Published May 20, 2017My knowledge of Indonesian music begins with Gamelan and ends with a couple of reissued psych records. All I knew about Senyawa is that they had shared a split record with crazy Japanese band Melt-Banana, so I had no preconceptions. Senyawa is a duo: Rully Shabara on vocals and Wukir Suryadi on instruments. Visually, they were very different. Rully was short-haired and dressed in dark clothes, Wukir long-haired, wearing jeans and a baggy T-shirt. And when they started to play, it was unlike anything else I've heard.
Most of the tunes were on the short side, and they were extremely varied. Rully has three primary vocal styles: a low rumble somewhere between Burzum and Tuvan throat singing; a highly emotional ballad approach, somewhat similar to Japan's Mikami Kan; and something akin to the falsetto Alan Bishop (ex Sun City Girls) uses on his love songs. Wukir started off playing a bambuwukir, a homemade 12-string bamboo instrument of his own design. Bowed it sounds like a cello, plucked it's almost like a tambura but with extra percussive elements. He runs it through lots of effects, so its sound is infinitely mutable.
Later, he switched to another smaller homemade instrument, its tone like a violin crossed with a banjo. The music they played ranged from hard rockish big-riff throw-downs to noise explosions to chopped avant-rock and onward. The lyrics appeared to be in Indonesian, so I'm not sure what the topics were, but they definitely merit further investigation. It's rare these days to hear any rock music so utterly new and forward-thinking.