Kemala Ayu is one of Indonesian senior jazz singer who has been famous as a stage singer. She began her career in the age of 15 in Semarang when she had opportunity to perform with notoriously local jazz musicians, singing jazz songs from George Benson, Michael Frank, Roberta Flack, Shirley Bassey, Al Jarreau, and many more. In 1980, she sang a song Harapan Merdeka which became one of the winning songs from Semarang finalist, on Lomba Cipta Lagu Remaja (Youth Song Creation Competition) which was held nationally by Prambors Radio Station.
She moved to Jakarta at the age of seventeen and Captain’s Bar hired her to perform with Denny TR from Karimata Band, Idham Nursaid, Ronald Panjaitan and singer Enrico Tobing. From that moment Kemala Ayu continually spread her wings in jazz area with her long list of career history. After that she formed a jazz group Canizaro and released 1 album with Black Fantasy which had “Buat Kamu” as an evergreen. Kemala did not stop there, she had another group called Spirit Band and produced two nice albums. Then she became the vocalist of Hydro Band for 5 years (with Helmie Indra Kusuma, Budjana, Rudy Subekty, Ronald Panjaitan, etc), and vocalist of Trigonia Band (with Idang Rasjidi, Yance Manusama, and Cendy Luntungan) also for 5 years. She was also counted as vocalist of Krakatau Band (before Trie Utami joined the band), and vocalist of Jakarta All Stars. What an impressive curriculum vitae she has.
After her last album “Emotions” with Ireng Maulana in 2007, voila! Kemala released her new album, titled “Headlong”, which surprisingly directs to folk genre instead of jazz. With the help of Christoper Springer in writing up the lyrics and music arranger, Yan Machmud (who played all the instruments in this album by himself). “Headlong” has become an album which is enriched by folk ambience.
“Headlong” gives you an impressive prelude through its first song which is “Still Not Sure”. A rich mixture sound of guitar from musician Yan Machmud and a very cheerful country music absolutely fulfill this track. Still Not Sure tells us about playing hard to get. Have you ever expected so bad that someone would give you a call? If you have, this song is yours.
The second track is “The Price You Pay”. Kemala Ayu said, “This song is about break up experience that has happened to the songwriter. So, I guess it means personal for him.” She describes epically within this song that love can last forever even when you are already apart and you have got hurt by the one you love. On the other hand, deep inside your heart, you realize you still love that. Simply composed as accoustic ballad, this song is sounded more like a good advice about the risk of loving someone.
“Headlong” is the next stop and becomes the title of this album. It tells me that falling in love am never been too late; avoid feeling doubt to fall in love. Great to hear a melody full of variety guitar from Yan Machmud and slightly rock ballad, this song represents a girl power in the folk way.
Back to acoustic style, Kemala Ayu sang a song titled “Is It Possible”. It is about recovery phase after being hurt by someone you love. This one combines sad lyric with its simple acoustic background which perfectly explains the nuance of dillemma inside this song.
Continued with up beat ballad “Nothing Useful To Say”, feel free to be liberated. The lyric says, “Don’t let anyone cause you pain and hatred. Leave them all behind, make your dreams come true, and do the things your way.” Kemala added, “This song has been chosen for Australia’s Absolute Country Compilation and they have featured me to promote the album.”
A contradiction from a lovely song, “Lost Love” tells a romance about satyr experience of losing love. With the background of country ballad, let’s feel the other mellow side of Kemala Ayu through this one.
The coming song which is titled “Trapped” sounds like the climax of this album. Started with accoustic guitar intro in the gypsy style, “Trapped” is sung with spanish latin ambience. The intense of guitar sound really describes the confussion in this song; feeling trapped and unable to break out.
“So Good Together” comes next. With light country music background, “So Good Together” is a chill out song yet entertaining. Try to listen to this song in the morning, then you will feel in a good mood and find positive perspective about being together with the ones you love.
Finally, “Missing You” has to end the journey of this album. I figure that “Missing You” is a dramatic country ballad which in my imagination, I see Kemala Ayu singing the reffrain part, “Missing you…. Missing you…. I’m missing you…”, before I see the stand up applause by the audience, filled with satisfaction on their faces. And if you feel kind of missing the album, do repeat it again from the first track.
Generally, “Headlong” has been well prepared. Each song finds its soul by the right support of music background; classic folk, accoustic ballad, pop country, or even spanish latin. It is no wonder that Kemala Ayu must have taken care of “Headlong” patienly for six years. It has resulted as one folk album that cannot be missed.
Still, there is one itchy question we have been thinking to ask her: why did she NOT arrange “Headlong” into a jazz album instead of folk, while she is already been well known as a jazz singer? This is her answer regarding to that question. “After Christopher Springer handed me the lyrics, I tried to compose the melodies in accoustic guitar format with simple cords. All I needed was to find a perfect guitarist to make these songs more soulful. Then I met Yan Machmud, who knew how to arrange perfect folk music. So, Headlong has never meant to be jazz from the beginning and it would sound weird if I insisted to make it as a jazz album.”
She has made her point, and we agree. Do not forget that she will be releasing a new jazz album colaborating with Donny Joesran pretty soon, but “Headlong” is a statement that Kemala Ayu is one of multitalented singer who can sing other genres than jazz, and she wants all jazz lovers to get out of their comfort jazzy zone through her latest album. And to all folk lovers out there, never miss “Headlong” from Kemala Ayu. It is a fresh and easy listening folk album that you are going to love.
Still Not Sure
The Price You Pay
Is It Possible
Nothing Useful To Say
So Good Together
Buy the album at Jazzuality’s online store: http://store.jazzuality.com/products/cd/kemala-ayu-headlong/