After elementary school, he studied at schools for teachers in Bukittinggi and Bandung, West Java.
He is known for experimenting with the Malay language in the writing of his drama Bebasari and his poetry collection poetry anthology Pertjikan Permenoengan. In 1924 he returned to Padang to be a teacher. Effendi published his first stage drama, Bebasari, in the mid-1920s.
lieutenant was a critique of Dutch colonialism based on the Ramayana.
The work is considered the first stage drama in modern Indonesian literature. However, its distribution was hampered by the Dutch, who cited Effendi"s communist leanings.
He also released the poetry anthology Pertjikan Permenoengan (Stains of Self-Reflection), among these poems were works that were indirectly anti-colonial, such as the poem "Tanah Air" ("Homeland"). However, after a failed Communist revolt that year, Effendi"s works could no longer be published because of the tighter censorship.
As such, he felt forced to leave the country.
From 1928 to 1947 Effendi lived in the Netherlands. He also wrote a work in Dutch, entitled Van Moskow naar Tiflis. Effendi died in Jakarta on 24 May 1979.
Effendi dealt with several themes in his works.
Among the most prominent, especially in Bebasari, was anti-colonialism, with veiled criticism of the Dutch East Indies government. Other themes included love, both romantic and familial, as in the poems "Kenangan Lama" ("Old Memories") and "Kuburan Bunda" ("Mother"s Grave"), and the beauty of nature, as in "Lautan" ("Sea") and "Bulan" ("Moon").
Effendi"s language, although it reflected the patterns of Old Malay, was experimental. The writer borrowed from foreign languages, especially Sanskrit and Arabic.
He occasionally changed words, including adding and subtracting letters, to suit his intended rhythm and tempo, such as by using "menung" instead of "menunggu" to say "wait".
Compared to contemporary poet Muhammad Yamin, Effendi had stronger imagery. The Dutch scholar of Indonesian literature A. Teeuw wrote that Effendi, as a poet, was "amazing, especially because of his language which had no equal" and efforts to break away from the traditional syair. However, Teeuw opined that Effendi did not play a large role in the further development of Indonesian literature.
He found Sanusi Pane as the most influential poet of the time.
The socialist literary scholar Bakri Siregar wrote that Effendi drew the anti-colonial struggle well, with evocative imagery, in Bebasari.
From 1933 to 1946 he was a member of the Communist Party of the Netherlands and served in the House of Representatives of the Netherlands, promoting native rights for the Dutch East Indies.