The City Pairs Well With Loneliness: Maudy Ayunda’s ‘Jakarta Ramai’

By: Patricia Kusumaningtyas |

As a regular contributor for Speed of Sound, I tend to write about how music can sometimes remind us of our loneliness, especially among contrasting environments such as big cities. Living in New York for college, I wrote about how LCD Soundsystem portrays this feeling in “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down.” Now, I’m staying in Jakarta for three months for an internship, with Maudy Ayunda’s “Jakarta Ramai” played in the car audio on my way home from the airport. I feel like the song is going to resonate with me through my three months.

I’ve listened to this song many times before, mostly in random places. In shop corners of the electronics section of a mall, on a radio turned on for the sake of having noise in the room, its music video playing in a TV in a hospital. So far I’ve viewed the song as noise passing through my life. Most people would think of Jakarta’s noises the same way; they will disregard the whistling sounds of parking helpers and the honking road ragers. Maudy Ayunda puts these as a spotlight of the song—“Jakarta Ramai” starts and ends with the sounds of the streets of Jakarta. Things that we take for granted are usually the ones that reminds us of the bigger picture. And sometimes a city so big (with a lot of its quirks) can make us feel so small.

One thing that’s special about “Jakarta Ramai” is that Ayunda never puts a specified problem as a storyline. Indonesian pop songs fall victim for this kind of treatment—from the second time dating a past lover to chasing a lover to London. Ayunda only specifies that the song’s protagonist feels empty inside, despite the noise of the city. Maybe this is why I can relate to this song—and millions of others—since we all have our own troubles, but we can find a song that speaks volumes and reach plenty of its listeners’ psyche. Ayunda crafts a conversation between personifications of the sky, and the song’s protagonist can only answer, “I don’t know.” The song’s biggest strength is admitting that sometimes people do not know the answer to why they’re feeling the way they do. And it’s okay.

Jakarta is a city with character, and sometimes it could get too much. The pollution (with an air quality index higher than healthy standards) makes the air thick with smoke. The heat is overwhelming, the traffic is too much, and the politics keep us restless. Is it possible to feel empty in a city this intense? Sometimes, the city’s tempo and ours differ, and it has nothing to do with the other, even though sometimes we seem obligated to be in sync with the city.

Maudy Ayunda grapples with this sense of loneliness. We all have it. After weekdays of meetings and interacting with coworkers wherever you work in the city (whether it be Kuningan, SCBD, Thamrin) and weekends of partying and catching up with more and more people (whether it be in Kemang, Senopati, or any of the city’s many malls), we feel like Jakarta is not letting us rest. We find ourselves in little moments—moments like looking out of the windows of a MRT/TransJakarta/rideshare car—where the loneliness strikes, much like Ayunda’s music video. And we feel solace in the fact that a lot of us feel the same loneliness.

(Go on, give this song another listen, and bask in the unusual comfort.)

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