Chrometype synths and shimmering effects morph with rumbling drums as nimble percussion flitters in and out of these giant sounds cracking from the speakers during the recent set by Sanjonas at DeCommune. The Indonesian artist was in town to bring his personal spin on deconstructed club music to the people of Bangkok as part of a mini-tour around Southeast Asia promoting his new EP, Incunabula Heroes.
Sanjonas’s sound is a mutation of regionless internet music designed for the club, one befitting the name of the record label that released the project and invited him here, POSTWORLD. It’s a style incubated on digital platforms and embraced by people all over the world, but one that’s designed to be experienced on the dancefloor and played over big ass speakers. He was largely inspired by the Chinese brand of experimental club music supported by a network of nightclubs across the country’s major cities. “Internet music culture is unbiased right now, we can be anything we want,” he says, explaining the draw of this style of music. But that wealth of information can be overwhelming, and it’s a feeling reflected in the nervous, angsty edge that his music emotes.
Rather than make music that’s totally detached from the real world or mimic other global sounds already established within the scene, Sanjonas wanted to bring something new and personal to the table with Heroes. The deft and agile percussive element that runs along underneath his big, shiny productions is based on sounds from the soreng dance that he grew up with in his hometown of Magelang, just outside of Yogyakarta. “It’s really close to me, I was always listening to it in the mountains during harvest season when I was growing up.” He says that while it’s always been present throughout his childhood, he gained a new appreciation for it when exploring his identity through music. It’s a very subtle touch that many of his listeners overlook for now, but he plans to bring it to the forefront in upcoming projects.
That idea of home is central to music for Sanjonas, and he’s put a lot of work into building a community around it in Yogyakarta, where he’s based now. “After the pandemic, a lot of people were leaving the city for Bali, so it was like starting from zero again,” he says of his efforts to rebuild what had been lost. In 2019 he started a collective called Post Party Syndroma that documented local music culture, and it continued to draw a lot of people into his circle during the pandemic. When the lockdowns came to an end, he started throwing events again and the fresh crowds ventured out of their rooms into public to be a part of it. “We call the party Introvert Club,” he laughs. “Everyone is new to the party scene, so we need to do a lot of education about different genres and sounds.” But it’s proving successful and he says they draw crowds of 200-300 people to a party, mainly students and young people since Yogya is a university town.
Sanjonas says the international crowds he’s played for during this tour are a new experience because Yogyakarta has strict immigration rules, where international DJs need a work permit to play—even if there’s no money involved. He learned this the hard way when he met personalbrand, the British founder of POSTWORLD: “We had him play at our party. I published the flyer at night and then in the morning immigration called me and threatened me with fines. It’s crazy.” Now he says they call him anytime there’s an international artist playing in the city. “I think they blacklisted me! I’m the only one having problems. Every time, they’re calling me in the morning. I’m like, ‘No, it’s not my party!'”
This is the second time Sanjonas has visited Bangkok; the first time was during another mini tour for an artist residency. “It was a very different experience, tours around the region used to be all art, art, art.” This time he played at Arcan in Saigon and Endless Return in Singapore, and he hopes to visit Kuala Lumpur for Chrysanthemum. “In Yogya we don’t have proper clubs that support other genres, so I think it’s really nice that all these clubs exist. This is really new to the region and now we need something like this at home.” Although the music crowds are made up of some different people than the art scene, he said the reception is very much the same in each city. “Everyone is very welcoming and curious about what I’m doing and what’s out there. There’s a lot of potential in Southeast Asia right now.”