The strange world of the pop throwback euphoria

(Written for Sounds From the Corner)

Finally, nostalgia being utilized properly. The challenging part kicks in: how to sustain?

In separate places, different gesture timing, Guruh Sukarno Putra and Yockie Suryoprayogo (RIP) hinted similar reasons why the public temporarily “disowned” retro pop music in Indonesia despite how big and colossal the heritage was. For me personally, clearly there’s a problem in music documentation: we fail to learn what has been done in the past because we suck at archiving – this is also why we create Sounds From the Corner at the first place.

From GSP and YSP, two things they mentioned & both happened during the 90s: The arrival of international record labels and Orde Baru.

Sony, Warner and Universal came to Indonesia with the promise of globalization, offering rigid but promising business model from the “western world” while essentially created a business-heavy approach that was too sales-driven. In the same time, the invisible information wall built by Orde Baru regime pigeon-holed people’s enthusiasm towards diversified music. Early generation of millennials can still remember how media was subtly monitored, injecting singular definition of pop music which was bland and vague, making all of the treasure from the past slowly forgotten.

Fast forward 15 years from the 90s, it is not a surprise for me to witness how the colossal pop music heritage being caught mainly by sidestream crowd and practitioner. Boosted by the swift discovery in the digital era, the masterful pieces have been successfully recaptured, reimagined and represented by various musicians and initiatives. The likes of Yockie and Guruh projected values that previous regime wanted to erase: progressiveness, diversity, and openness. The current “industry” is just too lazy to respond and react to this dynamic.

Even though the attempt to relive the era was done previously by many parties (we had Djakarta Artmosphere in the past, guys from Irama Nusantara are tirelessly working on their archiving initiatives and so forth), the past 3-4 years we have seen a vast growth in the Indonesia pop throwback audience. Thanks to efforts like Swaragembira and Suaradisko, now you can see young musicians acknowledged by legendary acts, be happily bored listening to “Juwita” played on the club three times and see swagger Fariz RM modelled for a local fashion brand. How cool is that?

What is even cooler, this phenomenon widens the market share for Indonesian sidestream music listener. If you go to these events, the crowd is bizarrely beautiful, different with people who come to Indie rock gigs or lavish club events but for sure these are guys who don’t listen to music on the telly. Simply put: the throwback audience is identified along with the sidestream market. This is a good news since I think the rest of the “industry” is still too busy selling CDs at chicken shops, plus the gov officials also occupied producing irrelevant rhetoric.

The actual question is how to sustain this euphoria and turn this into something that is tangible financially. For me, the most precious difference is this narrative is now not only available for music geeks and enthusiasts, but also caught by general audience and has grown new segment of “consumer”, so there’s actual economy power to make its presence has tangible form.

Another challenge is to scale up from an event-driven initiatives, go “backstage” and focus more on creating an environment where we can trigger more interaction with the senior musicians, therefore we can cover every angle – B2B & B2C. The hope is to avoid this joyous moment to be just a euphoria.

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