Felix Martua (The Jakarta Post)
Fri, February 25, 2022
The 27-year-old singer-songwriter forges his own brand of electro-rock to create his most observant and provocative EP to date.
It feels like Inis is leading some sort of rebellion on his second solo album (EP) titled TOPSYTURVYDOM, which was released on February 11. She defiantly refused to follow the romantic formula followed by her female contemporaries and instead dropped a six-track music medley on which the singer-songwriter sings incandescently about street musicians and sinners. On top of that, she decided to explore electro-rock and alternative rock music – a far cry from her peers who prefer commonly acceptable pop styles.
It turns out that Inis’ rebellion is less about the current state of the Indonesian music industry and more about the current state of the world.
“If you sense this rebellion, it means my message is successfully received,” the 27-year-old singer-songwriter told Jakarta Post. “This album – whose title means ‘chaos’ – is an overview of my story of what almost all of humanity is facing. We have to fight in a world that is pretty much a mess right now. .”
The public might consider TOPSYTURVYDOM as a call for defiance against the mainstream, however, ultimately Inis decided to simply focus on how she personally views her latest EP: a redemptive healing.
“Music has always been my therapy. I have a mental illness and music cures me. Music is one of my medicines, that’s why I never care about making hit music on [mainstream] scale or make music based on what’s popular. I think music is much more than that. I think music is a vessel. Music is a gift from God.”
Chaos: the cover of Inis’ new EP entitled “TOPSYTURVYDOM”. (Courtesy of Inis) (Courtesy of Inis)
Born on July 7, 1994, in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Inis moved to Jakarta in 2013 when she decided to take part in the talent show program. X Factor Indonesia and then continue his master’s degree in the same city. She described her experience competing on a TV talent show as akin to a crash course in music.
“Before [X Factor], I knew nothing about music. But then it taught me a lot of lessons about vocal coaching, how to play, etc.”, she recalls.
It took Inis longer, however, to firmly choose music as her life’s path. His career contemplation began when, afterX factorshe was frequently offered to perform concerts in which she was asked to cover other people’s songs – a series of episodes that eventually caused her to question the purpose of her life.
“I thought, ‘Who am I? Will I be someone who just sings other people’s songs or will I be a musician?'” she said.
When things happened, it was a “mental breakdown” that gave Inis the conviction of being an artist in her own right. Around 2016, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In addition to this, she found herself repeatedly experiencing lucid dreams: those in which the person in question realizes they are in a dream and is then able to memorize the details of said dream.
“I can control my dreams. And I can think more broadly or more imaginatively when I sleep,” she explained. “So my doctor gave me an idea: ‘Why don’t you make music from your lucid dreams?’ I tried it and it really helped me!”
Inspired by her lucid dreams and her struggle with bipolar disorder, Inis released her first solo EP mood tips in 2019. A predominantly chamber folk and indie rock record, the release of mood tips coincided with World Bipolar Day. She described her debut EP as the milestone on which she realized she “was born for this”.
“It’s a gift I gave myself,” she continued. “I felt so much better when I did this EP. I was no longer on a bunch of meds and felt so much more stable, mentally.”
The following year, Inis teamed up with DJ and producer FRZ on a joint EP titled 2020. The fun and playful tone of their joint EP served as an extra balm for his wounded soul. “2020 has been a really tough year,” she looked back. “My tour was canceled and a lot of things were delayed and almost every musician felt the same way. Again and again, because music is, for me, about sending positive vibes to its listeners, I tried to be a friend to them.”
Cure: Inis defines music as her “cure”. (Courtesy of Inis/DIWANALGHAZALY) (Courtesy of Inis/Diwanalghazaly)
According to Inis, his second solo EP (his third overall) TOPSYTURVYDOM plants its core in the first three tracks: “Animal”, “Buskers!” and the title track. While “Animal” deals with betrayal using animal metaphors, “Buskers!” expresses the singer-songwriter’s perspective on desire and the search for purpose in life. The title track, on the other hand, documents his personal observation that “everyone has their own battles and I think it’s okay to have a problem because the truth is the problem is the humans themselves. “, she illustrated frankly.
“Buskers!”, in particular, has personal meaning for Inis as a singer-songwriter.
“I think in Indonesia, ‘buskers’ are the equivalent of ‘pengame’. Being a musician is not easy. Especially in Indonesia, people still underestimate musicians because their future is unclear and stuff like that. Nevertheless, I strongly believe that there are people who are born to be musicians, but they reject themselves and instead force themselves to do something else – all to have a “realistic” life.”
The instrumental “LOUD” also holds personal significance as the track serves as Inis’ vessel for understanding the alpha and omega of life. She was particularly inspired by how, in her own words, “human beings throw trouble the second they’re born.”
“That’s why I think it’s normal to have problems: because we are in this world to learn, to grow,” she theorized. “It’s okay to make mistakes. Everyone has to have their sins, but just keep going. What you leave behind at the end of your life is the meaning of life itself.”
As in 2019 mood tipslyrics and sound direction TOPSYTURVYDOM were also the product of Inis’ recurring lucid dreams.
“I literally saw all the [music] compositions in my sleep. The songs were already there. Afterwards, I reached out to anyone who might be in those songs,” Inis said of her creative process. Such a mental blogging exercise led Inis to electro-rock producing duo Mothern, who eventually featured on the title track.
TOPSYTURVYDOM was also an opportunity for Inis to break a certain barrier: she decided to re-record “Animal” in Japanese and also include it on the EP. She feels particularly moved by her Japanese musician friends who want to understand her lyricism.
“They were like, ‘Inis, please do the song in Japanese so we can sing too!'” she laughed.
Dogs: A still from Inis’ music video for “Animal”. (Courtesy of Inis) (Courtesy of Inis)
Body and soul
Looking at the landscape of today’s music industry, Inis couldn’t help but notice the lack of musicians willing to “stay true to themselves.”
“Some of them might make music for fame or income or to create booming hits. The way I see music, however, is different – and I don’t necessarily think these musicians are wrong. either. Yet I think that’s why there are a lot of musicians who sound almost the same. Their formula, presentation and genre may sound similar because their target is what sells in this moment.
In the end, at least for Inis alone, the music isn’t a cash cow – it’s her “body and soul”.
“Without the music, maybe I wouldn’t have become a sane person. Maybe I would have ended up becoming a person who’s scared all the time or a junkie or a person who can’t do anything . But with music, I can survive and I can inspire friends who are probably like me.”
Inis’ TOPSYTURVYDOM is available for streaming.