M Bloc and Music: Making Blok M Lively Again



Petir Garda Bhwana

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  • Reality Club's Album Showcase, at M Bloc's Livehouse, South Jakarta, on November 1, 2019.Credit: Reality Club

    Reality Club's Album Showcase, at M Bloc's Livehouse, South Jakarta, on November 1, 2019.Credit: Reality Club

    TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Among Jakarta’s plethora of public space, M Bloc stands proud with their authentic values. A creative hub opened in September 2019, M Bloc remains steadfast in their no-parking and cashless policies. Aided with their vintage fifties aesthetic, M Bloc encapsulates the modern millennial playground.

    Aside from their authentic values, music is a huge part of M Bloc’s ‘soul’ because music in M Bloc, undoubtedly takes center stage. The broadway sign at the lobby illuminates with the musical acts set to perform throughout the month. With the live house purposefully built as the pinnacle of a visitor’s journey, M Bloc pays homage to Blok M’s long and illustrious history with the Jakarta music scene.

    Think back to the pop classic of ‘Jalan Jalan Sore’ by the great Denny Malik, or the upbeat disco pop of ‘Lintas Melawai’ by Harry Mukti.

    During the 1980s and 1990s, Blok M enjoyed its heydays. With countless musical vendors adorning the swarming streets of Blok M Square, located within walking distance from M Bloc; Blok M has been the capital for the subculture music scene. Aided by the endless flocks of bus passing by Blok M, music enthusiasts will look for underground music merchandise and cassettes in the shopping centers of Blok M.

    As busy as the market for music is during the day, filled with hopeful fans trying to get their hands on the latest music, come night time, Blok M will become an area decorated with smoke-filled jazz bars, ecstatic music clubs, one of a kind rollerblade discotheques. These live spaces are set to host the underground, the independent, as well as the up-and-coming musicians looking to make an impression; and so they did. 

    One such musician is the stellar Glenn Fredly, a founding member of M Bloc. “There was an old Jazz club in Melawai, called Jamz, that’s where (musically) he was born. Glenn is a product of Blok M’s pop culture, because Blok M is where the creative scene is. So when you make a music venue here, the roots are not far away. I know that, because I used to hang out here,” said Wendi Putranto, program director at M Bloc, in an interview with Tempo, on March 5, 2020.

    Glenn Fredly performing during the ‘Semua Kembali ke Blok M’ opening party in M Bloc Live House, South Jakarta, September 26, 2019. Credit: Wendi Putranto

    However, as management and sanitation was poor, Blok M had grown steadily and increasingly dim. The turn of the millenia was not kind to Blok M,  soon losing prestige to other public spaces popping out in post reform-era Jakarta. This prompted an exodus out of Blok M, a mass musical migration. Although a handful of persistent individuals still remain plying their musical trade in Blok M; it had not been a graceful retreat.

    “That’s why I made a new hashtag, Semua Kembali ke Blok M (Everyone Comes Back to Blok M) and that was the title of our opening party. There was a musical narrative there, and everyone that performed, including Glenn Fredly, are closely related to Blok M. The dream was; after M Bloc, Blok M will be lively again,” Wendi commented.

    Continuing on, Wendi, a former music journalist, pointed out the limitations of Live Houses in Jakarta. A majority of the proper musical venues in Jakarta, equipped with quality audio, acoustic, and lighting, either have the capacity to accomodate not more than 100 people, or have the capacity to accommodate over one thousand. M Bloc aims to exist in the middle of the two polars in the spectrum. “My vision is to provide a great space for these bands. I want everyone to go home from M Bloc with a happy face,” stated Wendi.

    M Bloc’s live house had previously been a warehouse owned by Perum Peruri, storing all the heavy printing equipment. Fortunately, it was of the right size to become a 500 people capacity Live House, boasting the necessary equipment to host musical performances.

    As a result of the unique capacity in their Live House, M Bloc has hosted a number of hugely popular band showcases; a monumental show in a band’s career. Popular Indonesian bands and musicians such as Reality Club, Efek Rumah Kaca, Kunto Aji, as well as Stars and Rabbit, have all had memorable shows at M Bloc.

    Of these musical acts, Reality Club is the first band to sell out M Bloc’s Live House. The band had their showcase releasing their second album ‘What Do You Really Know’ on November 1, 2019. “Reality Club really wanted to lift up M Bloc, as a new musical venue in Jakarta. We want to be the first band to sell out M Bloc,” said Reality Club guitarist Iqbal Angga Kusumah, in an interview with Tempo, on March 8, 2020.

    Ambiance of the crowd during Reality Club’s Album Showcase, at M Bloc’s Livehouse, South Jakarta, on November 1, 2019. Credit: Reality Club

    Having 3 musical acts and an orchestra throughout their performance, Reality Club’s showcase truly tested the operational limits of M Bloc’s Live House. In spite of this however, the Live House pampered the audience to musically sound performance. “Sound wise and equipment wise, M Bloc is the best musical venue in South Jakarta,” Iqbal claimed.

    On top of that, taking into account the inherent sentiment and value behind their showcase, Reality Club frontman and vocalist, Faiz Novascotia, believed that the crowd at M Bloc’s Live House had witnessed their best performance yet. “The album is a huge band effort, so the showcase means a lot to us. That show was the best, everyone in the audience sang to everything,” said Faiz.

    “Having the show in Blok M was great; it’s a location everyone knows. Especially in M Bloc, new musical venues always have a sense of attraction to them,” added Faiz.

    With electrifying yet intimate performances, continuously witnessed by the audience in M Bloc’s Live House; the musical revolution has begun. Aided with the necessary equipment, as well as a sense of clearly defined and authentic identity, M Bloc has managed to make Blok M the most musical it has been in the past few decades.