Indonesia’s creative industry making waves as artists, musicians and developers shine globally

In June 2024, Netflix released Nightmares And Daydreams, an original series by local film-maker Joko Anwar. - Photos: Netflix

JAKARTA: In an achievement for Indonesia’s creative industry, heavy metal band Voice of Baceprot (VoB) have become the country’s first music act to play at the prestigious Glastonbury Festival in England.

Being able to perform on the same stage as English pop-rock band Coldplay and pop music stars like Dua Lipa was a dream come true for the three hijab-clad VoB members, in their 20s, who formed the band in 2014.

The milestone is just the latest by artists in Indonesia, who are lighting up the global scene in the genres of television, music, gaming and comic books, as the government intensifies efforts to nurture the high-potential creative industry.

The creative economy has been growing, with the sector amounting to 1.3 trillion rupiah (S$107.5 million) in 2023, an increase from the 1.28 trillion rupiah in 2022 and 1.19 trillion rupiah in 2021.

Earlier in June, streaming giant Netflix released Nightmares And Daydreams, an original series by local film-maker Joko Anwar, which has made it to most-watched lists not just in the archipelago, but also in countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.

The seven-episode show, which is a collection of supernatural and science-fiction stories, has been compared to the works of American producer Jordan Peele who made the horror movies Us and Get Out, as well as Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, famous for works like The Shape Of Water and Pan’s Labyrinth.

“A film-maker’s responsibility is to create works that reflect our society,” said Joko at a press conference before the June 14 premiere of the show.

While the series is rooted in supernatural science fiction, “the stories in it are very relevant to our lives now, namely issues that are hotly discussed, everyday life, and the socio-political themes that we experience”, he said.

Two other made-in-Indonesia Netflix hits from 2023, documentary Ice Cold and period drama Cigarette Girl, were also on most-watched lists globally and were streamed by millions of people.

Indonesia’s creative industry is made up of 17 sub-sectors, including fashion, culinary arts, mobile app and video game development, architecture, interior design, television and radio, performance and fine arts, as well as film, animation and video.

The achievements are not limited to the more well-known sub-sectors of television and music – creators in other fields are also making waves.

ST had reported in 2023 about the rise of made-in-Indonesia video games based on local culture that were well received by the global gaming community and also played a part in introducing Indonesian culture to the world.

A Space For The Unbound by Surabaya-based Mojiken Studio got a stellar review from British daily The Guardian.

It also received The Future Division award in late 2022 from the Computer Entertainment Association of Japan.

The prestigious award recognises excellence in upcoming games.

In the realm of comic books, a team led by Bryan Valenza, a colour artist at Marvel Entertainment, is currently raising funds to publish a series called Bandits Of Batavia, inspired by the Indonesian Betawi culture.

One of the first of its kind in Indonesia, the action-packed crime thriller centres on Indonesia’s past in the 1800s and tells the story of a man who encounters a group of supernatural bandits and gets involved in high-stake clashes with the authorities.

The team, which launched its fundraising campaign in June, has raised more than $5,000 so far, and hopes to publish its first issue in September.

“Writing a good story requires dedication, sacrifice and (persistence).

"Since I entered the world of comic writing, this project has been the most challenging and ambitious,” said Bryan in an Instagram post on April 11.

He added that the concept of the story has been in his head since 2015.

Recognising the potential of the creative sector, the government has been proactive in supporting artists.

With backing from the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, Bryan as well as some others in the comics field participated in Singapore Comic Con 2023, which saw thousands of attendees and booths from more than 450 brands in products like comics, toys, tabletop games and comic books.

VoB were reported to have received the government’s help in the processing of the members’ immigration documents ahead of their trip to play in Glastonbury.

They had to cancel a tour to the United Kingdom in 2022 due to visa problems.

The band were also given accommodation at the residence of the Indonesian Ambassador to the UK.

Other recent moves by the government also reflect keenness to nurture the creative industry.

For instance, the Communications and Information Ministry in March backtracked on proposed wide-reaching regulations involving video game companies, after feedback that they could stifle the industry and restrict global market access.

These planned laws will now target only online game publishers, rather than offline traditional ones, following discussions that officials had with local game associations.

More recently, on June 24, President Joko Widodo launched a new digital licensing service, which aims to cut through the red tape and bureaucratic complications of staging arts events in the country.

Widodo said some events required 13 different permits and recommendation letters, which he described as cumbersome and a deterrent to organising them.

“With the upcoming digitisation of permits, I hope it will not just be a web service but truly provide ease of management, certainty, reduce bureaucracy, and lead to lower costs while being more open and transparent,” he said.

While the contribution of the creative economy to Indonesia is getting higher in absolute terms, economists have pointed out that its relative contribution to the total economy has decreased.

Indonesia-based Permata Bank chief economist Josua Pardede told ST that the latest data showed the sector constituted 6.54 per cent of Indonesia’s overall economy in 2022, down from 7.02 per cent in 2021.

In order to advance the creative economy in Indonesia, Josua said the government needs to develop more high-value added creative products, such as software and gaming, architecture services, design services, music, and film.

These sectors, he explained, could also provide higher-paying jobs.

“The development of these sectors should also target the foreign market, not only the domestic, as it could also help Indonesia’s trade balance, especially from increasing Indonesia’s service export value,” added Josua. - The Straits Times/ANN

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