My Jakarta: 57 Kustik, From the Streets to TEDx Jakarta
Everywhere you go, from dimly lit coffee shops in Senopati, to the smog-covered bridges of Kampung Melayu, you’re bound to bump into someone either singing or playing a guitar. 57 Kustik, one of the unannounced performers/speakers at today’s TEDx Jakarta event, knows what it’s like to be those struggling musicians. The up-and-coming jazz band from Bandung, performed onstage at this year’s Java Jazz festival with David Koz, and lived on the streets until they found Rumah Musik Harry Roesli.The embers of 57 Kustik, along with the band’s mentor, Yalla Roesli, discuss life on the streets, what it was like to take the stage with Koz, and being part of TEDx Jakarta.
So tell us a little about how you guys came together as a band.
57 Kustik: We started off performing on the streets of Bandung. Then we heard about the Rumah Musik Harry Roesli (RMHR) around 2007, so we entered it just to try our luck. Some of us knew each other from the streets. Some of us started playing on the streets when were 12, some 17.
Yalla: It’s a school for street musicians to develop their musical skills, to teach them how to use their gift and improve themselves. It was founded 1998 during the monetary crisis in Indonesia. The late Hari Roesli saw parents who had been laid off sending their children to the streets to earn money. He knew it was wrong, but he didn’t have the power to change that. So he built a music school for street performers to shelter and educate these kids and help eliminate the beggar mentality.
What was life like on the streets?
57 Kustik: Street life is very free. And how much we made per day, depended on how diligent we were that day. Sometimes we would earn Rp 50,000 to Rp 100,000 ($5.45 to $10) a day. So the basic necessities like food, smokes, we could cover. But that’s not enough.
Yalla: Even though you can say that [street musicians] never go hungry, we believe that they are hungry for things like affection, family, education and love.
What’s the difference between life on the streets and being a part of RMHR?
57 Kustik: Living a civilized life is very hard. Harder than finding money because on the streets everything is free, we could do whatever what we wanted. Here at RMHR there are consequences for our actions.
Yalla: Like I said, not only do we teach music here, we teach discipline, which we believe will be to their benefit. You can’t drink alcohol, do drugs, although we tolerate smoking [cigarettes] though, and we accept those who have a history of drug use.
In the end it’s their choice. So many people have come here but then they break the rules so many times that we had to let them go. It’s their choice to change.
So, how did you guys get involved in TEDx Jakarta?
Yalla: The TEDx Jakarta committee saw our performance with David Koz at Java Jazz. They also checked out our videos on YouTube.
Do you know why they invited you to perform?
Yalla: There’s a story behind the band, not only because of our street performer background, but TEDx Jakarta saw that even facing the hardest conditions, we struggled to use our talent and produce something.
We’re really nervous about performing at TEDx Jakarta. Even though the crowd at Java Jazz was larger, the audience is quite different. We know from the TEDx Jakarta videos on Youtube that the TEDx Jakarta audience is different from what we’re used to.
What did it feel like being on stage and performing with internationally-known musician Dave Koz?
57 Kustik: We were very honored. We admire his low-key personality. Despite being the big star that he is, he still wanted to perform with us, gembel, beggars. We learned a lot from that experience. It taught us a great lesson that we will keep with us forever.
What are your plans for the future? And what is the message you want to convey through your music?
57 Kustik: We plan on making an album one day. We want to convey to others that people who come from the streets have dreams too, and with enough determination we can make them come true.
57 Kustik and Yalla were talking to Mustika Hapsoro and Tommy Roberson.