Poetry as Musicians’ Muse | Article by Indie Accent


Poetry as Musicians’ Muse

Writer Valerie Dante

Cover Image from NME

Not only through songs, people often convey their message via other mediums and poetry is considered to be one of them. Poetry many a time embody meanings and conclude it through beautifully constructed words.

And as a form of appreciation, some musicians based their songs from a poem that moves them. By blending melodies into it, the poems seem alive than just writing on a piece of paper, it arouses strong emotions and preserves the words. Here are a few musicians the made poetry as one of their main inspiration.


Merah Bercerita – Bunga dan Tembok

“Bunga dan Tembok” is originally a poem by one of Indonesia’s most beloved poet, Wiji Thukul. He fought with his words and became an activist known for the sharpness of his pen. To honour his heritage, Fajar Merah, Wiji Thukul’s son made a song from this rebellious poem. Fajar’s Solo-based band called Merah Bercerita often combine melodies with his father’s other poems such as “Apa Guna” and “Derita Sudah Naik Seleher.” In an interview with metrotvnews.com, Fajar said his intentions in doing so is to revive his old man’s poems so that it may always be remembered. This song appeared as the soundtrack to Thukul’s biopic “Istirahatlah Kata-Kata” featuring Efek Rumah Kaca’s vocalist, Cholil.

Frau – Dongeng Buat Zus Pandu

With a piano, Frau altered Asrul Sani’s poem into strings of haunting melodies. “Dongeng Buat Zus Pandu” tells the ups and the downs on a journey of someone called Sintawati. The Yogyakarta-based pianist put a little jazz-like twist in the song, making this tribute different from any other. Frau’s playful vocals blend well with the up-tempo song. She puts out the story-telling element of this tune.

Banda Neira - Rindu

The lyrics of one of the most known songs from this duo is based on Subagio Sastrowardoyo’s poem. Subagio himself was known as a lecturer, a writer, and an Indonesian-literature critic. Banda Neira successfully transformed this short poem into a melancholic piece and made it their own. “Rindu” is featured on Banda Neira’s album, “Berjalan Lebih Jauh.”

Declan McKenna – Isombard

From his album “What Do You Think About the Car?” which was released back on 2016. McKenna writes a song about a politician who’s stumbling over his words, and his inspiration came upon watching a fishy media coverage on TV. The E. E. Cummings poem titled “Next to of course god America i” was also his main inspiration of this tune, at that time McKenna was studying this poem in school and it explores how patriotism can be used to manipulate and alter people’s perception.

Arctic Monkeys – I Wanna Be Yours

On the 2013 album “AM,” the four-piece Brit band took John Cooper Clarke’s poem of the same name and transformed it into this sad song full of love, desire, and yearning. The band’s frontman, Alex Turner told the NME that he recalled the first time Turner heard this poem was when he was still at school, his teacher read it aloud, and Turner’s ear pricks up because it was like nothing he had ever heard before. Turner modified the poem a bit, making it more of an Arctic Monkey’s version by adding his lines. The funny thing is, Turner once met John Cooper Clarke at one of the poet’s gigs in the very early days of his band, he said that Clarke was one of the few people that liked the band’s odd name.

Keane – Perfect Symmetry

Keane’s keyboardist and also songwriter Tim Rice-Oxley told Q magazine that this was his favourite track on the same-titled album back on 2008. This tune was widely inspired by Rice-Oxley’s classical learning at his time on University College London, and the lyrics were influenced by Book by Ovid’s poem ‘Metamorphoses,’ which was a narrative poem written in hexameters. He read one about the Cypriot sculptor called Pygmalion who falls in love with a statue he made. The lyrics of this tune describe a train of thought about human endeavour and Keane upgraded it with a touch of 80s groove.