This article originally appeared on THUMP Netherlands.
Michiel Sekan went on to hunt for the gold in Indonesia, culminating in the official launch of his specialized reissue label Jiwa Jiwa, scheduled for this autumn. He's already received help from the likes of Egon (Now Again Records) and Roger Bong (Aloha Got Soul). Antal (Rush Hour) promised to take care of the distribution.
Especially for THUMP, Michiel made a two hour mix of his found treasures, which you can listen to below. Chock-full of rattling funk, psychedelic disco, and seductive melodies. If you listen to these two hours, you'll immediately wonder if there has ever been this amazing kind of boogie made in The Netherlands. And if so, why hasn't anyone dug it up before? I spoke with Michiel about his remarkable project.
THUMP: Hi Michiel! Do you already know more Indonesian boogie than Dutch?
Michiel Sekan: I do! I've never really studied Dutch boogie, although I know some material of Jan Akkerman. I have a good reason for my fascination: I am half-Indonesian. My father is from Medan and he lived there for ten years. I inherited a lot out of the culture. Both my Indonesian grandparents are still alive, 90 and 94 years of age, residing in Zwijndrecht. I bought an iPhone for them, so we could Facetime when I was there. I even found the childhood home of my father and visited his old school. I know there is a lot of hype going on of reissue labels, but for me this is a rather personal project. I want to bring my love for music and family together. Recently, the family with whom my father came to the Netherlands with held a reunion, which I attended. A friend of my grandfather told me that he played in some Indonesian bands. I told him about Bob Tutupoli (a well-known Indonesian singer). They happened to be classmates!
Was it easy to find the music?
Not quite. Bali is large, but there is not much to find. Java is the place to be, preferably near Bandung and Jakarta. All the artists lived there. Radio stations flourished, and there was a proper connection to the outside world.
Is there a lively club scene in Indonesia?
It really is a story of its own. There are a lot of trashy places with table service and awful EDM. You could spend shitloads of money on champagne, but the club scene I adore was mainly centered in little bars and cafes. Back in the day there used to be a modest underground house and techno scene. There are a lot of restrictions concerning alcohol and drugs. The check-ups are bad, because religion still plays an important role.
What do the record shops look like?
Many of the record shops are present in basements of shopping malls. Digging is a totally different experience here. Indonesia is a traditional and honorable country, naturally the people can be a bit distant towards foreigners. As soon as they saw I spoke the language a little, and my motives were out of love for music, they opened up to me some more.
What was your focus during digging?
I checked the record labels that released the records and the artists that cooperated. D. Stanza, Henkie, Harry van Hoven; those are names to look out for. Indonesia really is a cassette country, a lot of vinyl is solely pressed for radio broadcast. Those radio promos are very rare: they often don't even have a cover.
Obtaining the rights must be an uphill battle?
It sure is. Copyrights are not as well regulated or documented as in the rest of the world. It is very difficult to find out who owns those rights. The music industry stayed 'in' Indonesia. The result is a lot of problems with publishing. Luckily, I had the help of David, an Indonesian music industry guru. He is currently setting up an online archive, in which he wants to incorporate all Indonesian music from the period 1920 till 2000, scan in the covers and publish it online. His knowledge is very valuable to me. The daughter of a label-owner is a good friend of his, she already said that I could use all the releases. Of course I'd have to buy the rights, but I get to dig through their whole archive.
By now, you must've heard hundreds of records. Can you tell what characterizes Indonesian funk and boogie?
Well, Indonesians have a history of heavy resistance against the government. Rock music was the voice of that resistance, which also influenced Indonesian disco. Guitars, fuzzy solos, with a psychedelic feel to it. The sound is often a bit rattling, as there were no large recording studios—but I find that to be charming. The music is often somewhat theatrical, containing instruments that you can't always identify. Because of the regime, the connection to the outside world was not that good. That also meant musical developments arrived later: in the early eighties, seventies disco was still the norm. It wasn't until 1983 or 1984 that synthesizers became dominant.
Have you spoken to Indonesian musicians from that time?
I sure did! For example, I spoke to a man in a record store who used to be a bass player in the rock band Aka. He is currently a priest. That happens a lot in Indonesia, people who become religious again at a later age.
How did he react, when you, a 'crazy Dutchman', told him you'd like to reissue his music?
Most people don't get why anyone would want to do that. David was the one who could explain to the older generation: "What you guys made, is really valuable. The world has to hear this. Even outside Indonesia."