Senyawa - Alkisah

Album information

Title Alkisah
Musician Senyawa
Release Year 2021
Labels see end of article for list


After the ease of the COVID-19 confinement measures, i could finally go to the record store and search for nice records. Online shopping is not really my preferred method of purchasing, as the lack of conversation does not allow for good surprises. Such was the case, as Senyawa was completely off my radar, only vaguely knowing of a collaboration with Stephen O’Malley.

Conversation lead to the recommendation for Senyawa’s Alkisah. A chance was taken; I got the album without a pre-listen.


Going for the first listen, no search for information on both the album and Senyawa were made. The approach was as unbiased as possible. Satisfaction upon listening the album in its entirety, created a need for another listen, while procuring information about Senyawa.

Their bandcamp page description is very straight forward:

Rully Shabara and Wukir Suryadi. Voice and Handmade Instruments. Human and Nature. Mind and Soul[1]

In contrast, a more extensive introduction can be found in a tumblr page:

Jogjakarta’s Senyawa embodies the aural elements of traditional Indonesian music whilst exploring the framework of experimental music practice, pushing the boundaries of both traditions. Their music strikes a perfect balance between their avantgarde influences and cultural heritage to create truly contemporary Indonesian new music. Their sound is comprised of Rully Shabara’s deft extended vocal techniques punctuating the frenetic sounds of instrument builder, Wukir Suryadi’s modern-primitive instrumentation. Inventions like his handcrafted ‘Bamboo Spear’; a thick stem of bamboo strung up with percussive strips of the animal skin along side steel strings. Amplified it fuses elements of traditional Indonesian instrumentation with garage guitar distortion. Sonically dynamic, the instrument can be rhythmically percussive on one side whilst being melodically bowed and plucked on the other.[2]

  • Wukir Suryadi - Custom Handmade Instruments
  • Rully Shabara - Lyrics, Vocals

Senyawa - Wukir Suryadi and Rully Shabara

Senyawa - Wukir Suryadi and Rully Shabara


The album’s description, according to Senyawa is the following:

“Alkisah” tells a story of a society who disbanded themselves from a collapsing civilization and regroup to build a new one for the future. However, that future may not be there because the impending doom is upon them.

If one takes into account that the album was released by 44 labels across the globe, with full creative freedom for cover design, mastering and inclusion of remixes, this is truly an appropriate description; a group of people is moving towards a new future.

This decentralisation can make the record more affordable, as well as create a less impact in the environment; one can purchase the record from the label physically closest reducing costs and the carbon footprint for all the logistics in shipping.

This was also the subject of an article in the New York Times One Album Released by 44 Labels. Is This the New Global Jukebox?. A recommended read.

Senyawa - Alkisah cover from Phantom Limb's version

Senyawa - Alkisah cover from Phantom Limb's version

The total length is about 40 minutes; though during that time, one is taken in a roller coaster of sounds.

Alkisah begins begins with a small introduction, with vocals and strings. The strings are gentle, and the voice powerful, yet restrained.

Here we are asked the following: Apa arti kuasa bila akhir sudah di ujung mata?

Online translation says: What is the meaning of power when the end is at hand?

Immediately after the introduction, there is a sense of urgency in the strings, and the voice starts shedding the restrains from the previous song, step by step. Percussive elements appear; sparsely, but imposing. Early Einstürzende Neubauten percussion sounds come to mind. Mid-song, we are presented with the full power of the vocals; Rully Shabara has a great voice and technique, managing to hold his own amidst the distorted string sounds and the percussion. The song is a crescendo, with elements flowing into and out of focus until the end, where we are confronted with noises and it stops.

The album proceeds into a more percussive song, with the vocals once again punching through the rest of the elements. Noise starts to permeate, gaining full strength by the end of the song.

The fourth entry, is more akin to a traditional drone or black metal song. The atmosphere is one of danger. Not fast, but heavy, with sparse percussive elements and the distorted strings take a more familiar tone.

Senyawa - Alkisah cover from Senyawa Mandiri's version

Senyawa - Alkisah cover from Senyawa Mandiri's version

The fifth song, the instrument sounds and vocals take a more softer approach, giving us time to breathe.

Experimentation is resumed on the sixth song, as well as the heaviness. There are experimental soft sections, interspersed with heavy distorted strings or percussion elements.

The seventh is the second part of the second track (Alkisah I and Alkisah II). The strings are back in a more familiar tone; distorted, reminding one of an electric guitar. Not urgent, not much percussive, and the voice meandering between ethereal cries and the “standard” vocal techniques Rully Shabara has presented us with throughout the album.

The album finishes with an outro; percussive, urgent. Shabara warning us through the percussion the following:

Kiamat Kiamat Kiamat sudah dekat

Online translation tells the following:

Doomsday Doomsday The apocalypse is near

Words to take note, for these are strange times we are living in.

There are some official videos for the album in the official YouTube channel:


Alkisah II (acoustic version)

Alkisah II (live song recording version)

Istana (live song recording version)


Final thoughts

This is a incredible album, that can please punks, metalheads, experimental music enthusiasts as well as world music fans.
Wukir Suryadi’s hand made instruments have wonderful sounds, which paired with Rully Shabara’s vocal techniques make for an extraordinary combination. This album is powerful, and i do recommend listening to it, but with an open mind; as it might seem strange for those unaccustomed with different sounds.

I cannot find words to praise this album enough; it has become a regular listen (weekly basis). It has been a long time since an album caught me completely by surprise with its creativity and power. The first listen left me in awe.

Complete listing of labels in alphabetical order

Here is a complete listing of the labels that released the album. Please find the one closest to you and support them.

Label Name Location
60Thou Kuala Lumpur
Annihaya Beirut
Artetetra Milan
Avon Terror Corps Bristol
Beach Buddies Bucharest
Blotter Pekanbaru
Burning Ambulance New Jersey
Chaos Non Musica Bali
Communion Milan
Dekorder Hamburg
Disaster Records Bandung
Drowned By Locals Amman
Gandula Barcelona
Galleta Madrid
Harsh Productions Bogor
In:Ex Chemnitz
Katuktu Collective California
L_KW Berlin
Les Albums Claus Brussels
Mouhoi Hong Kong
Nomads Medan
Orgone Dealers Bucharest
Otakotor Yogyakarta
Phantom Limb U.K.
PTK Distribution Pontianak
Qarar Bahrain
Qiii Snacks Guangzhou
Rain Dogs Jakarta
Riuh Records Makassar
Ruptured Beirut
School Of The Arts (SOTA) Russia
Senggama Palu
Senko-Issha Taipei
Senyawa Mandiri Yogyakarta
Silent Army Records Melbourne
Soft Brute Yogyakarta
Soydivision Berlin
Stock Records Perth
Tandang Kuala Lumpur
Tenzenmen Thailand
Ujikaji Singapore
Unfamiliar Environments Thailand
WV Sorcerer Nanjing
Yes No Wave Internet

  1. Taken from Senyawa’s bandcamp page. ↩︎

  2. Taken from Senyawa’s tumblr page. ↩︎