“We were able to experience a third of the Earth on our own”: the group that has spent four years traveling the globe by sailing.
There are numerous well-known tales of music bands while on tour, such as The Who being prohibited from staying at any Holiday Inn in the United States and Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham riding a Harley through Chateau Marmont. However, how many musical groups can claim to have traveled around the globe twice by boat, on a four-year-long tour, and visited some of the most remote locations without any violent conflicts among members?
According to American musician Grey Filastine, who makes up one half of the musical duo Filastine and Nova with his wife, everyone who joins the Arka Kinari is unconventional. It takes a special kind of person to give up their life for months, make little money, and face potential danger. This creates a unique and specific group of individuals.
The Arka Kinari is a 70-ton sailing ship that serves as a home, touring vessel, music venue, and creative project for Filastine and Nova. The name is a combination of the Latin word for vessel and a Sanskrit name for a mythical creature – a half human, half bird musician who guards the tree of life. The duo uses a unique blend of Javanese folk music, psychedelic synths, and percussion to raise awareness about climate change. The ship also functions as their stage, complete with subwoofers, costumes, and sails that display screens during their performances.
This is a statement to all musicians around the world: it is feasible to go on tour in an environmentally friendly manner.
The team of Arka Kinari, which typically consists of five to seven individuals recruited online, also takes on the roles of sound and lighting engineers in addition to their daily tasks such as welding, carpentry, medical care, and cooking.
Filastine reflects on the time spent at sea with his team, saying they always find a way to make peace. Despite any disagreements, they eventually find humor in their differences.
He chuckles and remarks, “You have nowhere else to be!”
Since 2019, the Arka Kinari has traveled approximately 50,000 nautical miles. Despite being from an Indonesian seafaring tribe, Nova Ruth and Filastine had no knowledge of sailing when they began their journey.
Filastine admits that when first starting out, they lacked basic sailing knowledge such as knot tying and distinguishing starboard from port. However, after four years, they have become the captain of their own boat. Despite occasional doubts, Filastine recognizes that sailing over 50,000 miles is an accomplishment that many boat owners never achieve in their lifetime.
Both musicians and activists were dissatisfied with the environmental consequences of touring. According to a study conducted in 2010, live performances accounted for three-quarters of greenhouse gas emissions in the music industry. It was estimated in 2009 that U2’s global tour had a carbon footprint equivalent to a round-trip flight to Mars. In the past ten years, artists such as Harry Styles, the 1975, and Coldplay have taken steps to reduce the environmental impact of their tours by implementing initiatives like planting trees, utilizing solar power for their stages, and repurposing merchandise.
Filastine and Nova discovered a way to convey their message by selling their stake in a Seattle home and taking out a loan to purchase the Arka Kinari, a rundown schooner that they renovated in Rotterdam. Since then, they have traveled across the globe, appearing at various festivals such as the upcoming Sydney festival and Mona Foma in Tasmania in February. They also make stops at small fishing villages and coastal towns, where the residents are always intrigued.
Filastine explains that people often question why they are engaging in this task, assuming it is challenging. However, in response, they raise the issue of climate change and inquire whether the individual has been affected by it. More often than not, they have personal anecdotes to share.
I have observed this problem fluctuate and change in popularity since my teenage years. However, you must remain persistent in your efforts for the cause. At times, others may dismiss you as overly worried, while other times they may support your perspective.
Does Filastine ever get frustrated that more touring acts don’t try to be more green? “Arka Kinari is a strange mix of practical and romantic,” he replies. “It’s meant to inspire – an almost impossible thing that is being done … But at what cost? A slowness that would drive many crazy. It’s very precarious, we’re just barely getting by. And a dependency on the whims of nature – the wind, currents and tides rule our lives in a way that most of us have completely forgotten.”
For instance, they have spent several weeks floating along Australia’s eastern coast before their debut show, to steer clear of Cyclone Jasper in December.
Filastine explains that we are responsible for providing food and care for a crew of five people in Australia for several weeks prior to our performances. Therefore, it is not reasonable for us to expect the same from other artists.
The speaker explains that many people struggle with life’s challenges. Perhaps they are not ready to tackle the greatest issue humanity has encountered. His opinion is that they should not have to, and none of us should. These are deep-rooted issues that demand significant power to create the necessary changes.
It may not be feasible for everyone to spend a decade searching for a ship, preparing it, assembling a crew, and completely altering their way of life to become a sailor. We cannot expect this level of dedication from everyone. However, we can suggest that if we were to undertake such an extreme task, perhaps others can take on a less extreme version.
After spending four years on the sea, Filastine has observed alterations in his behavior. He now has more leisure time to engage in activities such as being imaginative, acquiring new knowledge, swimming, diving, and contemplating the horizon. This is something he has not had the opportunity to do before. Additionally, he has resumed reading, a hobby he had neglected for a decade due to constant exposure to screens. His music preferences have also shifted, as he now enjoys listening to longer classical compositions. He finds it strange that playing a three-minute pop song while at sea no longer holds the same appeal.
“They have witnessed experiences that many individuals will never have the opportunity to encounter. When the COVID-19 outbreak occurred, the Arka Kinari had no destination to seek refuge, as most nations were only accepting their own citizens. After making an unplanned stop in Hawaii to stock up on several months’ worth of provisions, they embarked on a journey westward – uncertain of where or when they would be able to set foot on land again.”
Filastine describes the experience as both challenging and surprisingly fortuitous. He mentions that they had a significant amount of space at their disposal, covering one-third of the planet.
However, when the global shutdown occurred, certain areas that were previously inaccessible suddenly became available. The Arka Kinari, in need of repairs, was able to dock at the deserted Pacific atolls that were once utilized by the US for testing nuclear and biological weapons. These atolls had not been inhabited by humans since they were evacuated in the 1950s. The ship attempted to communicate for clearance to land, but received no response. This could be interpreted as an unspoken permission granted.
The group discovered a well-preserved time capsule on land. They also came across a church with shattered windows and a Bible left open to a damaged page. In a nearby school, they came across attendance records that showed a decline in students as evacuation day drew nearer: starting with 100 students and decreasing to 80, 60, 20, and finally only four. The surroundings were completely untamed, yet stunningly picturesque.
Filastine stated that he found hope in the atolls. He was surprised to see that the healthiest ecosystem he had ever witnessed was located near a nuclear testing area. He believes that if humans give nature some space, it can flourish.
Arka Kinari will be showcasing their talents at the Sydney festival from January 18-20, followed by a performance at Mona Foma in Tasmania on February 16-18 and 23-25. Admission to all shows is free of charge.