Wild Rhythm
Evanna Ramly 
Ninda recording sounds in the rainforest of Kalasou Valley, West Papua

The first time Ninda Felina set foot in one of North Sumatra’s lush forests was with Greenpeace in 2014. “We were shooting for a documentary film entitled Silent Heroes,” recalls the Indonesian musical artiste. “To then experience the pristine jungle of Malagufuk Village in West Papua first-hand, to see and hear the cendrawasih bird, and meet the people who lived in and depended on the forests for their future was incredible.”

Little surprise she was eager to collaborate with international music producer Ben Rosen and the Save Our Sounds (SOS) Project by Greenpeace South East Asia to create a unique dance track using recorded sounds of the jungle to raise public awareness of deforestation.

“I’ve been volunteering with Greenpeace for several years now and have had the opportunity to experience the beauty and horror of Indonesia’s forests and their destruction,” she reveals. “In 2016, I even joined the Greenpeace Indonesia-led Forests Fire Prevention Team to help tackle the problem first-hand. Part of that included brainstorming ways we could make the story of the forests more accessible, and that was where the seeds of the SOS idea came from.”

Greenpeace then collaborated with advertising agency BBDO Singapore to develop the project and introduced Ninda to Rosen, who loved the idea and volunteered to help out on the track. Combining dance music with the magnificent and unique sounds of the Indonesian rainforest, she hopes to speak to today’s urban youth in a language they understand.

“I’m very used to living in the metropolitan jungle of Jakarta, so hearing these amazing voices from nature really fascinated me. The two-hour walk to Malagufuk Village through leech-infested mud was totally worth it,” she shares.

“Learning to really listen to the forest inspired me, and I hope that these sounds will not only give new colour to my music but also inspire others to start paying attention to the forest and take action to preserve it.”

She admits incorporating sounds of the rainforest into her music was harder than she thought it would be. “The jungle is super noisy; you can hear so many sounds all at the same time, though when you listen closely it all weaves together to make its own music.”

Besides that, she observed how forest creatures make sounds at different pitches. “They give each other space and somehow it all works together, like a giant orchestra. Luckily, we had nature sound recordist Mark Roberts to help us with the recording and we used special equipment to help isolate the sounds. To learn about sound with a master of the art of recording nature was super exciting.”

Armed with a riveting selection of great sounds, Ninda and her team got to work on creating the track. “At first I worked with my team here in Indonesia, collaborating with Ben virtually to develop the basics, and then Ben joined me in Jakarta to record the final track,” continues Ninda, whose music style encompasses deep, house and techno.

The most challenging part of the creative process was to pinpoint the sounds of animals in the forest. “Truly a struggle,” she describes, adding that this was the first time she had incorporated sounds of nature in her music.

The international launch of the SOS project was in December 2017 at the Wonderfruit Festival in Pattaya, Thailand, where Ninda’s resulting track, The Birds of Paradise, was a huge hit. “We actually launched the track for Indonesia earlier in October last year in Jakarta along with the SOS Make-A-Thon. This workshop and competition brought together 20 young creatives for a weekend of design thinking and storytelling to come up with ways to bring the sounds and stories of the forests to the festival for our international launch.”

DJ Ninda Felina at the Wonderfruit Festival in Thailand

By the end of the weekend, they had a launch party where it was announced that the winning idea would be developed by its team to join Ninda and Greenpeace at the festival, bringing their interactive ideas to life.

Team Cendawasih won with a visionary design centred around bringing people together. Its concept translated into a large bird mobile. Named WonderRoost, the charming art installation later toured the festival grounds.

Participants were able to step into the papier-mâché animals to experience different soundscapes, transporting them to pristine tropical rainforests. “Imagine big Papuan bird heads that you could step into and hear the forest. Such fun!” she enthuses.

Ninda believes it is important to act fast. “The thought of this land disappearing turns all those sounds into a cry for help,” she muses. “These forests need a voice and I am ready to share that voice with you by creating this track with every Papuan sound I captured in my heart.

“Help me turn this cry for help into tears of joy. Together, we can become the generation that helps save the forests.”

She intends to take her music and passion for nature even further.

“Clearly my journey does not stop here. I’m ready to make music that will bring the sounds of Indonesia’s jungles to people in urban environments around the world. Music that will hopefully make you dance and at the same time make you feel as I feel – the need to protect these rainforests.”

To listen to or download The Birds of Paradise, visit

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 267.