In partnership with Plainsong Live
All good things come at a price. Baskara Putra knows this all too well – and the 29-year-old Indonesian artist is aware that he is one of the lucky ones. The pandemic halted his solo career as Hindia, which debuted in 2019, only for the project to enjoy virality a couple of years later – not to mention his other flourishing bands, the poppy Lomba Sihir and the alt-rock outfit .Feast.
But success is not always sweet as some may imagine, Putra makes clear to NME. As he puts it: “My career costs so much – emotionally and personally. There are so many things I despise in building a career in music and going through everything that I did.”
A year ago, Putra and his Lomba Sihir bandmates witnessed firsthand the watershed moment of live music’s post-pandemic return to Indonesia when the sextet (now a quintet) took to the stage of Joyland Bali. It was the band’s first time performing their acclaimed album ‘Selamat Datang di Ujung Dunia’ in front of a live audience, exactly a year after the album’s release.
Putra had some “reservations” before Joyland Bali 2022 (“because so many live shows got shut down by the authorities”) but ultimately felt reassured by organiser Plainsong Live’s professionalism and commitment to the festival. “The moment I found out [Indonesian president] Joko Widodo and [the Minister of State-Owned Enterprises] Erick Thohir would show up, I felt all right immediately,” the Jakarta native chuckles.
“I don’t believe the first album dies once the second album comes out. It’s like having children; each of them will have their own trajectory”
Despite welcoming the return of live music, Putra – who toured heavily throughout 2022 – couldn’t help but notice the “unpleasant stuff” as well: “sketchy event organisers” who failed to fulfil financial obligations or cancelled events at the eleventh hour, and others who botched security and ticketing, at the expense of attendees’ wellbeing.
“I don’t think it was greed,” Putra muses. “I think there is this illusion that throwing a live show is a piece of cake. That’s why so many people take a crack at it, especially when motivated by ‘financial incentives’ because people miss live shows so much. If you give them one, they will flock [to it]. Turns out, keeping up with such demands is not that easy.”
On paper, the year 2022 was a good one for Baskara Putra. As the frontman of .Feast, he took home an Anugerah Musik Indonesia (AMI) Award for best rock album. His solo project Hindia enjoyed a resurgence of public interest after his 2019 anthems ‘Evaluasi’ and ‘Secukupnya’ went viral on TikTok, the former song reaching the apex of the Spotify Indonesia Top 50 chart and crossing 100 million plays on the platform. While he finds the resurgence “odd”, he is nonetheless grateful: “I used to have this fear that the pandemic would reset everything, for good or for worse, including my career.”
Putra further theorises that the pandemic, ironically, has helped audiences connect with the hopeful spirit behind Hindia’s debut album, 2020’s ‘Menari Dengan Bayangan’ (‘Dancing With Shadows’). “So many people have reached out to me, either via the internet or in person. People who have recently experienced loss.”
And the resurgence of ‘Menari Dengan Bayangan’ helped Putra reach an important conclusion: “I don’t believe the first album dies once the second album comes out. It’s like having children; each of them will have their own trajectory.”
Hindia. Credit: Meidiana Tahir
Industry accolades and viral hits have cemented Putra as an indie star, but in his experience the acclaim has come hand in hand with hate. Without revealing specifics, he explains how insults and “the state of the world” have left him in “bitterness”, especially considering how “we are, perhaps, wired to pay more attention to bad news [than the good],” he says, broodingly.
Putra decided to cope with his bitterness the only way he knew how: By writing songs. In six months, he recorded 28 songs – including his recent single ‘Janji Palsu’ (‘Empty Promises’) – that will be released as Hindia’s sophomore album, ‘Lagipula Hidup Akan Berakhir’ (‘Life Will End Anyway’). The first part of the album drops on July 7, with the second and last part following on July 21.
Co-produced by his Lomba Sihir bandmate Enrico Octaviano, ‘Janji Palsu’ was picked as the lead single from ‘Lagipula Hidup Akan Berakhir’ as it was representative of the first 14 songs of the record. The mid-tempo number retains the alternative sound as showcased in ‘Menari Dengan Bayangan’, though Putra finds the song more “aggressive” than what audiences might expect from Hindia. Lyrically, ‘Janji Palsu’ expresses anger towards his detractors (in English: “My soul is just a source of mockery to your laughter / My faith is just a source of insult“) and how he finds success deceiving (“Success is only for rent / And perhaps I’m a clever tenant“).
Putra explains, “Sometimes people can easily hate someone just because he has made it big. He becomes an easy target to be toyed with. To be insulted and ‘bullied’. Because there’s an illusion that people of high profile are detached from the real world and their emotions as a human being.”
“I can’t write songs when I don’t experience something extreme. And I hope I don’t have to experience those extreme things ever again”
With ‘Janji Palsu’ and this new album, Putra is done making “heartwarming” music akin to his previous record. When he announced ‘Lagipula Hidup Akan Berakhir’ on Instagram last month, he candidly told listeners he doesn’t see the album as “medicine”, after he observed how some would “romanticise” his music as a substitute for therapy.
“I grow itchy when I see comments that say, like, ‘Hindia is about to drop a new album in July. Finally, there’s a reason for me to hold off my suicide!’ When you say things like that, you should seek a psychologist, man!” he says, aghast.
Putra also states that after this album he will not release more Hindia music “for quite some time”, though he will continue as a member of Lomba Sihir and .Feast. Ultimately, he believes that, after all the stress and bitterness, his mental welfare should come first: “I can’t write songs when I don’t experience something extreme. And I hope I don’t have to experience those extreme things ever again.”
On March 19, Putra will return to Joyland Bali as Hindia, where he’ll put on his first major performance of the year. Not only he is planning to air new material, he will also be accompanied by an entirely new band. His show and new songs might stun audiences who are looking for the comforting encouragement of ‘Evaluasi’, but this time, Putra is ready to remind everyone that he is, ultimately, a human being.
He arrives at a firm conclusion: “What people know about Hindia from the first album is just one dimension of me. Human beings are not superficial creatures.”
Hindia’s new single ‘Janji Palsu’ is out now, with the first part of ‘Lagipula Hidup Akan Berakhir’ out July 7. He performs at Joyland Bali on March 19 – get tickets here
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