Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Jirapah myspace
Jirapah facebook
Jirapah website/blog

Lack of inspiration can be quite a problem for an artist, including musicians. Inspiration often comes in the most subtle way and sometimes they come from the most unexpected places or sources. But most of the times a hint of it is enough to push an artist to craft their art. Good musicians always look for new inspirations and conversely letting themselves to be influenced by people, things and places around them. I believe that musicians (or any artist for that matter) are products of their environments. It's fascinating how sometimes we can have a better understanding of a piece of art by understanding the kind of environment the artist was/is in.

Jirapah (a play on Indonesian word "Jerapah" which translates to giraffe) is a musical project started by Ken Jenie, an Indonesian who grew up and spend most of his life in Brooklyn, New York. Ken started playing guitar in his high school days and he had been in various bands before he started Jirapah. I know nothing of these previous projects except that a few of them were hardcore punk bands.

Jirapah didn't come about until Ken was 27 when he started recording his own songs. Jirapah is essentially a one man band with all songs, instruments and vocals written and performed by Ken himself on records. During live performances, Ken would be accompanied by Mar Galo on bass, drum and occasionally another guitar. There are quite a few videos of Jirapah playing as a three piece in New York on youtube.

Unfortunately, visa problems forced Ken to leave The States and come back to Jakarta, roughly three years after Jirapah started. Things didn't stop there however as Ken would start performing Jirapah songs by himself. Jirapah also continued on putting out digital releases and landed a single on Yogjakarta's excellent and diverse label, Yes No Wave.

I saw Jirapah for the first time at Whiteboard Journal's event, Cliff Notes at Potatohead. It was just Ken, his guitar and a bunch of pedals. It was a rather intimate set (about as intimate as it gets at a place like Potatohead anyway) and it certainly won me over. I've been a fan ever since.

I would describe Jirapah's music in a nutshell as "bedroom ambient pop music". It's obvious that there are a lot of different influences involved in Jirapah's music, although the pop songwriting is always there. Thank You, Max EP has a post-punk vibe to it at times, especially on song like "Telephone" with its moody and darker feel. Jirapah also shows its more adventurous side sonically with "First Wave", a six minute ambient piece. Ken would later incorporate these ambient passages into songs like "27". Jirapah's later releases sees the band moving into a few different directions. "Clouds" is a moody bluesy track, "Foxes" has a very Velvet Underground-esque fuzzy guitar solos and "Saturdays" is about as dream pop as Jirapah ever gotten. The core elements of Jirapah's music are still there, however : the lo-fi minimalist approach, the heavy usage of reverb, and the multi-layered guitars.

So what's news with Jirapah in 2011? I'm guessing more digital releases and shows. Jirapah just recently got picked by Nylon magazine as one of the "top 10 most promising local acts", giving them an opportunity to share a big stage with Hurts, a synth-pop band from the UK. Honestly, i couldn't care less about some lifestyle fashion magazine's opinions on music, but it's nice that Jirapah is getting more recognition and exposure. They've earned it. Expect bigger things from Jirapah.

Here are all Jirapah releases. Click to download. Knock yourself out.

Thank You, Max Ep (December 2009)
Digital 7" Vol.01 (April 2010)
Digital 7" Vol.02 (May 2010)
Single on Tsefula/Tsefuelha Records / Yes No Wave (October 2010)
Digital 7" Vol.03 (February 2011)
Digital 7" Vol.04 (April 2011)

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