When one discusses Southeast Asia and music, rarely do we get beyond “Holiday in Cambodia” and Dead Kennedys records. Today we celebrate something new, something positive, something like an Indonesian Fiona Apple with a twist. Meet Kartika Jahja, otherwise known as Tika.
Indonesian pop stars may seem very “dime a dozen” over on the East side, but no one has seen anything quite like Jahja. Born in Southeast Asia and schooled as an art student in (where else?) Seattle, WA, Jahja presents a vibrant voice whose peers are akin to Nina Simone and the like. Her debut solo release, Frozen Love Songs, stood on its own fairly well in 2005, but as a front woman for Tika & The Dissidents, 2009’s The Headless Songstress layers more intricate soundscapes of jazz and indie rock to create a cornucopia of simple serenades.
Outside of eclectic new albums, Jahja’s works also include scoring, acting in, and co-writing various films in her native country. The movie Dead Time: Kala (or The Secret) is listed as a “2007 film noir thriller”, and therefore seems musically appropriate (think Karen O-calibur, and we’re on the same path here); in 2008, Jahja starred in director and friend Paul Augusta’s The Anniversary Gift.
As an occasional writer for The Jakarta Post, a prominent publication in Indonesia, Jahja adds her own humorous spin on current events; as a cafe owner, her establishment KEDAI is decorated with strictly recycled materials. Jahja’s lyrical compositions in songs such as the most obviously named “Pol Pot” or the elegantly dark “Under Their Feet” possess qualities of tackling various political fronts and social class issues while also remaining audibly blissful and at times hypnotic.
The MySpace for Tika & The Dissidents is laden with plenty of music to satisfy a hefty sampling platter, but to truly see for yourself this lady’s potential, seek out The Headless Songstress and Frozen Love Songs for your listening pleasure. The songs available give one the sense of lingering in an Asian-themed coffee shop while a red dress-clad alt rock chick sings a spontaneous jazz number and exhales the scent of Nag Champa.