Anith Adilah Othman caught up with the Indonesian punksters in Oscar’s on the Corner.
A good band gets you raving about their music but a brilliant band takes the discourse one notch higher. A striking name like Koteka Is The Reason is enough to get people wondering: “what the hell does that mean?” and that is exactly what its founder Anca was trying to do, he told Good Times2 during an interview on Monday.
Let’s not beat around the bush. Koteka, essentially, is a penis cover traditionally worn by some of the indigenous tribes in the Papua Island. Made out of dried-out gourd, it symbolises the Papuans’ struggle to protect their heritage against all sorts of exploitation.
“West Papua is a part of Indonesia too, but not many people are at all concerned about the situation there – with all the genocides, massacres and gold-minings that are still happening.
“Papua contributes well to the country’s economy with our rich natural resources but what do the people get in return? Nothing. No good education or healthcare. Literally nothing,” Anca said as he looked on the floor of Oscar’s on the Corner, his left hand mindlessly tucking his long, wavy hair behind his ear.
We were sitting at the smoking area outside, away from the rage-filled screams of Reign in Slumber, a local fave who opened the Punky Monday night at Oscar’s – the same gig where Anca’s band was headlining.
It was apparent that Anca was looking for just the right words to explain about West Papua, where he was born and raised for 16 years before moving to East Java. He took a small pause and added: “I figured if I gave the band a catchy name like Koteka, more people would be intrigued about West Papua and would like to learn more about it.”
Anca and his bandmates: Hasan (guitar), Sinyo (bass), Samson (guitar) and Dani (drum) were on a Southeast Asia tour called Sempoyongan (Indonesian for tottering or wobbling) where they played at venues in Thailand, Vietnam and several parts of Malaysia. After this, the boys were headed to the final leg of their tour in Singapore.
“The punk scene in Indonesia is huge. There are so many movements related to the scene too, like art exhibitions, free library initiatives and fundraising for disaster-stricken communities.
“It is exciting for us to check out the punk scene elsewhere, exchange music banters – that is always fun. Hopefully our presence will open the locals’ eyes to the bigger punk scene in the region. We also hope to go back to Indonesia and give the same exposure to Cambodian bands that we met,” he said.
On Monday, they played in Phnom Penh for the first time ever and their enthusiasm was evident during a 12-song set that lasted way, way too short.
I am going to say it: Koteka is the Reason is a big, fat tease. There was no way all five of them could fit on Oscar’s stage so Anca planted himself in the middle of the dancefloor, gripping his microphone hard on one hand, with only the side of his face visible to the crowd. That, to me, was an invitation to mosh.
“Hello Phnom Penh, we are from Indonesia. Thanks for having us,” Hasan the guitarist, taking his place on the left of the stage, said into the microphone, ever-so-sheepishly. He took us by surprise when he launched straight into heavy riffs right after, which riled up the entire pub.
The lads served up a mean hardcore-punk platter and the crowd just gobbled it all up.
Some fifty seconds into the first song, just as the adrenaline started to kick in and the patrons were just about to slamdance their sweaty bodies against each other, the song died abruptly with Hasan capping it with a “thank you” and a satisfied grin on his face.
Get this. Each of their song lasts just a little over one minute. The boys sure know how to leave the crowd hungry for more.
The ‘teasing’ continued with 11 Others including An Ounce of Gold, Ready to Shoot and In the Name of Mountain Gold. It is hard to tell if he was doing it on purpose, but Anca was pretty elusive with his movements when he performs. If you are lucky, you would catch a glimpse of his face for a good two seconds before the dimmed lighting swallows his silhouette again.
The boys completely ignored the many chants of “one more, one more” from the crowd and emptied up the stage within seconds for homegrown death metal act, Doch Chkae.
Commenting on his new Cambodian peers, after the show, Anca said: “They were really good.”
“I don’t know about others but punk has really shaped me up. Prior to this, I do not give a rat’s ass about politics or current affairs. Punk helped me to become more open minded and accepting to differences – skin colour, religion, ideas, sexuality – whatever they may be. Under the big punk umbrella, we unite as one,” he said.