World in Stereo: Those Shocking, Shaking Days: Indonesian Hard, Psychedelic, Progressive Rock and Funk, 1970-1978

World in Stereo examines classic and modern world music while striving for a greater appreciation of other cultures.

V/A: Those Shocking, Shaking Days: Indonesian Hard, Psychedelic, Progressive Rock and Funk, 1970-1978 (Now-Again, 3/8/11)

Shark Move: “Evil War”

[audio:|titles=Shark Move: “Evil War”]

Giving service to the music and the musicophiles who go in search for it, Now-Again Records has released a stunning overview of 1970s Indonesian funk, rock, and psychedelia recordings in an anthology titled Those Shocking, Shaking Days.  The title is a perfect summation of the sounds coming from the compilation; deep funk gems and gritty rock riffs are captured in the lowest of lo-fi senses, driven to the head by relentless fuzz guitars, psychedelic howls, and all kinds of general weirdness.

Helmed by Now-Again’s head honcho Egon, with research and crate digging from producer Jason “Moss” Connoy (and the not-to-be overlooked assistance from Indonesian rock legend Benny Soebardja, who secured all the necessary rights), the compilation is what happens when the record-collector gods align everything just right. Add in a thick booklet with groovy album art, eccentric band photos that could only belong to the ’70s, and extensive track-by-track notes from Holland-based Indonesian ex-pat Chandra Drews, Those Shocking, Shaking Days does an incredible job of giving listeners the whole package.

The story of the underground music scene in 1970s Indonesia is quite complicated, given a country of 200 million people comprised of 300 ethnic groups, speaking more than 250 languages and inhabiting 6,000 of the 17,500 islands that make up one of the world’s largest archipelagos.  Though Southeast Asia, particularly the Indochina peninsula, has recently been a hot bed for this retrospective discovery of the psych-funk sound, the music found on this record is the first to survey the rebellious music that stood as a response to the brutal and corrupt regime of Indonesian dictator Suharto.

The caution against an alleged communist threat became the hallmark of Suharto’s three-decade long “New Order” presidency that began in 1967, played out by paranoia-driven political conservatism and censorship of any songs that expressed distaste for his government.

So the music presented here is as much hard psychedelic as it is politically charged in every sense of cultural liberation.  Though artists such as The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, and Black Sabbath came to dominate Indonesia’s radio airwaves in the early ’70s, that was the West – and for an Indonesian band to play anything overtly styled like Western rock music, it would be harassed or put in jail.

The Panbers opens up the compilation in defining fashion with its 1972 track “Haai,” a far-out mix of prog-rock and trippy oriental flute and sitar breakdowns, sung with a hook that professes love for The Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin.  If there was a clear musical thesis of the anthology, listeners get it from this opening track with its wild agglomeration of styles in music and lyric.

Other tracks show the willpower of the Western sound to travel thousands of miles: The Rollies’ “Bad News” is a rough riff off the James Brown deep-funk sound, more notably from the guitar and rhythm structure of “Mother Popcorn.”  One of the more stand-out tracks is the funky ode “Pemain Bola” from Rasela, in part from the memorable call-and-response intro that has the band screaming “No!” to drugs and “Yes!” to sex, followed by one of the smoothest funk guitar riffs on the compilation.

One of the more politically courageous, Shark Move’s “Evil War,” includes the guitar and vocals of a young Soebardja, filled with leftist political lyrics that are almost over the top, yet it was able to slip by the censors because it was sung in English.   “Don’t Talk About Freedom” by The Gang of Harry Roesli is perhaps a bit more poignant due to it being largely instrumental; ultimately, it’s a track that demonstrates disdain for Suharto’s government.

And as expected from a Now-Again compilation, there are some real gems to be heard.  The obscure Ivo’s Group owns the compilation’s title track “That Shocking, Shaking Day,” a mellow folk-rock tune where its payoff is at the end, as the band locks into a funky folk-mélange harmony and sings the lyrics immortalized on the inside booklet cover.  Other notable tracks include Soebardja and Lizard’s “Candle Light,” for its chill-out deep bass groove and Golden Wing’s “Hear Me” for its heady organ line and rebellious dub-like spirit.

Taking one listen to Those Shocking, Shaking Days explains why this music is a well that’s been explored by some of hip hop’s esteemed crate diggers.  From a straight musical standpoint, the anthology is a spectacularly curated project that will strike a chord with funk, psychedelic, garage, and break-beat fans.  The anthology is best at uncovering rare perspectives from a culture known for its coffee more than its music — and known for its large Muslim population more than its wild past in the psychedelic underground scene.  A necessary requirement for all global groove fans, Those Shocking, Shaking Days is yet another impressive offering from Now-Again.

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