Menikmati’s (Electronic) Sounds of the Land

source: Menikmati

Image Romeo Shagba

In a small room lined with wooden panels and brick walls, a group of four gathered. It was the shed, as they would call the place: a space for the group to jam, to bond and to collect and release creative energy. Nestled in North Melbourne, the shed — equipped with instruments like electric guitars, glockenspiels, keyboards, and drum machines — was where it all started for four-piece experimental electronic outfit Menikmati.

Drawn to the classic sounds of Nusantara, Menikmati offers a uniquely fresh perspective to electronic music by combining contemporary elements with traditional Southeast Asian influences.  And it was a Monday evening back in August 2012 that saw the formation of a band with a name that literally means ‘to enjoy’, mirroring the group’s mission as musicians.

“We appreciate any sound, style, origin, et cetera,” says Iwaz, who is one of the founding members of Menikmati. He lived in the apartment in which the shed was situated while an undergraduate student in Melbourne. “The hope is that our listeners feel exactly the same way.”

Oki, Gan, Mao, and Iwaz were just a bunch of students looking to get some likeminded lads together three years ago. It was a move that would grant them the opportunity to participate in Muzika, a battle-of-the-bands competition in Melbourne. It took one jam session at Oki’s place for all four to realise the chemistry they had. Thereafter more jam sessions ensued, succeeded by actual production. And thus, such a competition, for them, was to be the foundation of what Menikmati has become today.

Menikmati — with a few releases like the ever-soothing ‘Mencari’, the whimsical, texturally rich ‘Kacau Bilau’, and the chillwave, lo-fi laced ‘Senyuman’ under their belt — has since expanded the take they had to their sound since that evening back in 2012. While the way they write music has remained the same over the years, what has changed is their experimental outlook. “The way we approach playing music has evolved by us constantly testing new instruments,” Iwaz says. “Every day we are learning something new.”

Much is to be credited to a veteran back in Melbourne whom they have come to refer to dearly as ‘Abang Musa’.  For the group, the man is responsible for introducing the foursome of friends to a number of traditional equipment to their music. Percussive instruments like gamelan, gendang, kompang, beduk, and chimes to name a few — establishing the unique modern Nusantara-esque sound to their electronic template for which Menikmati is known for. “This is what we bring to the table,” the band collectively mentions.

As a four-piece, Gan, Mao, Oki, and Iwaz try not to limit themselves to one instrument for each individual when translating their music to a live set up. There’s drummer Gan on the glockenspiel, sampler Oki occasionally picking up the guitar, and guitarists Mao and Iwaz acting as backup dancers, as they, “dance their fingers on the keys mostly.” The result is a fun-filled live experience incorporating creativity and showmanship.

Many bands have come to face obstacles along the road. For Menikmati, it has been the long distance relationship between members. With Gan and Mao currently finishing up their studies back in Melbourne, and Oki busy working for his father’s publishing company in Kuala Lumpur and Iwaz freelancing as a music composer while running a small demo recording business with Studio of the Apes in Wangsa Maju, the band is at a point in time where they are focused on songwriting. “Our goal is to produce an album. But the ultimate dream does not stop at albums,” Iwaz says. “We want to venture into different things; such as movies, commercials, education, art, festivals, and theatres.”

With a full-length album yet to be released, Menikmati is a band still in its infancy. Still experimenting but confident they’re headed the right path. And we’re sure the direction in which they’re headed will lead them to great things.