Since the emergence of Blues at the end of the 19th century (historians tend to peg it around 1890), this highly influential genre which was developed in the Southern America and built from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants and rhymed simple narrative ballads has been evolving tremendously. Today we enjoy varieties of Blues either the pure ones or the crossovers. Happy to see that this ‘roots of all modern musics’ is still alive and kicking, grabbing more and more fans from the newest generations just like how it was in its birth. From Blues we got many other big genres like Rock, Rock n Roll, Jazz, Soul, RnB and so on, which not only still reflect the pure Blues forms but also amazingly found their way to create uncountable hybrids by being blended in with the good ol’ Blues.
How interesting it is to see that Blues has been taken as the theme for celebrating Ramadhan in Purowkerto, the capital of Banyumas regency located in Central Java region, for 5 years in a row already. Purwokerto is not really a big city, yet we can clearly see how well Blues live in the hearts of people in Purwokerto. For 5 years Gasebu UMP (Galeri Seni & Budaya, Muhammadyah University of Purwokerto) with Aziz No End of Demajors as the promoter do a lot of efforts to keep this annual event simply called RAMADHAN BLUES running. No sponsors, but still able to serve each edition free of any charge. Blues to celebrate Ramadhan? Why not. There’s nothing wrong to celebrate Ramadhan with Blues, as long as the essence and spirit of this holy month can still be kept alive. It was held without skipping the Tarawih (a special prayer muslims perform in the month of Ramadhan) plus involved Tausiah (religious guidance/sermon) as an intergrated package too.
What was in it in the 5th installment, RAMADHAN BLUES 2014? This time Gasebu uMP decided to bring wider Blues coverage, inviting bands/musicians and gave them freedom to interpret Blues according to their own perceptions. That’s why they carried it with Cross Over the Blues as the theme.
According to Satria Ramadhan as the chairman of Gasebu UMP, every Blues musician has their own style to represent their music color. So Gasebu UMP wished to facilitate that perception especially this year. What they are also manage to proof is that the assorted Blues meals are really tasty.
On last Tuesday (July 15, 2014) crowds started to fill up the Rectorate’s Yard of Universitas Muhammadyah, Purwokerto since the afternoon. The audience varied from campus students to officeworkers, even the parents who came to enjoy the show with their children.
The Ramadhan Blues 2014 which was divided into two sessions ran well and on time. The first session began at 15:30 with “The B”, a young bluesman that has made several singles. Jess Kidding, a jazz-oriented group presented another different taste as the second performer. Gaha & Teleskeblues from Banjarnegara brought in more people into the fest. Anak Hilang Blues Band came in with their Texas Blues style and Brewok & Bangblues that combined Blues with comedy ended the first session neatly. The drizzling rain that occured in this first session couldn’t stop the audience from staying in the venue.
The second session started right after Tarawih with Syarif Hidayatullah from Jogjakarta. This man brought the classy Delta Blues into the palette. This act directly followed by jam session by Syarif Hidayatullah, Bangkit Herlambang, Daniel and Gendit. All of them are guitarists from different generations.
La Grange was the next band. They presented their new songs that played for the very first time in this Ramadhan Blues 2014. This very own Gasebu UMP band managed to grab more crowds. The night got hotter with a duo from Surakarta, Jungkat-Jungkit. Their single titled “Kuku” was very much loved by the crowds. The solo guitar playing by Aditya Bayu made this annual Blues fest shone bright. Like a wizard he spelled everyone to get deep into his beautifully poured melodies. Widhie Bluesman continued to steal attending people’s hearts. (Check this video out when he played “Last Horizon (Song for Rani)” here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?a=&feature=youtu.be&v=X5cQrspqQ8k).
The Project Officer of Ramadhan Blues 2014, Kartiko Eko Novandra (Noval) said that the musical passion of Purwokerto people has shown a really positive sign. It can be seen from the enthusiasm of the Ramadhan Blues 2014 audience. The official CD and merchendise booth of Demajors Purwokerto was also crowded. That clearly shows much better appreciation to artits’ works. Since Demajors deals with independent artists, we can be happy to notice the fact that music can be a reliable profession too today, even if you choose to be an independent fighter. The wind is now perfect to sail! So you don’t have to be affraid to work your career as a musician.
At one corner of the venue, anyone can pose in front of the wall of fame that was already facilitated by the committee. This become one of the highlight of music fest since people can have some moments to remember from the particular event, including this biggest and baddest Blues event in Purwokerto.
The main eventer for this year’s edition belong to Tesla Manaf Effendi. He came there to play with his quartet formation featuring Khrisna Alda Radiansyah (bass), Desal Sembada (drums) and Hadis ‘Hulhul’ (clarinet/sax), a format shaped according to his go-international debut under MoonJune Records, USA. We have heard his stunning, world-class jazz progressive acoustic experimental concept that should have pushed his brilliance and genius brain to the limit. So now, Purwokerto got the chance to experience his new, edgy move. In this event he collaborated with Endah and Ardi, both are the students of Indonesian Literature of Purwokerto Muhammadyah University. Together they interpreted poem into music. The duel between Tesla and Aditya Bayu was also stunning to watch.
One thing we know for sure, this young man originally from Bekasi but now resides in Bandung is going to be succeed in penetrating the international market with his crafts. An international star in the making? You bet. While his collaborative project with ITB’s Mahagotra Ganesha is still running well especially with the new released Reissue edition of “It’s All Yours” (http://jazzuality.com/jazz-news/tesla-manaf-feat-mahagotra-ganesha-its-all-yours-reissue/), he’s going to be busy with finalizing his international debut album right away. As we knew him from the beginning, we are proud to see where he’s at today. Purwokerto must have enjoyed his music as much as we do.
Ramadhan Blues 2014 wishes to trigger musicians to keep working productively. To support this mission, the committee required each band to play at least one of their original works in their acts.
Aziz No End as the promoter told us this: “What I wish is actually simple. I look forward to see is the time when music fans in Indonesia give appreciation to the works of our own musicians, when the sense of belonging have established between them. That will motivate musicians to create more pieces I also hope to see the music development be distributed evently, not centralized in the big cities but also being spread to the other cities in Indonesia.”
For the fifth time Gasibu UMP and Aziz No End of Demajors successfully graced the month of Ramadhan with assorted taste of Blues in Purwokerto. Looking at the positive response and achievement, we have no doubt to see the 6th edition next year. Who will be playing and what the concept will be? That’s for us to wait. But one thing for sure, you can thank them for keeping the Blues flame burning in this art and transit city. The HD quality of Ramadhan Blues 2014 is to be expected in the official Ramadhan Blues Youtube, so if you live far from it, you can still watch the highlight very soon. Blues on, Purwokerto, see you again next year!
Find all the photos taken from Ramadhan Blues 2014 in this Flickr album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jazzuality/sets/72157645341677728/
Reporter: Lusy (@lusya_liann)
Photographer: Adi, Dayu Sukma, Anggy (@StagePurwokerto)
Edited and translated by: Riandy Kurniawan