Koleh: writing music in response to a novel and other stories

Posted on: Fri 3 Dec 2021

You may have heard Koleh’s vocals or bass in local bands Bermuda Bay or St. Jacques, but his solo project has its own distinct sound.

A mix of sounds from South-east Asia and contemporary indie-pop, Koleh says his solo music is made up of songs “that didn’t really fit” in any of his other projects.

I decided to just noodle around with the sampeh on top of them [the songs] and it sounded really good for some reason.


The sampeh, a lute instrument played by the Dayak people of Borneo, features in both of Koleh’s singles (from his upcoming EP Songs from Upriver) – Temengang, and the more recently released Maze.

The solo music is “a crossover” between all his other projects, Koleh says.

I really enjoy recording music. In fact, that’s what I do the most music-wise – I love curating and arranging songs.


It’s not just Koleh’s sound that draws from his Kenyah Dayak heritage – his mother, Jinap Ato, strung together bead artwork for both his singles.

The word temengang in Kenyah means rhinoceros hornbill bird . . . so the artwork for Temengang is a fuse between a face and a hornbill bird.


Ahead of a gig tonight as part of the Nexus Arts Interplay program, Koleh chats to us on Festival City about his upcoming EP, how he began playing the sampeh, and Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore.

Follow Koleh on Instagram and Facebook for more updates and information.

Image supplied

Produced by Anisha Pillarisetty

Festival City

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