Adang Muhidin: Merging music and nature

The world’s first entrepreneur that specialises in making bamboo musical instruments tells his story.

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Bamboo instruments on display. © Adang Muhidin

The island of West Java, Indonesia is home to one of the most abundant bamboo plantations in the world. Adang Muhidin, a young entrepreneur from this very island saw the many potentials of turning bamboo into many other things, but he wasn’t entirely sure what.

With a degree in material sciences in Iserhold, Germany and a broken violin, he tried using bamboo to fix this broken musical instrument. This got him interested in creating more musical devices, and the next thing he knew, he was exporting to 12 countries in Asia and Europe – France being the biggest purchaser of his bamboo instruments so far, with 700 saxophone orders.

What at first was only the production of bamboo violins turned into the production of contrabasses, clarinets, drums, saxophones, and cellos. As he started the Indonesia Bamboo Community with workshops and seminars about making instruments out of bamboo, he is now looking to create more products out of this immensely popular plant in Indonesia.

Adang talks to INKLINE to tell us more about this creative pursuit.

INKLINE: How did this idea of building the Indonesia Bamboo Community (IBC) come about? What inspired you to do this?

Adang Muhidin: The very first time this idea came about was when I found a broken wooden violin neck. I used bamboo to combine the broken violin and was surprised that though I used bamboo, it still worked perfectly. I was curious about the whole process at the time and that’s how I tried to make our first violin with the use of bamboo as material.

I: Why bamboo out of all other materials that you could use? 

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© Adang Muhidin

AM: We chose bamboo because there are so many bamboo plantations in Indonesia. Especially in Western Java, the place where IBC comes from. On top of that, bamboo is an ideal material to use for the production of a musical instrument because its centre is an empty space, a requirement for any musical instrument to function.

I: Can you explain how you’re making these instruments? How does it become a sustainable process?

AM: The production of bamboo instrument music is almost the same as the production of any other conventional musical instrument. The only distinguishing factor is in the material. We have bamboo as a raw basic material for all our products.

I: Why did you start incorporating musical instruments with the bamboo plant?

AM: I have no background in music. I am not even an expert in playing any kind of musical instrument. We chose to incorporate bamboo with musical instruments because music is easily accepted in any society. We also make music for the promotion of our product so it’s a two-way street.

I: What’s the most satisfying thing about the Indonesia Bamboo Community?

AM: The most satisfying and interesting aspect is the process of product design –from the beginning of an idea to successfully developing the design into something more attractive.

I: Who are members of this community and how do you all work together to promote sustainability?

AM: There are 14 active members at the IBC Centre. The members of the community come from different backgrounds, some come form traditional music backgrounds, and some are school dropouts. My background is metal material and corrosion science, so it’s really varied. This community was created with the same commitment, vision, and mission, we want other people from around the world to know and use the modern bamboo as a musical instrument.

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I: What were the challenges you faced when you were exploring the creation of bamboo instruments? How did you overcome those?

AM: The challenge from the start was the promotion of our product. We wanted our product to be famous and that they  be valued abroad, outside our own country. But when we were starting, even the local society wasn’t very enthusiastic about it so it was a bit difficult to launch our product. The way we fixed that problem was by creating a band named D’Bamboo Essential. The band uses bamboo for all of their musical instruments and they instantly became our tool for promotion.

I: Are you also making things besides musical instruments? Where else do you see this project going or what is your dream for the Indonesia Bamboo Community?

AM: In addition to our focus on bamboo music instruments, we are also developing other bamboo products such as furniture, fashion, culinary, events and construction products. Since the Indonesia Bamboo Community often holds seminars or workshops that discuss everything about bamboo-making, we wanted to add another platform wherein our organisation could introduce the production of other goods with the use of bamboo.

The biggest dream of IBC is to be the pioneer of bamboo music instruments in Indonesia and the world. In the future, we also want to make an orchestra that fully uses bamboo musical instruments for the first time in the world.

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