Speaking about a nation, it can’t be separated with ethnicity, one of the most important aspects of cultural identity. Socially constructed by very individuals to embody the unity, a nation is distinguished from the rest by common descent, language, and history. Indonesia as the largest archipelagic country in the world covers marvelous taste of fine arts and humanities. Fascinatingly, they can be a single coherent entity. Simple words, cultural wealth that spread across 17.508 islands of this state has become a valuable legacy. Nevertheless, now we can’t resist the aggression of modernization. Young generations who live in an era of global multi-media, assuredly get the consequences. Foreign influences might have turned them into foreign products. So, how they should respond it? Tesla Manaf Effendi seemed to know the answer. His interest in jazz made him even more in love with traditional music. He discovered that fusion of Western and Eastern pattern can be a preferential one. That’s interesting.
Virtually, the indigenous arts will survive, as long as the society preserves them constantly. This spirit has brought Tesla along, as a guitarist to an inspiring journey. In September 15, 2011 he launched an album entitled “It’s All Yours”, a very tight collaboration with Mahagotra Ganesha from Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB). Yes, just like what the title says, it’s definitely ours! “This album dedicated to all of us, notably for those common people who rarely listen to instrumental music.” He said. He did the artistic endeavor with a Balinese cultural unit from ITB named Mahagotra Ganesha, also known as MGG. It’s an organization of student activities founded in 1971 on the same date as the album launch, September 15th. It constantly plays an active role in expanding and conserving the music and dance, mainly for internal campus. Actually, its members are native Balinese people who learn at ITB, so they really take the blood and zest of Bali at every show.
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Before moving further, let’s take a little time to see Tesla’s life journey. Looking at this man’s history is like watching a formidable figure. He is willing to sacrifice all he got for his musical desire. He’s struggling and gripping the fighting spirit, even in difficult conditions. He began playing classical guitar since he was still in 5th grade of elementary school. He [flickr id=”6338789147″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”false” size=”small” group=”” align=”left”] said, “I don’t have a great talent in music, so I must work and try harder.” His enthusiasm in jazz started in 2007, and at the same year he joined a community of jazz lovers in Bandung, KlabJazz. He further explored better skill there by playing in many events. Since 2008 he has collaborated with several jazz artists.
First, he joined Karinding Collaborative Project, presented an ethnic-world music. After leaving this group, he formed a duo with a pianist Bayu Kristanto, named Bayu & Tesla. But the group was disbanded because Bayu had to move to Jakarta. Then, by cooperating with Edward Manurung on drum and Gallang Perdhana Dalimunthe on bass, they formed G/E/T and persisted for several time. After the group was no longer active, this guy held a female singer, Grace, to produce a debut album. They carried world music and soul-jazz in one package called Grace & Tesla. Didn’t wanna wait too long, he came back with another duet with Ivan Jonathan on keyboards and made some fresh fusion-modern jazz on their “Dig This” album. A quite shocking resolution has occurred when Tesla collaborated with Mahagotra Ganesha. This exceptional team has melted explorative contemporary jazz with Balinese original instruments. We could feel the dramatic tensions and unique thrills on their CD. It’s obvious he’s a qualified composer.
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There are many names supported “It’s All Yours” album. But, specifically he mentioned three men. They are Gega Nesywara (bass) and Yopi D Nafis (a keys/synthesizer) who were very helpful in working on the arrangement, and Adrian Firdaus who handled the gamelan’s details part. Overall, all personnel have created a beautiful music. Through this instrumental album, he wanted to show that even in moneyless condition, he’s still able to produce an album. Surprisingly, when he made it, in fact he didn’t have any sponsor. And at the album launch event last September, he extremely didn’t receive benefits because he didn’t sell tickets to the audiences. Like he said, “I wanted people to watch the show without any cost.”
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Harmony of gamelan and modern instruments became a sagacious content in their hands. Calling the unit as Tesla Manaf feat Mahagotra Ganesha, Tesla and MGG have been collaborating for several times since their first ensemble appearance at Kampung Jazz Festival Padjadjaran University in 2011. (Check out our coverage from that event here). Starting from an elementary idea about nature, the theme was developed into a long duration song. Got rid of the strict theory, daringly they made it with some explorative mixtures of music. They remind us of several contemporary jazz groups such as simakDialog, Discus, and Krakatau band, but without any intention to follow anyone, Tesla Manaf feat Mahagotra Ganesha does surely appear in different taste.
Diverse atmosphere of this tune reflects the changes of natural phenomena. Tesla divided it into six sections, provided the equal soulful energy to each part. It starts with an explanation, conflict, climax, and terminated by settlement like watching a movie. To obtain all the messages, we must listen sequentially from the beginning to the end. Don’t miss out a single one; otherwise you will lose one episode of the story. So, let’s turn on the CD! Solo drum by Dani Irjayana lively opened the album in medium tempo, followed by guitar, gamelan, and other instruments behind. “I’d love to let the listeners be free to imagine the plots.” Tesla said. Expressive melodies of his guitar scattered a strong aroma. What a rich nuance! Peacefulness, happiness, and all the grace of God depicted explicitly. The Almighty has blessed mankind with natural resources. The air, water, flowers, forests, as if they were right in the eyes. Touches of samba also adorned the song, invited us to run around the large savannah.
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A terrified face took over the command here. The second track has a piece of human unfairness to nature. When the offhand attitude led to gloom, the sorrow shouted out. Possibly it told of the miserable forests and mountains that slowly pulled our lives into a grief. Fundamental pillar of human life began to crumble. However, organisms got the adverse impacts. The arrangement gets sharper in the third track. Gamelan came first, continued by dynamic beats from drum, and wild tones of Mumu’s soprano sax to add tones. A vigorous composition astutely shook our minds and feelings. Before it ended, a nice male voice of Zaky (vocalist of 4 Peniti band) enriched the ornaments. Surprisingly, multi-timbre of those instruments did not bother to each other. At this point they demonstrated their skills specifically. It emphasized the tight rhythms and raised a unique sensation at all.
[flickr id=”6341432722″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”false” size=”small” group=”” align=”right”] Kecak chants and gamelan together started the fourth section; magical aura of Bali was radiated out for a moment. Suddenly, Tesla spilled his expertness in bop, like possessed by demons, and Gega Nesywara on bass added savory spices here. The team delivered a frenzied blend but still got the bright side. Once again gamelan and jazz could be so close in terms of aesthetic art. They gave each other space to stand ahead in showing the preeminence of the sounds. Tesla spoke, “I wish our creation could inspire others. Indeed I made a song when there’s a touching incident.” According to his statement, he loves to take a theme based on reality or any actual events. Catch the scathing criticism implied in the fifth session. Hideous effects by Yopi D Nafis’s synthesizer plus heart-wrenching sighs by Mumu‘s flute described a peak of disaster. Silence and emptiness were highly viscous for four minutes. Only gusts of wind, echoes of water droplets, coincide with moans of nature, there was no chirp of birds or roaring tigers. People no longer respect the environment and treated it badly. The world was a dead faint.
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Hey, let’s get up! Don’t give up! Perhaps that’s the essence of the sixth track, the last track. We still have a hope. Fix up such destructions, maintain nature properly, and we’ll see a better earth. Started with silky smooth groove, the band poured a mellow ambience, and gradually metamorphosed into joyfulness. Fancy jazz flowed through the music, and gamelan modified it as a Balinese folk-contemporary jazz. Ultimately, the vibrant beat of drum and a chant closed the entire songs.
[flickr id=”6339538878″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”false” size=”small” group=”” align=”left”] Traditional elements of Bali always serve lots of attractive aural and visual entertainment as prominent sides. Tesla along with MGG carried these facets to their stage performances. We’ll find a red mask giant, known as Jauk Keras, appears in the middle of the shows. He’s an icon of Balinese folk dance, symbol of a king who was wandering. They displayed him to strengthen the storyline and accentuate the mystical impression to the audience. This team has adapted to each other, faded away the boundaries between jazz and Indonesian genuine music. This combination is a tangible evidence of the excellence of arts. They could unite contrasting cultures without altering their basic characteristics. Tesla and MGG presented their peculiarities and matched them impartially. These are illustrated on “It’s All Yours” album. You should listen to it and you’ll be more concerned about nature. A refreshing breakthrough that should be appreciated!
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Tesla is one of musicians that keep walking on an independent lane. “I can explore my musical passion freely.” Surprisingly, the appreciation of the public is amazing. “It’s beyond my expectations.” He is proud to have fought from point zero. He has acquired a great result, but there’s still a long road ahead. Good luck Tesla and Mahagotra Ganesha! Let’s keep supporting our local musicians!
“If you want to produce a great album, just do it with love that comes from your heart.” -Tesla Manaf Effendi-
Tesla Manaf feat Mahagotra Ganesha are:
Tesla Manaf Effendi – guitar, kecek
Gega Nesywara – acoustic bass
Yopi D Nafis – keyboard, synthesizer
Dani Irjayana – drum, percussion
Mumu – soprano saxophone, flute
Zaki 4 Peniti – vocal
Adrian Fridaus – gangsa, ceng ceng
Dewa Made Dwi Parmana – gangsa, ceng ceng
William Teh Putra – kantil, ceng ceng
Wisnu Pramadi – kantil, ceng ceng
Gede Darma Raharja – jublag, gong, kemplug
– Part 1 (11:17)
– Part 2 (05:59)
– Part 3 (06:23)
– Part 4 (05:46)
– Part 5 (04:00)
– Part 6 (08:57)
The album is available at our online store. Click here to purchase http://store.jazzuality.com/products/cd/tesla-mahagotra/