Singer and musician Rafly, with his group Kande (or “Candle”), has long been the voice of struggle and hope for the Acehnese.
Rafly’s music follows the tradition of 16th century Sufi teachers who roamed the countryside carrying rapa’i, a traditional wooden framed Acehnese drum. He uses the rapa’i to bring people closer to their faith but in the late 1980s, his music was much different. “I was a rock star.
I had long Michael Jackson hair, wore tight jeans and jumped around on stage,” he told me during an interview in 2005 in Aceh. “I was popular, but I just got bored with it. I didn’t feel there was anything in the music for the Acehnese people.”
In 2000, he decided to leave his self-indulgent rock star life behind and focus on using his talent to teach the Islamic faith to the masses. Still, his rock star persona comes to life on stage when he commands an audience to listen with everyslapping boom of the rapa’i drum.
On his newer, more polished release “Meukondroe (If Not Us),” songs like “Tree” show Rafly’s desire to be modern, with an electric guitar weaving its way around his reflective voice. Rafly has already sold millions in his home province of Aceh and now, with this 2006 release, he is poised to grab the ears of music lovers around the world.