Raja Kirik

Photo by Indre Ginkeviciute.

Raja Kirik, a project by Yennu Ariendra and J. Mo'ong Santoso Pribadi, is a venture through trance dances such as reog, jaranan, and jathilan—practices from east and central Java, Indonesia. The dances draw on magic, shamanism, and animism to explore a history that is at times dark, chaotic, violent, and unjust. Such traditions have long served the people and their efforts at cultural resistance, and are still relevant in political struggles today.

Syncopated electronic rhythms frolic beneath the meanderings of homemade instruments built from waste materials. Metallic percussion that is as trance-inducing as it is bellicose steps into dialogue with lilting melodies that gust out of makeshift wind instruments. With frantic, seemingly endless forward momentum, the music of Raja Kirik inhabits a wide emotional breadth, cycling from disappointment to anger to loneliness.

The result of extensive artistic research into the island’s history, Raja Kirik considers the violence, oppression, and resistance that has shaped Java. At the time of Dutch colonialism, trance dances served the Javanese as an expression of their ardent desire for freedom and their rejection of colonial rule. Ariendra and Pribadi show how music, dance, and ritual still provide narrative means today to assert oneself against foreign rule and violence. These explorations can be heard on their eponymous 2018 album on Yes No Wave, as well as another record arriving later this year.

In a similar spirit, Ariendra’s solo project Y-DRA examines the potential for resistance in dangdut koplo (or “stupid” in Indonesian), a popular Indonesian music genre that channels the sentiments and experiences of the country's working class. Hybrids of new, vivid, visceral sounds, his album and live show titled “No-Brain Dance” channel koplo’s rhythmic elements alongside techno and IDM to shapeshift between identities and realities, and create individual and collective spaces for resistance.

Live Impressions