Hey, You’re Cool! Kevin Wiyarnanda
“If you wanna do music, why are you on that side of the table, not this side?”
There’s a vibrant arts and music scene in Jakarta, Indonesia, that quietly draws in tourists who are eager to experience the city’s singular culture. Often they swarm in for massive activations like We The Fest, which brought Big Sean to the metropolis for the first time this year, and offered a diverse roster of stars that included Charli XCX, Dua Lipa, G-Eazy and Phoenix. Kevin Wiyarnanda of Ismaya Live—the event-based entertainment brand that organizes the festival—helps ensure that these mega concerts go off without a hitch. As Ismaya Live’s senior press officer, Kevin coordinates with local and global media while wrangling performers for interviews and appearances. Yet outside of festival season, the 24-year-old is a musician in his own right, singing under the alias VVYND (pronounced “vwind”). His ties to Jakarta’s underground music scene have helped him break some of the city’s most talented emerging artists on the We The Fest stage. MASS APPEAL caught up with Kevin backstage at this year’s festival to find out how he balances his duties for Ismaya with his own musical passions.
How did you become involved with Ismaya Live?
I joined the team back in November 2014, it was actually my first full-time job. Two months prior, the company held a massive walk-in interview that was more like an American Idol audition. It took place in one of the company’s clubs—hundreds of people were queueing with a number on their chest. Everyone looked so professional while I was this 21 year-old who had just moved back to Jakarta after spending six years in Singapore.
To my surprise, I made it to the second interview, which was right after the first one. During the second interview, Ismaya Live’s then-brand manager challenged me to research and evaluate the various PR tactics Ismaya Live had been implementing for their music festivals, and recommend one idea that had never been done before. I was given a week to complete the challenge and I went the extra mile by making a video of me narrating the experience.
What was the inspiration behind We The Fest?
There wasn’t any multi-genre music festival experience that had a solid concept back then. We wanted to tap into that uncharted territory. Hence, We The Fest was born. Since it’s always summer here in Jakarta, we created a summer festival of music, arts, fashion and food. Those four elements are Jakartan favorites!
What’s the most hectic part of organizing a festival?
Definitely arranging onsite interviews and activities with all of the international artists. We had a total of 26 international acts, and their management was living on the other side of the world. The time difference was a major factor.
I was also in charge of partnerships with 50+ media outlets across Indonesia. So to put it in numbers, I was communicating with almost 80 people at the same time. It’s tough but when I saw the thousands of people who came down to the festival having the time of their lives with their loved ones, it was the most beautiful sight ever. I was so moved when Big Sean performed “One Man Can The World,” and when he gave a speech about hard work and reaching your dreams. That was my best #WTF17 moment.
How difficult is it to coordinate all of the acts?
I think the challenge was making sure the acts we wanted were able to make it on the dates we planned. These acts were flying from around the world with wildly different touring schedules.
How long have you been making music?
I’ve been making music since 2012, but I’ve been performing in front of people since I was 11. Last May, The Temper Trap—one of the acts that performed at We The Fest 2016—was in town to promote their new album, Thick As Thieves. I was charged with accompanying them around town for promos. We were in the green room of a TV studio waiting for a filming session so I asked one of the guys if I could borrow his guitar. He let me and I started playing and singing. I remember Dougy Mandagi, the vocalist of the band, suddenly took out his phone and filmed me. I kept singing even though I was nervous; I really looked up to them!
The moment I was done, they all started clapping for me. I was over the moon. Dougy asked me if music was something I wanted to pursue and I said yes. He then asked the question that changed my life: “If you wanna do music, why are you on that side of the table, not this side?” The green room was actually a meeting room with a long wooden table in the middle, I was sitting on one side working in front of my laptop and the band members were sitting on the other side.
How do you find time to work on your own projects with your job at Ismaya?
I work from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, so I have the morning, evening and weekends all to myself. That’s when I usually make music.
How would you describe your sound?
I’d call it a cross between alternative R&B and future soul.
What’s the best thing about living in Jakarta?
The food and the arts scenes. People from different cultures have come here to make a living for hundreds of years, making Jakarta an incredibly diverse city. You can find any kind of food here. From street vendors to upscale restaurants on top of skyscraper rooftops with skyline views, it’s all here. The art scene in Jakarta is always buzzing, too. There’s always something this city offers, we have underground gigs and large-scale international concerts like what we do at Ismaya Live.