Sound Check, vol. 12: Denisa

By: Patricia Kusumaningtyas

Denisa Dhaniswara is an eclectic voice in the Indonesian independent music scene. This could be easily proven by her recent EP release, Crowning—even by the starting lines of her first song, “Clasp the heavens, she knows your kind / Fight the anthem, she’s hard to find,” and the rising instrumentation throughout it, you can already feel the all-encompassing power of her music. Her work is hard to pin down, if you’re still holding to the age-old assumption that music is something that has to be categorized. She incorporates absolutely anything in her instrumentation and combines it into worlds of her own, whether it be heavy guitar riffs, light airy synths, or mesmerizing drum tracks. Crowning is also a thematically-rich EP; the themes she carries in the EP ranges from aggression, gun violence, to living at age 19.

With her EP release, a feature at Hindia’s “Perayaan Bayangan” showcase, and collaborating with her peers in the industry (including Mothern), Denisa has had an eventful 2019, and is a musician to look out for in the next year. I interviewed Denisa on her influences, growing up, and surviving in an absurd world.

Hi Denisa! What songs are stuck in your head right now? 

“Naeem” by Bon Iver. Such a good morning song. But when I get in my car, it’s always “Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You)” by Bombay Bicycle Club. 

Do you have a musician you’ve constantly idolized since you were little/shaped your life until now? And how did they influence your music? 

Never truly idolized a musician or band until I started listening to Radiohead. My boyfriend introduced me to their most non-easy listening songs and I fell in love with them ever since. I don’t go a day without listening to Radiohead. They definitely inspired me in lyric writing and sound design in songwriting. 

What’s the message you want to deliver with your EP Crowning; what’s the central thesis of your EP?

“You go through shit. Own it. It’s a part of you, learn and let it leave.” 

In “19,” you brought forth some themes related to growing up. What scares you/excites you about growing up?

Oh, damn, definitely the trudge of the day to day. The waking up part where you don’t know what life has in mind to throw at you next. Fun, yet terrifying. 

“it was Hell” carries the theme of resistance and change, and you once mentioned in your Instagram post that you were inspired by interviews of gun violence survivors. What was your process from turning these things that inspire you into a solid song?

I remember seeing the news of a school shooting in 2017/2018. I remember how angry I felt, and how much of the anger I needed to express. I spent weeks watching documentaries and recorded news broadcasts with interviews. Although it did not happen in my country, I felt the need of expressing my frustration on gun laws. 

Following off of that, how do you respond to/cope with all the bad news in the world right now?

Simply—I cope by just doing what I need to do to survive and make my parents proud. That’s all I care about now. Paying too much attention on politics and current news hurts.

Something that I noticed about your music is that you can’t be put in a box of a particular genre. Was it your intention to create music that is free from the bounds of genre?

I don’t like being categorized.

Besides being a musician, you’ve also worked as an audio engineer. How did your experience as an audio engineer shaped/informed your own work as a musician?

Man, it really helped me know what I want my music to sound and speak like. Helped me portray how I want my live set to be like, too.

What’s your favorite thing working with your community of Indonesian indie musicians and music workers?

Everybody gets it. The day to day, the effort, the sacrifices. We’re all trying.

Listen to Crowning here:


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