Through the video meeting, we finally did an interview with Steven after two times rescheduling due the social distancing protocol. He answered us in a very friendly tone. Talk about the labelling of “manadokart”, inspirations behind his works, his path in music and of course about reggae as his music and culture.
The Trigger and the journey
Before he became the centre of public’s attention with his “The Other Side” debut, Steven Nugraha Kaligis once joined in a Jakarta’s alternative outfit, Scope. His debut was an album that opened a new path for reggae music in Indonesia. This move, such as continuing the breakthrough made by his predecessors such as the Black Brothers, Abresso, Imanez, and Tony Q. Steven modestly corrects this opinion from kultur on this subject while chatting via video call; “Well, I’m not a pioneer, it just happened that way, maybe because of my formula was suitable and accepted by the public at that time”.
Further telling about the musicians who influenced him during that era, Steven emphasized that Imanez became his role model through two albums that Imanez ever released. “It’s easier for me to enjoy Indonesian-ness in the reggae medium (from Imanez’s two albums)”. Regarding his musical background, Steven explained that he started his exploration through inspiration from The Beatles, Pearl Jam, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. From the last name, he just got to know the figure of Bob Marley. Although he added that he had actually listened to Bob Marley since childhood. “When I was a kid, I already knew the music (of Bob Marley). I Listened and danced, although (at that time) had not yet learned that it was reggae.”
Still talking about his debut album, Steven shared that he received tons of support from many musicians in the work on this solo album. The lyrical content in the album was his personal expression. “80% of my work is personal,” he emphasized. “The song Serenada was arranged when I was singing on a city bus”. (At that time, Steven was already known as a singer on his previous musical outfit, several times he received a response in the form of surprise from the passengers who recognized him).
The repertoire of Steven & The Coconut Treez and Steven Jam tends to be light and easily absorbed by the fans. Rarely raises social themes. In this case, he explained that “I prefer to ask nicely, although there are times when I have to be hard too.” Furthermore, Steven added that he’s aware of the lyric interpretation of the song for the listeners could be different. However, even without such obvious and strong social messages in his songs, for many musicians after him, Steven is a figure who always opens his arms wide to lend his hands providing support for both works and collaborations. Again, he only humbly replied with a smile on that fact.
After the 2005 era, Steven has now become one of the big names in Indonesian music industry. A name with a guaranteed massive number of fans for every show. Responding to this, “Interaction with fans on my gigs or in daily life can inspire me, many of my songs come from their ideas that I absorb”. Fans for him are the backbone, “I still can keep my work to this day, because there is a backbone (fans)” Steven underlined his gratitude for the existence of the fans.
He recalls, on his early days, enthusiasm and appreciation were greater for reggae music when he was playing in Papua. Although now he says that almost every part of Indonesia has the same appreciation. He also pays attention to new talents emerging from each region (as an interaction and appreciation of himself). Steven mentioned Minahaska (Manado), Rainbow Skanking (Belitung) which caught his attention. Steven also added a name from Malaysia, Purevibracion. “It’s much better in everything, the appreciation is almost the same everywhere” he answered about the current development of the Jamaican Music scene in Indonesia.
Around 2005, Steven became the figure who gave birth to a compilation album that encouraged the wider audience and fans of Jamaican music in Indonesia. The album is entitled “Indonesian Reggae Revolution”. An album featured several names of Indonesian music outfits and soloists who have now become big names in Indonesia, including The Paps, Gangsta Rasta, Ras Muhamad, Matahari, Richard & The Gillis and Kowena. In fact, Tony Q (of Rastafara) also participated in this album.
The last name has a special meaning for Steven. He described Tony Q as his Mentor. The guardian of the Indonesian reggae scene to him. Steven remembers and laughs, “When I was at BB’s (a legendary cafe in Jakarta), I often interrupted his acts . He is my mentor”.
kultur asked Steven to share the highlights of his career from the start, he calmly explained, “It’s a process, I believe in the process. I enjoyed it from the start”. Steven again added that he was not the only main act in the Indonesian reggae scene. “I’m not the only “deep” reggae act, at that time, there were many outstanding reggae bands. I just keep on paving the way, (the result of) Tony Q, Imanez and many other friends” he summarized a glimpse of his career to kultur. Steven also added that he interpreted reggae as a culture.
Maybe, because of this, Steven never hesitates and always wide open arms to support each of his colleagues and friends to work their career in the Jamaican music scene in the country. As wide-opened-arms as he welcomed everyone to a space of paradise in his ideas. Before we ended this video call session, kultur tried to confirm this conclusion to him. Steven only answered with a laugh. He was more interested in giving his moral support to kultur to always be healthy and keep working. Langsaam!
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