The music group Kua Etnika, led by Djaduk Ferianto and consisting of 13 musicians, most of whom have a background in traditional music, is a musical ensemble which uses and reinterprets intensely the strengths of a variety of (Indonesian) ethnic music within a range of imagination and with new aesthetical sounds. The aim is to discover the energy contained in this area of music, to process it into new forms with multiple interpretations and wider room for appreciation, while retaining the ethnic nuances and constructive strengths contained within the traditional music itself.
The processing of traditional music, which has gained a positive response from both the Indonesian art community and the general public, has encouraged Kua Etnika to continue developing aesthetical explorations by discovering ethnic music with a modern approach. This is achieved through dialogues between different kinds of ethnic music or between ethnic music and (diatonic) western music. The different sound characters of each instrument are combined, while retaining the individual identity and strengths of each sound (instrument). In this way, the diversity of different instruments can be combined, and at times break free in improvisational sections. As such, the fusion of various instruments with different pitches and sound characters will produce a unique orchestration and interwoven sound, with a broader soundscape and dimensions.
The techniques and spiritual values used as a basic musical concept mean that playing a musical instrument is not merely a way of producing a sound, but also a way of expressing emotion within a form of musical expression. This is just one of many functions of ethnic/traditional music as a medium for developing a person’s spiritual values. From a technical angle, many ethnic musical instruments are percussion instruments, with only a small number of wind or string instruments. A good understanding of acoustics is needed when working with these sounds to create a new composition, as well as great care and sensitivity to sound, paying attention to the function and sound character of each instrument, in order to create the desired dimensions and lines of sound, since the diversity of pitches and sound characters has the potential to create a mess of unclear sounds piled up on top of each other.
This musical concept is the main theme of the music to be performed by the music group Kua Etnika, in which the growth of traditional values is represented through the language of music, providing new aesthetical values to traditional art, and reemerging with a new face in an ethnic nuance but without primordial ties. This concert will present a variety of atmospheres, created from a series of sounds based on the playing structures of ethnic music, ranging from contemplative stillness, inviting us to let go of our self consciousness, to glorious sounds enclosed within a frame of noble values. The music is played primarily on ethnic instruments, with the addition of a number of non-traditional instruments that are able to successfully combine with the pentatonic pitches of the traditional instruments. It is not only the beauty of the melody that affects our auditory sense of imagination. The strong rhythms also manage to arouse and stir up our emotions. This is what makes ethnic music so great – its ability to use intuition to touch and move our senses.
As a group, Kua Etnika allows room for each of its members to develop their creativity and musical ability. This creative work within a music group is based on a mutual awareness and commitment, in which each member is willing to give both tolerance and space for the development of creative ideas, in each endeavor to discover new forms with roots in ethnic music. Development activities on cultural thought are periodically carried out in the Jagongan Wagen forum through interactive dialogues and presentations of national and international artists.
The consistency and existence of Kua Etnika in responding to its music is realized in its productivity in creating new musical compositions for each concert performance, held annually. The achievement of the group so far is evident in the warm response shown by the community when Kua Etnika released the albums Orkes Sumpeg Nang Ning Nong (1997) and Ritus Swara (2000). In addition, music lovers from various circles attend each concerts given by Kua Etnika, including Orkes Sumpeg Nang Ning Nong in Jakarta and Yogyakarta (1997), JakJazz Festival in Jakarta (1997), Sketsa-Sketsa Bunyi I in Yogyakarta (1997), Musik Perkusi Kompi Susu in Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Bandung, Surakarta, Surabaya, and Malang (1998), Musik Perkusi Meja (Agak) Hijau in Jakarta (1999), Ethnovaganza Concert in Jakarta (1999), Mildcoustic Concert (1999), The Millenium Sacred Rhythm in Bali (2000),Ritus Swara in Bali, Jakarta, and Yogyakarta (2000), Sketsa-Sketsa Bunyi II in Yogyakarta and Jakarta (2000), Konser Musik Unen-Unen in Jakarta and Surakarta (2001). In October 2001, Kua Etnika was invited by the Akademi Kebangsaan Malaysia to give a workshop and performance of contemporary music at the Rentak dan Gerak (Rhythm & Movement) event. In 2002, Kua Etnika invited Kamrulbahri and Kiruba from Malaysia to collaborate, perform and produce album Many Skins One Rhythm, a program supported by a grant from Arts Network Asia. In 2003, Pata Master Jazz invited Kua Etnika to collaborate, perform and produce album Pata Java in Indonesia, a program supported by the Goethe Institute Indonesia. Kua Etnika was involved in another collaboration with Indonesian installation artists, presented in The Netherlands in December 2003. In 2004, they were included in a European tour entitled Everlasting Kretek Heritage. Other achievements are the success of the musical format developed by Kua Etnika for the electronic media (TV).