Swara Gembira is the Youthful Force Reviving Traditional Indonesian Arts. Getting to know the voice of change reshaping the public’s perception on Indonesian arts.
Founded upon a love for Indonesian art and culture, Swara Gembira is the brainchild of Oi and Rifan who felt an unsettling anxiety that these traditions would not be preserved. The organization aims to promote Indonesian culture to the younger generation in a way that’s more relevant in order for these traditions to continuously thrive. Through various activities, Swara Gembira aims to break past the pre-existing notions that Indonesian arts and culture can’t fit into our current society.
“We feel that Indonesian arts and cultures are slowly being pushed back by the stream of international entertainment. Thinking of the long run, we feel like it’s totally reasonable for Indonesians, especially the younger generations, to slowly drift away from local arts and cultures,” says their team, “This is because Indonesian arts and cultures are stuck in a time machine, it’s still associated with ancient traditional things like mysticality, ‘coklat sogan’, and other outdated perceptions. […] Indonesian arts and culture should be able to create new products without losing their identity and cultural roots, like Japan with their anime and manga industry, or India with its Bollywood.”
One of Swara Gembira’s latest hoorah was their Pesta Wastra event, where they planned various activities to promote their mission. Prior to Pesta Wastra, Swara Gembira had been running a campaign that encouraged the youth to purchase items made of traditional ‘kain‘, the name of traditional Indonesian textiles, to use and style in their everyday fashion. With this movement gaining huge traction online, a community of like-minded youths was slowly being built. Although more people have probably heard about the Pesta Wastra from their big event last June, the blueprint of the Pesta Wastra event starts way back from October 2021, but then the event was on a much smaller scale due to COVID restrictions that were taking place.
For their latest Pesta Wastra, Swara Gembira broke down the event into 4 segments, the Pameran Wastra (the Exhibition), thePanggung Gembira (the Stage), the Pasar Wastra (the Market) and the Lokakarya (the Workshop). The Pameran was an event that was part of Swara Gembira’s Kain Gembira line of work. In Kain Gembira, the collective creates a variety of artisan kainusing revolutionary and innovative techniques while illustrating traditional patterns that are still aligned with today’s taste and trends. Not only were visitors able to witness and adore the various kains that they have produced, but they were able to purchase these kains in the Pasar Wastra. In the Pasar, thousands of pre-curated kain by local craftsmen from all over the country were available for sale. To take it one step further, visitors were able to learn first-hand various traditional draping techniques in the educational Lokakarya.
Of course, to truly get the spirit of youth going, there’s no better way to celebrate than a good party. In their Panggung Gembira, Swara Gembira invites a long list of musicians, DJs, dancers and even content creators to light up their stage. To make sure everyone gets to experience all the fun, the organization decided to hold up this event for a non-stop 7 days and 7 nights. All entry to the event was free as well, but under one condition, visitors were only allowed entry if they were dressed up in local kainone way or the other. This dresscode might seem like a new and fresh idea, but in fact, it has been a tradition that has been ongoing in every Swara Gembira event since 2018, “We really have become a pioneer of pushing audiences who are attending to incorporate a kain look into their best party outfits as a form of rejuvenation of the seni wastra.”
This celebration of culture became the success story of the summer with more than 12 thousand visitors, even more social media posts and countless purchases of their locally made artisan kain as well. As a follow up to their last full-scale Pesta Wastra, the organization has also hosted a Pasar Wastra Ngelapak, where visitors who couldn’t to make it in the past event are able to browse and shop through a curated selection of kain with DJs present to hype up the mood. This event will also commemorate the launch of their collaborative kain works created with a lineup of stars including Tara Basro, Eva Celia, Rachel Amanda and Arawinda.
With all these events bringing in a massive amount of positive reaction, but now that their mission has been spread, what’s next for Swara Gembira?. “Preservation isn’t enough, to us it’s more important to develop our culture. Why? Because culture has to respond to innovation, without losing its roots, to be able to become pop culture. That’s what happens in Japan, Korea, France, the US, and even India. It’s a shame that Indonesia spends trillions to conserve culture without realizing how to make these said cultures closer and more approachable to their people.”
“We are aware that before, Indonesia once had a strong blueprint of their art and cultures, but it was eroded completely because of globalization. This journey gave us the belief that Indonesian arts and culture has to experience a revolution in order to grow with the times in order to be easily received by the younger generation as the main target,” says the team. Swara Gembira promises to continuously reveal unexpected and surprising activities that will continuously rethink what Indonesian art and culture can be, whilst slowly expanding awareness of the culture across nations. (Text Vanya Harapan)