HISTORY OF DISTRO (ENFLISH VERSION)

The title of this article is deliberately takes from the backside of my friend’s t-shirt. As information, this text is actually take from an official t-shirt’s merchandise produce by Puppen; a legendary local hardcore band which is officially discharge on 2001. Actually, offensive’s text like this is already being use by plenty of people before Puppen. As example, “Fuck You! We’re From Texas!” or “Fuck You! We’re Motley Crue!”, both come from the USA. How does this text is delivered into Bandung by an underground’s local band, can be a material to be discussed which is also can represent our current’s daily life. Mimicry process, text saturation, and rapid dissemination of the latest global information are indeed an ordinary thing among the uprising of globalization’s process (I prefer to call it the creolization’s process). It includes also the swiftness of data & information’s circulation pattern, which is being accommodated by the rapid development of information technology.

In the city of Bandung – for some of its citizen – the existence of many kind of t-shirt in the form as above is a common thing. As also the existence of many club and community as antique motorcycle, BMX bicycle, hip-hop music, electronic music, break dance, hardcore, grindcore, all the way through the community of punk music’s fans that is exist in almost every corner of the city. With their specific looks, these communities sometimes can be found within the area of Dago street, Gasibu park, BIP shopping mall, Cihampelas street, Braga’s street, etc. For some reason, most of the people in Bandung are still have time to spend in the details of their everyday life. These details lead to the diversity of lifestyle, gestures and various micro ideologies.

Dadan Ketu, that is what he called. Born in Bandung on 1973, he is a well-known figure in Bandung’s underground scene in the late 90’s. In 1996, together with eight of his fellows, he forms a collective what nowadays known as Riotic. Through the same interest of ideology, this community starts to produce their own music label, which leads into a small store selling cassettes, band’s merchandise, t-shirt, and so forth.

Dede is another thing, together with four friends of her, she create a distro (2) called Anonim back on 1999. Driven by their interest in music and film, this group starts to sell t-shirt that ordered online by the internet. Nowadays, aside from selling imported objects, they are also trade underground’s record, and clothing from local labels, which says exist over 100 labels–come and go. She says that the trading of local labels is increase dramatically in the time of economics’ crisis on 1996, for the cause of the expensiveness of imported stuff, as well as it’s unobtainable.

Riotic and Anonim are just exemplar from a series of other names such as, Reverse Clothing Company, Harder, Monik Clothing, 347 Boardrider & Co., No Label Stuff, Airplane Apparel System, Ouval Research, and so on. Since mid 90’s, there is an emerging of community who produces and consumes from several small stores –call it distro– who sell stuffs that does not exist in any other stores, shopping mall, and factory outlet, that recently flourishing in Bandung. They start with a minimum investment, with an addition of companionship and the average ability of making and vending their own products. The uprising of this tendency is not only indicating the growth of youth scene of Bandung, but also in others city like Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Surabaya, and so forth.

Reverse: Small Base-Camp in Sukasenang
It is Reverse, a small music recordings studio in Sukasenang area, that can be say as the important milestone of young communities development in Bandung on the 90’s. At the beginning, in the year of 1994, Richard Mutter, Helvi, and Dj Dxxxt (the initial founder of Reverse) is only marketing specific products to serve the fancy of rock fans and skateboard societies. It can be say that this community is the first thread of the growing of community and subculture’s group at the time. Reverse then becomes a distro, and selling CD, audiocassette, poster, artwork, accessories, includes also others local and imported stuff.

After that, emerge other communities with more specific interest. Initially attend by rock fans and skateboard societies, Reverse start to pay a visit by others crowd scenes, such as pop music fanatic, metal, punk, hardcore, includes also skater, BMX, surf, and so on. Recently, Reverse being altered into Reverse Clothing Company, a label manages by Dj Dxxxt. As Richard say, asides from rock music and skateboard, the emerging of those variable communities is also being endorse by the images created by the film, such as The Warrior (Walter Hill/1979), BMX Bandit (Brian Trenchard-Smith/1983), Thrashin (David Winters/1986), Gleaming The Cube (Graeme Clifford/1989), and others film that picturing different youth communities in the west (West Europe and USA) (3).

“There was time, I was looking everywhere for Frank Zappa’s poster. Whenever it was impossible to find, I certainly found it in Reverse!” state Edi Khemod, drummer for a metal rock band call Seringai, whom also a writer, producer of Cerahati production house, and a member of Biosampler; a multimedia group of artists who often appear in front of Bandung and Jakarta club’s scene. The urgency to serve special needs is the thing that passes into later generation of distro. According to Richard, those who come to Reverse are mostly try to find stuff that does not exist in the store, shopping’s mall, or department store. This is also admitting by Dadan and Dede. They say that most of the people who come to the distro is having specific needs that differ from ordinary people. “That is why they are looking for the unusual thing which is hard to find in more establish environment”, says Richard in an interview. I found it natural, as the young people tend to find a new and different experience.

Seems that, from this particular condition, the lively development of music industry as well as the fashion trends of young people in Bandung, always in change and find its novelty. It starts from the era of jeans outlet in Cihampelas street, Jayagiri’s backpack, C-59’s t-shirt, local clothing, underground bands, distro, and so on until today. “The constant encounter with the same thing/people/object, tends to build the boredom/feed-up feelings; and if it became unbearable, it will leads the person to get out/liberate themselves from the situation: the need to be different.” explain Yuswadi Saliya, an architect who live in Bandung, to respond my inquisition of this matter through e-mail. I suppose that’s what it is, the city of Bandung is indeed have millions of routine that induce its citizen to be always in the move of finding a new and different things. Nowadays, various young people communities are continuing to flourish in all over Bandung. It is not only in Sukasenang’s region, but also in other parts of Bandung. From Setiabudi street (Monik/Ffwd Records/Reverse Clothing Company), Citarum (347/EAT – Room No. 1), Moch. Ramdan (IF), City Hall (Barudak Balkot), Sultan Agung (Omuniuum), Saninten (Cerahati/Biosampler), Kyai Gede Utama (Common Room/ tobucil/Bandung Center for New Media Arts and Jendela Ide), Hegarmanah (Rumah Buku and VideoBabes), all the way through Ujung Berung (Ujung Berung Rebel/Homeless Crew), and so on.

City Biography: from the Colonial’s Era, Aktuil’s Period, Motorcycle Gang, through Barudak Punk
Since its inauguration as an open city by the Governor General J.B. van Heutz on February 21st 1906, the city of Bandung has always been a touristic, trade, and education city. This has an impact to its development on the upcoming era. Bandung use to be call as ‘Parijs van Java’, and being suggest as the center for European colony that came to visit the equatorial region by a scientist call Ir. R. van Hoevell. As a major city that has been growing since the colonial era, it is natural that nowadays Bandung is known as a city that receive various influence from many nations of the world, and not being isolated from its evolutions. In the Dutch’s colonialization era, the uprising of numerous cities’ infrastructure – especially transportation, trading, and education – became the main entrance of economic growth, variety of knowledge, and information into this city.

One of the strongest influences that can be seen nowadays, for instance, is the style of architecture. We can still find various forms of European heritage left as distinctively deco-styled buildings, convention and entertainment halls. The most prominent ones, perhaps, are the Concordia Building (now Gedung Merdeka), and few other buildings on Braga and Asia Afrika Street. In some history records, noted that, in the colonial era, these buildings also used as venues for parties and shows to entertain the European community who then lived in Bandung. The late Haryoto Kunto even noted that Charlie Chaplin was once stopped by in Bandung and stayed at Savoy Homan hotel, on Asia Afrika Street. During those times, the majority of Bandung’s populations are European, who, further along the way would give significant influence for urban culture, not only to Indonesia, but also to almost all of the Asian Cities.

During the post-colonial era, the developments of transportation, communication facilities and information technology could only confirm Bandung’s position in the global world network. As the speed of information current accelerates, insurgent other forms of individual awareness, openness, freedom of expression and tolerance among communities, including youth communities in Bandung. The spirit to face the difference with their unique ways (nyeleneh, kumaha aing!’= anti-establishment, up to me!) in few Bandung youth communities seemed to support the birth of resistance pattern; which you could recognize as a counter-cultural model. The habit to make counter-cultures, as responds to the more established culture, at the very least support the development of urban culture in Bandung’s urban population to be more dynamic. This matter also shows Bandung’s urban communities’ attitude that always have thirst for change and difference.

Most of Indonesian community was surely aware of the era of Aktuil Magazine, which established in Bandung circa 1970, with the founders; Sonny Suriaatmadja, Denny Sabri Gandanegara, and Remy Sylado. From 1973 – 1974 the magazine even broke the record of sale 126 thousand copies and became a significant youth trendsetter. They even organized for Deep Purple band to play in Indonesia in 1975 (4). In one record Remy Sylado noted that Aktuil Magazine was voicing the spirit of counter-culture to the established culture at that time. Furthermore, some of you might be aware of the most popular motorcycle gang in the city that existed from the 70’s to mid 80’s dominated by the fans of vintage motorcycle such as Harley Davidson, Ariel, BMW, etc. At that time, there were at least 2 respected vintage motorcycle gangs that being considered as rebellious: Black Angel and The Motor. These gangs also catalyze the forming of other vintage motorcycle gangs that are still exist until these days such as Biker’s Brotherhood (5).

In the 80s era, other than vintage motor community, the development of a small skate park at Traffic Garden (Ade Irma Suryani Garden) in mid 80’s also support the conceive of skateboard community that someday would be the seed of BMX, punk and hardcore groups that would be popular in the 90’s. Through these communities, the Do It Yourself (DIY) discourse was popularized. This discourse was a way of thinking that put individual initiative of forming counter-cultures to the place of high importance. Through this discourse, other than the development of local distro, clothing, record label, there were also names that would be household names for the city such as Pure Saturday, Puppen (disbanded on 2001), Pas, Koil, Jeruji, Full of Hate, Forgotten, Burger Kill, Jasad and many more. These bands were the bands that put on their acts in the underground music scenes in the venues such as GOR Saparua, Concordia, Bumi Sangkuriang, as well as local clubs, universities, high schools, etc., where the youth communities gathered with their own specific looks and attitude.

A new phenomenon then emerged in the late 90’s. After the organizing of underground music events become more of a hassle from the point of view of permit and budget, in some period of times we could find almost every weekend some of the Bandung population paraded on the main streets such as Dago Street in the north area of the city. Many of the communities gathered while partying, continuing their habit that has shown its symptom since the beginning of the 90’s. Nowadays, there are more underground events; such as Contamination, Flower Pop, Bandung Berisik, One Blood, etc. Those events are mostly sponsored by local clothing companies, which currently already have more economic powers. There are also other scenes commenced by local clubs such as TRL Bar on Braga Street, Laga Pub in Asia Afrika Street, McPhisto Bar at Cihideung area, etc. In these bars, other than rock shows, there are also events for pop, jazz, electronic music fans; even experimental music fans are welcomed.

Public Space Expansion: From the Streets to the Recycled Fashion Market
Along with the impeachment of Soeharto regime in 1998, Bandung urban population also showed their new behavioral patterns. At least from 1996, people started to get used to communicate their aspiration as free as they liked in public space. This phenomenon showed in the intense interaction in the public spaces such as main streets, buildings, shopping malls, etc. In this era, some of the group from various communities from the college students, automotive fans, high school fans, street artists, unemployed, hobbyist, merchant etc. started to show their appearance on some of the main streets in Bandung.

On the street, every city resident then meet to watch each other and being watched. Many forms of celebration in public areas then showed their different faces from time to time. From the events such as music concert, or those such as ITB Art Festival (Pasar Seni ITB), Dago Festival to the political demonstration or motorcycle races that emerged in the past 10 years in Bandung’s main streets. These things became special blessings for the development of music, also of Bandung’s street fashion, which later also accelerate the growth of existing distros.

Other than those, some of the citizens then have recycled fashion facility in the Tegalega area that said once had 3000 tenants of imported used clothing. Different than distro, the used clothing business had moved from place to place such as, Cibadak, Kebun Kelapa until located at more underrated Tegalega since 1995. Even when the activity in Tegalega had been moved to other places, this place still has its specific influence in Bandung’s fashion development tendency. In this kind of recycled fashion places, the pieces of clothing that imported went straight to steam iron in the location then to be sold with very low prices by the vendors; who mostly are immigrants from Padang, West Sumatra. This place is the place where people could find used pieces of clothing in various style from t-shirt, sweater, party dress, leather jacket, various kinds of accessories to the vintage-styled clothing that looks old and once considered as old fashioned, yet now has became the inspiration of their everyday fashion.

Urban situation with specific characteristic like this surely would be very influential for the emerging of new phenomena that would continually gave colors to the growth of Bandung’s population. In addition, geographically, Bandung is located in the area that could be easily accessed. “Because Bandung isn’t a very big a city, I could easily do anything… the people are also friendly, very liquid, we’re all frends and equal,” said Dede on one occasion. Dadan Ketu also spoke in confirmation. According to him, they – who do business on local clothing – didn’t really find difficulties when they had to produce. “If you want to look for fabrics, it’s very easy, you could just go to Otista street, Tamim, Cigondewah, Cimahi, Majalaya and there are plenty of stencil artists here, so it wouldn’t be a problem,” he explained.

Post 1990: Global Village, GMR and MTV
Not only in the 90’s era – when we see previous notes – we have to admit that young generation in Bandung was and still is influenced by the west (Western Europe and United States). Although, on its next phase it could not be denied that there were also other important influence for the youth scene growth in Bandung: media culture. As an example in the music scene, through the brilliance of the late Samuel Marudut, in 1992 a radio called GMR are established. This radio station is the only radio that would play demos of the new bands in the city, so it would trigger the music scene growth at that time. In addition to that, the radio also introduced bands from cities other than Bandung.

On the other hand, the development in the areas of media technology and information also radically pushed the growth of Bandung urban culture even further. One of the examples is the development of recording technology that made possible for new bands to record their music with the use of computer so they wouldn’t have to rely on mainstream industry and imported products. Nowadays, music in Bandung could be produced from small studios, home, even in a boarding room. Furthermore the growth in the information technology also made it easy for every community to be in contact and got the information they needed. Through the internet that has developed since 1995, Bandung nowadays is a part of virtual network that opens doors to global network.

MTV’s presence at least gave pretty big role, for through this TV station, few of Bandung’s underground bands had their opportunity to be heard publicly wider. In addition, MTV presenters in the national broadcast also wear products from local clothing from Bandung, so their products became even more popular. The impact was not insignificant. For the last few years, Bandung citizen were forced to get used to the traffic jams almost in every weekends. Besides swarming the factory outlet, the visitors of Bandung’s also visit the distros, so they were also triggered an important growth in the local economic sector.

Through the existence of some youth communities that always procure their independently produced merchandises, at least we could see different groups of signs that were different than the previous era. When the previous young generation in Bandung were dependent on established industry and imported products, at this time few existing communities could produce their own necessities independently. In more than few occasions, counter culture discourse also gave colors to the community. Among the attitude of the communities, we could see it in a micro political point of view, which develop a specific character. To some of Bandung youth communities, music and fashion aren’t just a trend. They are forms of expression of their political independence, which could accommodate various personal aspirations. In this particular context, in the discussion of Bandung’s subculture groups development, music and fashion could also be considered as instruments that may explain various point of views and differences which followed the existence of the existing communities.

The rapid growth also greatly supported by the existence of media such as TV station, radio, magazines, fanzines and mostly internet. Other than that, the media were making it more possible for communities to exist by expanding their networks to other cities than Bandung, even abroad. When Richard Mutter started to release albums under the 40124 labels in mid 90’s, he admitted to get purchases from underground fans from Japan, who bought the album via the internet. Through the 40124 labels in 1996, Richard also released a legendary compilation album titled “masaindahbangetsekalipisan”, consisted of songs from local bands such as Full of Hate, Rotten to the Core, Sendal Jepit, Cherry Bombshell, Puppen, Balcony, etc. Meanwhile, Dadan Ketu stated that nowadays, it’s common if a visitor from abroad such as Malaysia or Singapore comes to the distro. “They usually come and buy off 100 cassettes to be sold on their countries, some of them pay in full and some of them pay by credit,” he said.

The realization of the forming of this wide network actually being more developed in 1997. On August 1997, a punk record label from France named Tian An Men 89 Records released a compilation album titled “Injak Balik! A Bandung HC/Punk comp”. This compilation supported by a number of Bandung bands such as Puppen, Closeminded, Savor of Filth, Deadly Ground, Piece of Cake, Runtah, Jeruji, Turtles Jr, and All Stupid. Most of the subject matters from the music of this album consisted of various political statements conveyed straightly by the bands involved in the project. They did not stop here; in 1999, local label, FastForward Records released few albums from bands from abroad such as The Chinkees (USA), Cherry Orchard (France), 800 Cheries (Japan), etc. According to Marin, one of the founders of FastForward Records, communication media such as internet, fax machine and telephone network has at least great roles in the album production process of these bands. These days, it is quite common when a local label releases music that comes from abroad. Even few of the Bandung bands had the opportunity of their album being released by labels of other countries. Few of them are Homicide, Domestik Doktrin, Jasad, etc.

The expansion of network which connect the music, fashion growth and the development of media and information technology; at the very least fabricated a new arrangement of culture from the view of ideology to its manifestation on the everyday living pattern in some of Bandung’s youth communities. These showed how the growth in Bandung urban situation could not be separated with the global stream. Along with the development, up to these days, the youth scenes of Bandung keep on growing to complete its arrangements with new faces and versions. Don’t be surprised if you face a group of youth with the style that similar to the youngsters from the other different hemisphere. This city had been part of other cities all around the world from it’s very beginning. Salute! Welcome to Bandung!

 

2 thoughts on “HISTORY OF DISTRO (ENFLISH VERSION)”

  1. Hello there! This post couldn’t be written any better!
    Looking at this article reminds me of my previous roommate!

    He continually kept preaching about this.

    I’ll send this article to him. Pretty sure he’ll have a
    great read. Thank you for sharing!

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