Navicula and Kopernik: Bringing Music and Technology Together for Social Change


On 28 November, the Indonesia Forum and the Faculty of Arts hosted a unique event on the transformational power of music and technology in addressing social and environmental issues. The event brought together seminal Balinese grunge group Navicula with Kopernik, a nongovernmental organisation (NGO) that seeks to connect remote communities with simple, life-changing technology. Representing Kopernik were Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer Ewa Wojkowska and Senior Analyst Nanis Sakti Ningrum. Navicula vocalist Gede Robi represented the band.

At the event, Wojkowska described how she and Toshi Nakamura founded Kopernik with a vision to make development more effective, following frustration with the lack of tangible outcomes from many large development projects. Kopernik initially aimed to distribute simple household technology like cook stoves and lamps to people living in remote areas with little access to electricity or water, so-called ‘last-mile communities’. Kopernik recognised, however, that the needs of rural people went far beyond the household level.

Nanis described how Kopernik’s projects have expanded to include distribution of crop drying and hermetic grain storage technologies, plastic waste management machines, solar water desalinisation technologies, and even haze emergency kits to communities affected by forest fires and volcanic eruptions. It is helping to coordinate relief efforts for the eruption of Bali’s Mount Agung.

Wojkowska added that collaboration was at the core of Kopernik’s work, helping to extend the reach and impact of its activities. It works with the private sector, development agencies and NGOs, the public, and artists like Navicula. Through Navicula’s music, Wojkowska said, Kopernik can reach completely different audiences, and the same audiences in different ways.

Navicula vocalist Gede Robi also described the importance of collaboration to the band. Founded in 1996, Navicula makes music with a social and environmental message, with a particular focus on engaging its core audience, Indonesian youth. Over recent years Navicula has teamed up with organisations including Greenpeace, the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), the Center for Orangutan Protection (COP), Sawit Watch and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to raise awareness of environmental destruction and corruption.

Navicula is now working with Kopernik on a joint project to raise awareness about the fact that 60 per cent of households on Sumba Island, East Nusa Tenggara, do not have access to electricity. They have created a video based on Navicula’s song Terus Berjuang (“Keep up the Fight”).

Robi said doing art well is hard, and that is why it can touch people. Through performance, he said, the public can access knowledge in a way that they can’t with the more academic language that many civil society organisations use.

The Australia Indonesia Institute, the Herb Feith Foundation and Artistic Merit also provided generous support for Navicula and Kopernik’s visit to Australia.