GEDE ROBI OF NAVICULA

On a Sunday, we visit Gede Robi’s house in Ubud to meet the humble personality that walks the talk by doing what he loves and sharing what he cares about. Famously known as a vocalist and guitarist for the rock band Navicula, Gede Robi or Robi is also a petani or farmer that dedicates himself to environmental causes.

It was sunny, but the surrounding trees and plants in the house make us stay cool. We had a chance to tour the place, visiting Robi’s studio where he shows us some of his favorite guitars—a couple of Gibson and a red Fender Jag-Stang just like what Kurt Cobain used to rock out with Nirvana.

Then Robi showed his garden that he claims “just for fun” where various plants are grown. We tasted the leaves of kenikir or cosmos that can be used for salad and the Indonesian dish urap. After that, we tasted temu kunci or fingerroot leaves, an aphrodisiac that can also help with digestion.

“Not long ago, the price of chilis reached more than Rp100.000. It’s actually really easy to grow! Why not just plant it?” said Robi while he picked chilis from his own garden and put it in a basket along with tomatoes and eggplant.

We talk in the back, seated in a semi-outdoor place where a tree grows tall inside the area of the house. But rather than cutting the tree down, the house compliments the tree, coexisting as one. It tells something about a man.

“Yeah, I did not cut it. It makes the house cool without air conditioning,” said Robi. Coffee was served, the beans came from his own farm in Pupuan, Tabanan. To Robi, there are only two types of coffee, the one that tasted good and the one that tasted bad. The same goes for music, there are only two types of music; good music and bad music.

Farming is part of your family, a task that you had to do. But when and how does it become a more passionate thing for you?

It’s a matter of perspective… I finally saw the farm as a luxury. Having a farm is like having a supermarket. I feel like I can get anything from nature. For instance, my grandfather was a smoker, so he planted his own tobacco on the farm. But people in the village can take it for granted because they farm all the time. That makes them want to live like city people by selling the farm. Such a waste of resources!

Playing in the band takes me to cities like Jakarta. It made me realize one thing. I don’t want to eat instant noodles all the time! Hahaha. I want to have a warehouse filled with food like my grandfather.

Do you have any formal education on farming?

Yes, I took a certificate in Bali issued by Australia in permaculture design, a scholarship for young farmers to study agroecology in Navdanya, and an intensive course on politics and integrity in Den Haag supported by Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (Indonesian Corruption Watch). All of those are for certification purposes, a legitimation to teach all around the world. Although actually, I have been teaching before the certifications.

Robi’s daughters suddenly offered us a bag of chips. Her name was Rimba, the Indonesian word for jungle or forest, and the packaging of the chip was plastic.

You are involved in environmental issues such as plastic through the documentary film Pulau Plastik. So, are you anti-plastic?

Not at all. I want plastic to be used as it is supposed to be used. Plastic was invented because of its durability and cheaper production. It was also invented to decrease wood usage and utilize residues from main products such as gas or oil—so it is better to use it rather than throwing it away.

Because of its durability, it becomes a problem when is only used once. The problem is single-use. Plastic that can be recycled is fine, but I refuse products and designs that can’t be recycled, such as plastic straw.

Do you still use plastic? The single-use ones also?

Yes, buckets, phones, and cars are all made from plastic. For single-use plastics, I use them as minimum as possible—we should never abuse the use. Sometimes we can’t avoid it. There are products that we like but don’t have other packaging options, such as my daughter’s bag of chips and my favorite herbal syrup that only sells in sachets.

I wish they redesign the product, but I am trying to work things out with the herbal syrup company in terms of packaging! I think they should make a bottle packaging like cough syrup. Every product should have options.

Video courtesy of https://pulauplastik.org/

In terms of the single-use plastic issue, where does the biggest problem came from? The people that consume or companies that use plastic?

People, government, and companies should work together. The people should have consumer awareness, the government should protect the people, and companies should manage the trash—if they can’t manage their own trash, then don’t litter.

In Indonesian culture such as Bali, zero waste is actually present, but sometimes we have to learn the concept from outside Indonesia. What are your thoughts on that?

At least in Bali, our cultural understanding should not stop at ceremonies—ethics and philosophy are also important. In ceremonies, we cleanse ourselves, but sometimes we can find plastic waste. Ethics and philosophy should balance the ceremony. I discuss this matter with others, including spiritual figures.

How do your music compliment activism and vice versa?

I started my band Navicula after watching the video for Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana on a channel called Televisi Pendidikan Indonesia. I use their music and image that changes over time. But since its founding, some topics are related to environmental problems because I have been active as a volunteer in some Non-Governmental Organizations.

Activism can be its content, and music is the layout, design, and paper quality if we compare it to a magazine. Activism itself can be used with any media, from music to movies.

With all that rocking and activism, how do you spend your free time?

I watch Netflix. Currently, I am watching This Is Pop, a history of pop music. I also read, meditate, and cook.

What do you like about Ubud?

I moved to Ubud in 2013 to start a family. The weather and air are nice, all of my family are here, it’s also not far from Denpasar where I used to do work non-stop.

Favorite places to eat and drink in Ubud?

We actually cook and eat 90% at home. But when we eat out, we like to go to Be Pasih, a restaurant that sells good fresh seafood, best sashimi, and arak that opens until late. My daughter’s favorite place to eat is Black Sheep, she likes to eat pizza and chicken wrap there.

For drinking, I personally like espresso martini in Mingle, beer in Melting Pot, and the best manhattan in all of Bali that you can get in Room4Dessert.

Favorite places for melali or going out in Bali with your family?

It’s sort of a routine for us to go to Sanur. We swim, take my daughter to eat gelato at Massimo, sometimes we eat, and go home. I also like to visit Candidasa, where we usually stay near Virgin Beach. I travel because of my family… I personally have been a lot on the road, so my preferred holiday is in my bed!