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Komang is the performer unafraid to be herself

Komang Rosie Clynes is the Indonesian producer, vocalist and performer mixing her personality, culture, and dreams into her sound. The underlying bursts of 90’s electropop paired with Balinese traditional sonics with the subtle touches of R&B are what makes Komang’s sound unique in its vibe and experience. She explores the concepts of narrative, tradition and myth in her work, creating a space for feminine empowerment.

Her latest single Dewi – the Indonesian word for goddess and the common term for women – embraces the concept of femininity in both its dreamy visuals and warrior-like styling. The song is a self-proclaimed ode to “femme lineage, the strength of womanhood and a call to action to be a good ancestor for those to come.” 

We had a chat with Komang about her transition from theatre into music production, and how she manages a life balance of rest and reflection, whilst being a workaholic! 

Tell us why you love music?

I love singing because it connects me to myself/soul, I love dancing to a beat cos it connects me to my body and to the other bodies around me, I love hearing Gamelan Bali and suling cos it connects me to home, mekidung in my family temple because it connects me to my ancestors and the Gods. Music is a connector and without it, I’d find it way harder to connect to the glorious worlds within and around me!

Who was your biggest musical inspiration as a kid?

This is so embarrassing but probably this alt-rock band called Incubus – I was obsessed with them as a kid and had all their discography on repeat in my Discman. They were these arty dudes from California who incorporated their own designs into their album artwork and explored themes of love, nature, longing and spirituality in their music. I loved the sunny escape to 90s California they allowed me from my small-town life in Brunei. I like it when artists can create and invoke their own worlds for the listener, I strive to do the same.

Talk us through your creative process?

I have to preface this by admitting that I haven’t been too creative in lockdown. I haven’t touched my DAW in six months (please don’t judge, I am now at peace with this). When I am feeling creative though, it catches me in big, overwhelming waves. My brain usually switches on at night, so I pour myself a glass of wine and settle at my desk, I’m usually working on a track until I catch the time and it’s 2am! I love being swept up by big gusts of inspiration like that, it’s so satisfying and exciting, but it makes my process feel a little soap-operatic. I’m currently re-reading The Artists Way, because I would love to cultivate a less high-drama approach and get back to making new music soon.

How do you feel our concept of the musical genre has changed over the years?

Genres for me are like these beautiful, comprehensive and really specific libraries of references and sounds. They are embedded with cultural significance and history. I have a lot of respect for that. I love using different sounds from genres as reference points, being playful with them, mixing genres when possible, or doing my own thing altogether. I also think that’s constantly happening in the global sphere too, music is a melting pot. I think we need to stay respectful and mindful when blending and mixing genres, and always acknowledge those who created them. I think it’s particularly important to do so for non-Black folks like myself, who work within/around historically Black genres like R&B and Soul. I’m still trying to navigate that.

Who is your go-to artist when dealing with heartbreak?

Nina Simone and Nils Frahm. Two geniuses who play the piano with so much heart. I find both of their music incredibly comforting when I’m feeling the big feels.

What has been the biggest struggle in pursuing your dreams in the music industry?

My own brain! Before music, I worked in the theatre industry and I put off my dream to learn how to produce music for a long time because I was frightened, blocking myself. Now that I make music I feel so much better, but I also often feel imposter syndrome, which stops me from fully expanding into myself. I know I’m growing more and more though, every day I’m working on training my brain to be my friend more, rather than my barrier.

What are the some of the challenges you’re facing during Covid-19?

Covid-19 has probably been my biggest barrier aside from my head! I’m a really new musician; I had the launch for my ‘Komang’ project in February this year as part of Asia TOPA. I had shows lined up after that, but they were all cancelled because of Covid. I sometimes wonder what my year would have looked like if I could have kept performing! I know it’s not useful to think like that. I’m quite a workaholic, so a big part of lockdown has also been trying to reel back that part of me that’s saying; ‘let’s learn how to DJ! Then, let’s produce a full album! Then, let’s develop a daily singing practise!’ Shh. Let’s just rest.

How do you personally navigate the creative industries as a POC?

I work as a co-facilitator at Creatives of Colour, which is an online platform for and by creative First Nations, Black and People of Colour, on Kulin Country and beyond. So I hear a lot of stories of burning-out, tokenism, microaggressions and macroaggressions across creative industries through our communities. It’s real. I’ve personally faced tokenisation and casual racism in the theatre industry, but I’m white-passing and as a light-skinned Asian person, I’m white-adjacent. So I try to navigate the industries as a light-skinned PoC by making sure I’m not taking up space that is not mine, listening and learning continuously about how to sustain a proactive allyship with Black and First Nations creatives. 

Who do you think is currently changing the music industry?

Any person in the industry from a marginalised community! Whether you are trans, GnC and/or queer, First Nations, live with a disability, are a person of colour, are a woman, live with mental illness… power to you! If you are continuing to reactivate and reassess how you can show up for these different communities while doing your thing… power to you! If you are allowing for imperfection, making mistakes, for rest and joy as you figure these things out… power to you!

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