Soul music is one of the important kinds of black music that’s never failed to find the taste of music lovers throughout generations. Many people believed it came from the combination of traditional R&B and gospel when it was firstly originated in the USA. Although this traditional R&B and gospel played a big part in shaping up the Soul, we can’t deny that the Mississippi blues played a great role in it. It emerged in the 50s and became big throughout the 60s, by having Chicago, Memphis, Detroit and later Philadelphia as the important Soul centers. It’s the Stax label in Memphis, Motown in Detroit then the emergence of Sound of Philly (Philadelphia) in the early 70s. These labels made us more familiar with a hybrid called Soul Jazz, one of the kinds of soul which actually started around the late 50s. Like other kinds of music, Soul keeps evolving. From Psychedelic Soul which paved the way of Funk in the 60s and peaked in the 70s, in the more modern style soul can often be felt in the pop R&B, jazz contemporary or even in the modernized funk, groove/acid jazz or even hip hop. In Indonesia today, soul usually appears through the funky/groove bands. There’s a new kind called neo soul or nu soul in which we can feel the purity of soul in modern outfit, but not many Indonesian artists are actually involved into it. The high quality vocal of a singer plays an important part to bring this music alive therefore it’s not easy at all to settle in this one. But now we have a lady with Soul attached totally in her. She inherits the vocal style of classic Soul sisters from that early era but know how to bring it current to fit the trend. Say hello to Jemima Iskandar, better known as Jemima who just released her debut album couple of weeks ago.
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[flickr id=”5917189817″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”false” size=”medium” group=”” align=”left”] Jemima is one of a few artists that dare to stand with her own idealism without having to fall into the trap of industrial market which produce nothing but the same music over and over again. Turn on your TV, and you will know what we are talking about. There’s nothing wrong to follow the trend and make bags of money out of it. We can’t blame those who fall into the typical pattern created by the industry too. But as music is something dynamic and evolving, we do need some agents of change who dare to go against the mainstream if we want to see our music grows towards the better picture. We do need someone who dares to do something differently no matter what or how, someone who doesn’t just think over the fame, popularity and money, and someone whose heart is attached to the love of music without being contaminated by many business aspects. Thank God more and more artists now dare to make the breakthrough and refuse to compromise. They go on presenting themselves fully by choosing the independent road as the vehicle to pour out their creativity and idealism, and Jemima surely stands in this very corner. She shows how she could make good music with a strong concept by faithfully holding to the roots. She offers a Soulful Jazz and Blues as the bridge for us to reach her world, the wonderful world of Jemima. Thanks to her, now we can have the Soulful side of Jazz and Blues the way we loved it back then, the kind of Soul that appears in strong flavor, not just as a ‘light toppings’ in some of today’s local mainstream music such as groove bands, hip hop or the modern R&B. Jemima chose to bring back the beauty aspects of the urban Soul especially when it meets its traditionally related family, the Jazz and classic Blues. And yes, her unique vocal enables her to build the soulful atmosphere into perfection.
[flickr id=”5917189973″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”false” size=”medium” group=”” align=”right”] Once you listen to her songs, you will get the idea of how a girl can create the whole different world in simple way. One thing we should notice is that though she’s deeply rooted in the purity of Soul, she doesn’t fall into the trap of placing herself in any narrow particular genre. Jemima is a free soul that’s always open to any kinds of music. “I don’t actually listen to music by genre, I’m more into whatever makes me feel good kinda thing.” she said in an interview session with us. She adores artists like Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin too besides Etta James. “Because when they sing, it looks like they are in their own space” she said. Later she discovered her passion into such artists as The Roots, Erykah Badu, D’Angelo and TLC while she keeps her mind to the Indonesia’s rock scene in the 90’s and also Chrisye. She absorbed the underground scene of New York while she was there for quite a while. She even existed as the drummer of a punk/rock band. At the same time, she looks up to Sting’s writing style, Mick Hucknall of Simply Red, Sade, Citizen Cope, Lenny Kravitz, Jay Dilla, Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, Zero 7, and Thievery Corporation just to mention a few. Flying wide in her experience has brought her into one conclusion: “It’s the ‘soul’ in a music that drives me want to listen to it instead of the kinds or style of music itself.” She inherits the same soul of Erykah Badu, Sade, D’Angelo and Lenny Kravitz roll into one with the free spirit with a rebellious side of Janis Joplin and poetic approach of The Doors’ Jim Morrison. All in one, she presents one lovely Soul album in many layers. It’s like a fresh splash of Urban Soul into our heart and mind when we are listening to the whole songs.
Jemima had a very difficult childhood. “I spent most of it trying to grow up too fast or being forced to grow up too fast. I don’t know which one.” she said. Eventhough she doesn’t know her mother too well, but she seemed to inherit her mother’s DNA who was also a singer back then. Out of the unfortunate childhood, Jemima found out that it was actually music that became her only companion as a child. So, it’s a blessing in disguise indeed. Imagine a journey of a lady who got shaped since her early age by wide variety of music, having all the seeds that slowly grew inside this raw and earthy girl, all these have finally shaped her to be a prime Soul queen as she is today.
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To create her concept into real she’s often backed by her own group named “The Orgasmic Brothers”. It’s a unique name to choose but it is based on good reason. “It’s my band’s alter ego” said Jemima. “I don’t care what they do musically outside, but when they back me up, they need to make me feel good at first.” She also stated that she wasn’t looking for crazy skill but she wanted the band which could bring feelings and sensitivity towards this particular music. From that, the word Orgasmic was created. [flickr id=”5917875346″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”false” size=”medium” group=”” align=”right”]This band could appear in various personnel and formations, but yes, the feelings and sensitivity are important to bring the Soulful concept alive. Nice lineups are supporting her in this debut album, including Fajar Adi Nugroho (bass), Torank Ambarita (electric guitar), Harris Pranowo (keyboard), Aldhi Mahardika (drums) and Muhammad Pradhana Budiarto (percussion) along with some other shining guest artists such as drummer Adityo “Bowie” Wibowo of Gugun Blues Shelter and a special touch by the all round guitar maestro, Agam Hamzah. Jemima gives her all in this album by being the writer, composer, arranger and producer, also stood behind the keyboards, synthesizer and programming. She explained that the making was indeed a hard process. Six or seven months of writing/composing/arranging, and another 6 to 7 months to get them fixed, mixed and mastered. “I couldn’t do anything else except that. I even quit my regular singing gigs for this album” she said. Finding the right musicians, finance and the aftermath like distribution were other things that she faced. This album was mixed and mastered by Danny Ardiono, a famous sound engineer who’s also active at Salihara. All of them worked tremendously in creating the specific world of Jemima where we can find her true spirit that dares to break the ‘typicalism’ of music industry as well as bringing back the joy of pure Soul in Jazz and Blues into our listening pleasure. Being total in this album made her fully attached with it from the beginning. “This is my first child”, she said proudly, “I just hope people knows more about this style of music which not many have listened to.” she added. As how Soul music can easily seduce us, Jemima makes some songs feel real good both by her unique Soulful vocal and melodies, until we can’t help but feeling sexy. “If it comes across that way without making it sound cheesy and nasty, then I’ve done my job well.” said Jemima.
[flickr id=”5917189887″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”false” size=”medium” group=”” align=”left”] Let’s take a peek inside the album started with 30 seconds of “In-tro”, the funky “Mid-tro (Politics Poetic)” and closed with “Out-tro”. Before we look at the list one by one, it’s important to focus on track 8 entitled “Home Grown”. “This song represents who I am fully, and the rest of the album follows.” she said. That’s why it’s better to start from this medium groove beauty. Jemima describes the process of her empowerment in this song with lively tunes. Eventhough Home Grown is not her first single, she decided to start making her video clip with this one since this one brings positive energy and also represents her the best.
Right after the “In-tro” came “Musik Sepi” written based on her frustration on looking at the local industry when she was just back from New York. You can feel her scream of the particular situation through this song eventhough she did infuse some beats in it. This song successfully stands as a hit in many local radio stations. From the scream of frustration she brings us into the bluesy ride with “Don’t Let Me Go.” Agam Hamzah‘s remarkable work in adding the feel into this song through his guitar playing. The collision between the sound of vintage keyboard and roarin’ blues guitar brought magic in becoming the layer of Jemima’s heartfelt scream that appears with many repetitions throughout the lyrics.
[flickr id=”5917748638″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”false” size=”medium” group=”” align=”right”] Listen to the infectious reggae groove in the next song, “Like Honey” where she pours romance in the sweetest way. “Maybe Tomorrow” describes the uncertainty of a love life in its most natural process with the ear catchy melodies and steady medium beat. Then come a “Laid Back” moment. This ‘feel good’ song is very relaxing to hear with a nice stream of funky beat in it. This is the kind of song you want to hear when you are enjoying the wind breezing and embracing your entire body while laying down on the beach. Right after the “Mid-Tro (Politics Poetic)” and “Home Grown” comes another song written in Indonesian called “Kabar Bunda”. This song can be really sad to listen especially when you miss your mother. Since she doesn’t want to let us drown in sadness, Jemima moves on with another delicious funky track, “Imagination”. Then came “Paradise”, one of her hits that she lets it to be downloaded for free on the internet. This burning hot song is arousingly seductive both lyrically and melodically, the kind of song you’d choose for making out. After the steamy song she raises the tempo with “Give Me Your Love”. This high energy song becomes the last song right before she says goodbye with the 30 second “Out-tro (Soul Radio Exit)”.
While Jemima admitted that all she expects is change, her debut album is rooted deeply in the purity and beauty of Soul. It’s a path taken by Jemima to carry on her spirit of offering something fresh, out from the same stuff we hear over and over. Take this album as her first child; she has given birth to a very healthy baby with bright future ahead. She opens up a soulful jazz and blues bridge for us to enter the world of Jemima, the world owned by a lady who dares to stand out differently, sticking out with her strong concept no matter what or how. Through this album we can have the delicious strong taste of the jazzy Soul back into life in a modern urban outfit. This is of course something different from the music we are used to listening to everyday. Whether you look for the music that can make you feel sexy, if you are a soul child, the kind of album with nice melody that’s easy to listen to, or even when you feel like listening to something different, this album is for you.
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In the end, we all can learn a lesson that it can be really good by being different. It’s important to know who we really are, then make something good out of it. We can still reach our success without having to compromise to things that will take our freedom in creativity from us. Jemima has done it, and thanks to that choice, now we can enjoy a truly beautiful album. We don’t know how she could get this strong Soul spirit wrapping her, but let’s just accept the fact that she’s truly gifted by the Supreme power above and know how to utilize it to make something good that will definitely stands longer than her life spanning years. Say hi and let’s welcome Jemima into our music world. Let her bring us into the style of music that not many have listened to.
“From one heart to another, this desire runs through me. Some call it the blues, some call it differently. Something personal, undeniable, good music purifies me. This is my voice, in truth i’m whole. I bare my all, my one pure soul.” – Jemima
Don’t Let Me Go
Mid-tro (Politics Poetic)
Give Me Your Love
Out-tro (Soul Radio Exit)
Jemima (vocal, keys, synth, programming)
Fajar Adi Nugroho (bass)
Torank Ambarita (acoustic/electric guitar)
Adityo “Bowie” Wibowo (drums)
Agam Hamzah (lead electric guitar on “Don’t Let Me Go”)
Live Studio Musicians (on track 1,7, 13)
Fajar Adi Nugroho (bass)
Torank Ambarita (electric guitar)
Haris Pranowo (keys)
Aldhi Mahardhika (drums)
Muhammad Pradhana Budiarto (percussion)
Check out our full length Exclusive Interview with Jemima
Buy Jemima’s album at Jazzuality Online Store: http://store.jazzuality.com/products/cd/jemima/