American Malaikat dan Singa Is Big in (and About) Indonesia

Categories: Q&A

Malaikat dan Singa

A famous series of ads for Rosetta Stone tells a fictional narrative about some Midwestern farmboy intensively learning Italian to get with an beautiful Italian woman. The pitch seems to be that learning a new language opens up new opportunities, and since it is advertising, the sexual opportunities are top priority.

Arrington de Dionyso, most famous for his work in the K Records noise-rock band Old Time Relijun, took up the Indonesian language (Bahasa Indonesia) about six years ago for reasons the farmboy would recognize: He wanted to impress a woman he was dating at the time. But his amorous aspirations also coincided with his musical aspirations in starting what would become his current project, Malaikat dan Singa.

Malaikat dan Singa is scheduled to play at Trunk Space on April 18, at 7:30.

"I speak a number of different languages: French, Italian, and Spanish, and I was trying to utilize some of those languages, but I was finding that they didn't really fit in the rhythms I was trying to compose," Dionyso says. "Right around the same time, I was dating a lovely woman who had lived in Indonesia, so I thought it might be an interesting surprise to spend six months teaching myself Indonesian and translate some of my lyrics into Indonesian and record the original Malaikat dan Singa album as a surprise to kind of impress her with my linguistic ability."

"Then it kind of took off," Dionyso says. "It took on a life of its own completely separate from anything I had done before."

The band originated from Dionyso's desire to start a dancehall influenced post-punk band: something rooted in heavy rhythms but also lyrical mysticism (Dionyso cites the romantic poet William Blake as a key inspiration.) Within the Indonesian language, Dionyso found qualities that made it the perfect medium for the kind of music he wanted to produce.

"I became really obsessed with the Indonesian language because it is an incredibly musical language," Dionyso says. "With writing songs and putting lyrics together, it's really easy to rhyme things and have long strings of words that are all connected and kind of have their own rhythm to it. I was just really taken away with this new inspiration."

Eventually, Dionyso managed to impress more people than just the woman he was dating with his new found linguistic skills. After a few tours and releases, hip kids in Indonesia, enthusiastic upon discovering an established American outsider musician creating joyfully weird music in their language, began asking him to play shows in their country.

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