SARAH LOHMANN WRITES — Music cycles. It flows in conversation with itself over years and decades, returning to similar themes with new twists. In her most recent EP titled space, Indonesian singer-songwriter Rahmania Astrini uses musical themes of the past to tell modern stories of love, interpersonal relationships, and friendship.
Originally born in Northampton, Massachusetts, United States, Rahmania Astrini returned to Indonesia to attend elementary school, where her interest in music blossomed. Her first Indonesian single, “Menua Bersama,” was released in 2017, and her first English track, “Runaway,” was released as a single in 2020. Astrini won the Indonesian Music Awards for “Best Soul/R&B Female Solo Artist” in 2021 for her song “Runaway,” and she won the same category in 2019 for the song “It’s Amazing.”
Astrini’s most recent EP, space—written stylistically in all lowercase—was released across streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music on March 24, 2023. Though it only has four tracks, all of which have been previously released as singles, they were compiled intentionally. Astrini’s voice is smooth and full of body, laying beautifully over the jazz-inspired instrumentals.
Though the musical atmosphere creates a warm and mellow sonic landscape, the lyrics of the title track, “space,” tell a different story: “See I can only know you if you let me in.” The song features another Indonesian musician, Teddy Adhitya, and explores the discomfort of longing for someone who will not open up to you. A monologue of confusion and heartache, that, when laid over the minimalistic guitar and vocal harmonies, carries easily to the listener: it reveals how comfortable we can become in discord.
Art reflects what we find essential. Whether as individuals or as a larger society, the values of a time are captured in its music. In many interviews, Astrini explains that she is inspired by the music of the past, wanting to bring back what she calls “the good stuff.” In fact, her recent music has strong ties to the tune of past decades. “You can actually feel a soul in it,” she said in an interview with 50 Fifty Podcast. Despite enjoying it, she explained that she sometimes has trouble feeling “touched” by modern music.
As such, Astrini’s work brings back things lost in the cultural shuffle. Along with making Indonesian music more visible in the saturated global market, Astrini’s music is soothing and thought-provoking. Her background enables her to share the unique experiences of someone from Javanese and Sundanese parents and the romance, love, and conflict we all encounter. Like many, Astrini focuses her songs on her own experiences and struggles, hoping to connect genuinely with listeners who can relate. space is a fresh take on the music of past generations and soulful expressions of the everyday experiences we all share.
Sarah Lohmann graduated from Knox College with a BA in Creative Writing and Asian Studies. She focused her research on film, translation, and literature.
Edited by book review editor Ella Kelleher.