Navicula is a grunge rock band from Bali that have just returned home after touring the US and Australia.
They are one of the few Indonesian bands that are making it internationally.
But they’re more than an ordinary rock band.
They are also known as the ‘green grunge gentlemen’.
To know who Navicula are you need to understand the name.
Drummer Gembul says it is inspired by a kind of algae.
“When you go to the beach and sometimes you see glowing on the surface, that’s Navicula. When it’s dark they will sparkle and are shaped like a small ship. It means that maybe with this small ship we can go around the world. And the colour is like a golden colour and gold is like a valuable thing, so that’s the philosophy.”
Navicula are active in advocating for environmental protection through music.
This song is called ‘Metropolutan’ – it’s about being trapped in the polluted air of the capital, Jakarta. Because lobby groups say that Jakarta gets less than 30 days of clean air per year.
Lead singer Robi says they find inspiration for their songs from nature.
“I teach organic farming also in schools. So because of that kind of world, I have much interest in ecological issues so I bring those issues to the band. It’s kind of like jjournalist and using music as a media.”
Drummer Gembul says Navicula has always made songs about political and social issues.
“Everything is hectic in the world today. You don’t know which one is a primary thing. For us it’s like, even if you do a small thing that you really, passionate to do... even if it’s just a small thing but you honestly want to make a better world... just do it. Just don’t waste your time as a parasite in the world.”
After performing in Canada last year, Navicula went to Kalimantan island to join Greenpeace activists campaigning to stop logging.
Wearing tiger patterened outfits they travelled 2000 kilometres from east to west Kalimantan on motorbikes to see for themselves the widespread forest destruction.
Indonesia has 10% of the world’s remaining rainforests, but they are dissappering at an alarming rate.
“It’s kind of sad. Rainforest is not only for Indonesia, not only for Borneo but it’s like the whole world depends on it. So it’s kind of like a worldwide suicide.”
In 2007 Navicula were awarded Environmental Ambassadors of Bali by the local government.
“Today we campaign about deforestation because now it’s so fatal; it’s a primary issue just recently. We just did a Borneo tour seeking the forest there; we didn’t find a real forest. We came from east to west Kalimantan for 12 days riding a bike with Greenpeace, with WALHI, and we didn’t find it. It’s all gone. People must know that, internationally people must know what is exactly happening there.”
Navicula opened the recent Greenpeace photo exhibition on climate change.
Rahma Shofiana is the group’s media campaigner in Jakarta.
“At first they just want to join our campaign. It means that they also want to spread the information about the forest destruction through their music. Then this joining tour just came up with the idea. “Oh how about if you join our tour it’s exposing about the forest desctruction?” So this is like a special advantage for Greenpeace because we can reach another audience that we have never thought of before, to support our campaign.”
In front of a crowd of hundreds Robi explains that this next song called ‘Orangutan’ is to remind Indonesians that their forests are of global importance.
And after every gig – they sell palm oil free soaps.
“It’s our merchandise from our tour from Borneo. In Borneo, the most destruction is made from the palm oil company and the mining right. And the palm oil company is the biggest issues.”
Their latest album is called Kami No Mori, a Japanese phrase meaning ‘the forest of Gods’
It has become the soundtrack for the documentary about their tour to Borneo with Greenpeace.
“I kind of have like a little bit of hope, you can involve in something that you can do. It’s like if you are a journalist you can share it, if you are a musician you can use music, if you’re a doctor you can …you know...”
Gembul hopes Navicula’s music will motivate young people.
“We are not an angel. We are just trying to do something that make people realise what needs to be done to make people still live on this world.”