Kopernik Gets Creative: Our Collaboration with the Creative Sector in addressing Social and Environmental Challenges

Robi from Navicula and Endah N Rhesa in front of the billboard showcasing their new single “Segara Gunung” Feat. NATURE at Penn Plaza, New York City

I recently returned from a quick trip to New York, where I re-entered the halls of the United Nations—not as staff this time, but as a participant in something pretty incredible: the launch of the Sounds Right initiative. This wasn't your typical UN meeting; it was a groundbreaking event that officially recognized Nature, not merely as a backdrop to human activities but as an artist in her own right, on all major streaming platforms to raise awareness and much-needed funding for conservation efforts.

Nature has long served as a muse for artists, with symphonies of ocean waves, winds, rainstorms, and birdsong inspiring many musical pieces. Now, through the Sounds Right initiative, renowned musicians including David Bowie, Brian Eno, Aurora, Ellie Goulding, as well as Indonesia's own Navicula and Endah N Rhesa have collaborated with nature. These artists are blending human creativity with the sounds of the natural world, and clearly illustrating the innovative ways in which the creative sector can contribute to solving social and environmental challenges.

Sounds Right not only showcases the beauty of nature but also underscores the urgent need for protection. Seeing the United Nations champion such an initiative was incredibly motivating and affirmed our commitment at Kopernik to work with the creative sector to inspire and move people to action. This initiative highlights a critical lesson: real change requires engaging both the mind and the heart.

Why is this important?

In the development sector, we are generally pretty good at compiling data and creating reports that articulate the pressing issues of our time. However, if data alone were sufficient to solve the world's challenges, we would have seen far greater progress by now. The reality is that to inspire action and sustain change, we need to connect on a more fundamental, emotional level. This involves crafting narratives that not only appeal to logical reasoning but also resonate with people’s emotions and their specific cultural contexts.

Kopernik and the Creative Sector

At Kopernik, we recognize the unique power of popular culture to engage and motivate people. Music and popular culture bridge languages and borders, resonating with universal emotions and values. They open minds and inspire action, making complex issues more accessible and relatable. This understanding has underpinned our collaborations with the creative sector, a path we have pursued even when broader acceptance of this approach in the development sector has been slow. Witnessing the Sounds Right initiative unfold reinforced our commitment to leveraging popular culture for social and environmental change.

Kopernik’s Creative Ventures

Our work with the creative sector has included campaigns like Pulau Plastik, to raise awareness and reduce people’s usage of single-use plastics through film and social media campaigns tied directly to local culture. We’re also working with comedians in West Timor, where stand-up comedy is a prominent form of entertainment. During the pandemic, we created "Apa Kabar Bali," a segment that featured cultural figures in Bali and supported the creative sector when it was most vulnerable. We’ve also produced a podcast, "A Soundtrack of Resistance," which explores Indonesia’s social history through the music of Navicula, a band known for its environmental and social activism. The series connects listeners with activists, experts, and leaders, using music as a conduit for raising awareness and dialogue on some of the most pressing issues facing Indonesia. Our creative work is in large part informed by behavioral science principles and nudges, which when combined with popular culture can significantly influence norms, behaviors, and opinions.

One example of our work with the creative sector: Pulau Plastik raises awareness on single-use plastic through a feature-length documentary film. 

Music Declares Emergency (MDE) and The Indonesian Climate Communications, Arts and Music Lab (IKLIM)

Building on several years of work collaborating with artists, musicians, and the creative sector, we supported the establishment of MDE (Music Declares Emergency) Indonesia in early 2023. MDE Indonesia represents the first Asian chapter of the global Music Declares Emergency movement, bringing the music community together to address the climate and ecological emergency.

Alongside MDE, we also formed IKLIM—the Indonesian Climate Communications, Arts, and Music Lab. IKLIM is a collective of musicians and artists working together with environmental organizations, and climate experts dedicated to amplifying the climate conversation and driving action on the climate crisis. These initiatives leverage the immense influence of popular culture to encourage a broader demographic to engage with and act on environmental issues.

Musicians representing diverse genres and backgrounds, united under the IKLIM initiative.

A couple of months ago, Lewis, the co-founder of MDE Global, presented IKLIM with an incredible opportunity —an invitation for Indonesian artists Endah N Rhesa and Navicula to collaborate on a track with nature for the Sounds Right initiative. Very much up for this challenge, the artists created "Segara Gunung," and just a few weeks later, we were on our way to New York for the official launch.

"Segara Gunung," produced by Navicula and Endah N Rhesa is not only a musical piece but also a strong environmental statement, showcasing how the natural world can be more than just a source of inspiration—it can be a partner in creation. This project embodies the ethos of both MDE Indonesia and IKLIM, highlighting the role of artists as pivotal in driving ecological awareness and action. 

Folk duo Endah N Rhesa crafting the musical arrangement for "Segara Gunung"

"Segara Gunung" is a narrative woven from the rich sounds of Indonesia's rainforests and oceans, captured by renowned audio naturalist Martyn Stewart. Inspired by a Balinese mantra sung during times of abundant growth, this track symbolizes nature's cycle of renewal. It portrays nature as a vital, living entity deserving of respect and protection.

Robi, Endah, Rhesa with Martyn at the Sounds Right afterparty at the NED

The Power of Collaboration

The Sounds Right initiative shows the power of global collaboration, featuring artists like David Bowie, Brian Eno, Ellie Goulding, AURORA, and many others, each incorporating nature’s sounds into their music. At least 50% of royalties from tracks featuring NATURE are donated to biodiversity conservation and restoration projects. This initiative is projected to generate over $40 million for conservation with more than 600 million individual listeners in its first four years. Tracks are released on specially curated Feat. Nature playlists and promoted globally through Spotify’s extensive marketing support and prominent billboard advertising.

All of the artists participating in the Sounds Right initiative

Sounds Right holds particular significance for Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago, home to the third-largest area of rainforest and one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems globally. The country boasts the highest level of species richness worldwide. However, rapid deforestation, climate change, pollution, and habitat loss are driving numerous species toward extinction. Given the severe threat of environmental degradation to biodiversity and human well-being in Indonesia, leveraging popular culture is a powerful way to educate, engage, and motivate the public toward sustainable practices.

In only one week, NATURE has gained tens of millions of streams, more than 2.5 million unique listeners on Spotify alone, and has been highlighted across hundreds of global news and media publications worldwide. NATURE is now in the top 1% of most popular artists globally on Spotify, illustrating the massive impact and reach of this collaborative initiative.

As we at Kopernik continue on this road, the success of initiatives like Sounds Right offers strong evidence that engaging popular culture and the arts can significantly amplify the impact of conservation efforts as well as addressing other social and environmental challenges.

Being part of the Sounds Right launch made me see new possibilities unfold - it’s pioneering, not only in its approach to environmental campaigning and conservation, fundraising, but also in how it has engaged the global community. It's initiatives like these that remind us of the power of collective action and the impact of thinking outside the traditional frameworks. It’s not every day that your work aligns with a global movement that’s backed by music legends.

I am immensely grateful to everyone at Sounds Right, MDE, UN Live, our Kopernik and IKLIM teams and the many other collaborators. It's an incredible example of what can be accomplished when diverse groups unite under a common cause.

Listen to Segara Gunung and all the other songs featuring Nature through this playlist.