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Indonesia's popular ska band Shaggydog performs in Taipei

6-person ska band follows tradition of good vibes, rock steady beats for 'rude boys'

Indonesian ska band, Shaggydog, plays in Taipei. (Taiwan News, Sean Scanlan photo)

Indonesian ska band, Shaggydog, plays in Taipei. (Taiwan News, Sean Scanlan photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Indonesian ska band Shaggydog will make their Taipei debut at the UU Mouth on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. (Nov. 21), according to its website.

“We play a mixture of ska, reggae, dub, swing, and rock steady. Or, as we sometimes like to say, 'dog style' ska,” said vocalist Hero Wahyono. He spoke outside Radio Taiwan International (RTI), where the band had just concluded a radio interview.

The previous day, Shaggydog performed a headline set at the Indigenous Pasiwali Festival in Taitung City. Wahyono described the scene as a crazy mix of ska fans, Indigenous musicians, and Indonesian laborers enjoying their day off.

“Lots of Indonesians came down to the front of the stage and filled the area. They even did some stage diving. It’s like we moved part of Java to Taiwan,” Wahyono said.

Big crowds are a regular occurrence for Shaggydog, as the band has 465,000 Facebook followers. Due to its large internet following, the band employed a photographer to keep its content fresh.

Wahyono said Indonesia has approximately 20 ska bands, many of whom formed during the punk revival in the mid-1990s. “I remember being inspired by Green Day and then Rancid, and then I started to do some research into this music and learned about Madness, Skatalites, and The Specials. The internet was so slow back then that it would take me six hours to find some of this music sometimes," he explained.

The band was founded in Yogyakarta, Java. “We all live in a region that is ruled by a king or sultan. It is like a country within a country, and many consider it to be a city of art and culture,” said Wahyono.

Yogyakarta is considered the second most popular tourist destination after Bali and boasts an impressive array of artists, ranging from those who practice traditional crafts to contemporary artists. When Shaggydog performs locally, such as at a New Year’s Eve concert, it is typically outdoors in front of a major temple.

Wahyono said both the band and the audience enjoyed the trappings of music festivals. The band also frequently traveled to other destinations, such as Jakarta, as well as international tours to the Netherlands (twice), Australia, and the SXSW Festival in 2016.

“Austin is so far from Indonesia. I almost drank a whole bottle of whisky during our trip there and still didn’t reach our destination,” said Wahyono. He remembered the festival vividly, as Cypress Hill, NOFX, and Lady Gaga were breakout artists at the time. Shaggydog made the most of their two-week trip to the U.S., performing three gigs and shooting a music video.

Musically, Wayhono described the band as being rooted in the “third wave of ska” or the “ska explosion” in the early 1990s, when artists like No Doubt and Sublime became platinum-selling. Along the way, the band has added Indonesian influences, such as singing in the local language and other tempos, but mostly keeping it faithful to good vibes and rock steady beats.

“This is our first time really touring in Asia. If I have learned one thing, it is that music is universal and appeals to everyone,” said Wayhono. All of the members of Shaggydog have been blown away by the response of local audiences and a mutual appreciation of music that is uplifting and heals the soul.

Irfan Muhammad was the individual credited with bringing Shaggydog to the attention of local audiences. He started the ID-TW Pop Bureau to promote alternative and indie music from Indonesia in Taiwan.

“I recommended Shaggydog to the organizers of the Pasiwali Festival because I thought they would be a good fit. They play music that is easy to dance to, which is typical of reggae, ska, and dub. It’s a good way to bridge these different cultures, and I also knew some of the members of the band,” said Muhammad.

He added that Shaggydog is quite famous in Indonesia and also has a big following among foreign laborers in Taiwan who are also from the same home of Java.