner presents: Payung Teduh. – Teguh Wicaksono