When you’re in a band, having your vocalist on a time-out to complete his studies abroad can mean a lot of things, but for Efek Rumah Kaca, stopping isn’t one of them.
On August 12th this year, one of Indonesia’s finest alternative rock bands officially released a one-off track on iTunes, along with an accompanying music video. They called it ‘Merdeka’, Indonesian for "independence".
Composed by the four-piece – Cholil Mahmud (vocals / guitar), Adrian Yunan Faisal (bass), Poppie Airil (bass) and Akbar Bagus Sudibyo (drums) – with the early material dating back to 2006, ‘Merdeka’ is a further testament to ERK’s musical adventurousness and thus, their longevity.
Originally released as part of an educational program called Ini Budi that facilitates the provision of school material to Indonesia’s impoverished areas, ‘Merdeka’ is their first release after putting out a career-defining prog-opus LP Sinestesia back in December 2015.
The instrumentation – shifting tempos, a choir, liberal use of the trumpet and the trombone – is a lot more straightforward than Sinestesia (whose shortest song clocks out at 7 minutes), but it’s still a complex enough track that suggests growth for a band that’s known for habitually suggesting growth.
One more reason behind the growth are the lyrics. Written and sung by Adrian (who’s been suffering from a debilitating illness), ‘Merdeka’ finds him wondering about the state of Indonesia’s social and political landscapes in 2016.
“The song ‘Merdeka’ is our way to reflect on the meaning of independence that we have,” says Adrian in the press release. It makes sense for a guy who wrote this in the lyric sheet: “Kami bertanya / Di manakah tanah serta mata airnya / Mendambakan rumah hati lega rasanya” (“We ask / Where is the land and the spring / Yearning for home pleases our hearts”).
Efek Rumah Kaca aren’t really a political band, but concerns toward our politics continually inform their lyrics. ‘Merdeka’ is no different: The band also reflected on several recent incidents, such as the continued marginalization of the people from the Papua island.
The video, made by Indonesian photographer Anton Ismael, was shot in the island and gives the glimpse of the folks who live in it. Fittingly, proceeds from the song’s sales on iTunes will be donated to teaching staffs in Papua.
Watch the video for ‘Merdeka,’ directed by Anton Ismael, here:
You can purchase 'Merdeka' on iTunes.