Exclusive Interview with Beatluz Founders and Artists

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Most of the CD stores have gone after long struggling with selling. Then, from what we heard, many musicians are having hard times in promoting their works due to the procedures (often costly) they have to pass through in order to get aired. We also heard worries from labels too over this matters, and we also see many musicians chose to go independently to answer their idealism.

If many of the existing labels are struggling, what about making up a new one? Is establishing label still relevant? If the answer is yes, is there anything that still needs to be done in order to accomodate talented young lions and give contribution towards our music industry?

Meet Beatluz, a considerably new label and management established in 2014. The founder Barry Likumahuwa thinks that there are still things to do in shaping up and the talented young fellows to make their album meaningful. Only two years in service just yet, but this label has been doing great by producing some interesting albums consisting of highly gifted young guns, diverse in sound but with clear ‘red line’, musically speaking, which up to this point lies in between the modern, urban soul, RnB, jazz and everything in between. We feel their spirit, passion and energy. We dig their musical character which served in ‘friendly’ idealism. We also notice how much they intend to send possitive messages and vibes whenever they land.

We proudly featured the artists inside the label including the brain behind it for the special edition of our regular community event, Bumi Sangkuriang Jazz Night: Jazztravaganza. In this event they all came full team, spoiling the audience with good quality, tasty trendy music. Barry Likumahuwa himself was there, his girlfriend, the new sensation Adinda Shalahita, drummer/producer/engineer Dimas Pradipta and the young man with shiny achievement in both movie and music, Albert Fakdawer. Among the lineup we also found the next artist with debut album in the making, the trumpeter using the bent trumpet like Dizzy Gillespie, Jordy Waelauruw. One of the TnD, Tommy Pratomo couldn’t come due to his schedule as the sessionist of Marcell, but the appearing artists from Beatluz was enough to show how good they are doing in both recording and live performance. (read the coverage here: http://jazzuality.com/jazz-event-report/bumi-sangkuriang-jazz-night-jazztravaganza-2/).

ExclusiveInterviewwithBeatluz (2)Let’s dig Beatluz deeper, find out what based their establishment, what’s important to them, their way of thinking and their view in today’s music industry and its players.

Many labels are struggling with their selling. We thought, maybe right now making up a label wouldn’t be a good idea. But here you are, establishing and listed under a new label, Beatluz. What’s the reason behind this decision? Is there anything you think still undone?
Barry: The main reason is because Indonesia has so many amazing talents which are still unexposed. The recording process is easy nowadays. One can buy computer, interface, preamp, then they just record themself at home and make an album. But the problem is, they might not think of the concept – which become our next reason. At Beatluz, eventhough these musicians are moving in idealism, they have to think far ahead. Meaning, in the next 10 years their album could become a benchmark, a track record and something to remember. That’s where the basic ideas came from.

You’re not worried of having enough number of fans, or let’s say, buyers?
Barry: Speaking of the kind of music we do, we surely got fans. And actually, these are the type of fans who are willing to buy. I remember when we just entered the digital era, many of pop artists got stressed out because the selling went down and all, the fact is jazz, RnB and soul never had problem with it. Why? Because we have loyal listeners. It’s segmented, and they like to buy. So, we thought like, let’s just do this and grow together. Apparently Dimas Pradipta as the owner of Sum It! Studio offered to collaborate. Almost all of Beatluz products were made in this studio. While some were made by cooperating with other friends like ICan Studio Live, SoundVerve Studio. But basically, we want the ecosystem keeps running. Everyone has to think much forward. What should I do with my album, how the cover should be, etc. That’s what album is about afterall.

On the other hand, there are many young musicians who still don’t know how to make an album, or even recordings.. what’s needed to make one and so on. Are these within your concern too?
Barry: Very much. We do realize it and it’s within our concern, of course.

ExclusiveInterviewwithBeatluz (3)Tell us how Beatluz was started.
Barry: I started this Beatluz in 2014 with Adinda. Then Roy Ouwens joined in and the rest follows. What we asked the musicians first of all was what’s the purpose of making the album. There has to be a reason, and it has to be clear. And for us, we are not just making an album, not only selling, but we want to make changes, we want to give messages through songs. That’s why the albums under Beatluz have messages.

For example, in Albert Fakdawer’s album there’s a song called “Revive Us”, it speaks about the unity of Indonesia, or “Bergerak Maju” talks about moving forward together in working. Then in Adinda Shalahita’s album she speaks about God, about stop listening to negative comments, keep on running to pursue your dream. Dimas’ album is also the same. There is “Find Your Way”, and so on.

So there’s no room for negativity in Beatluz?
We strictly reject that! Hatred, cheating and so on. We move in positivity, as what our name says. Beat, and luz means light from Spanish language. That means we wish the songs to bring light.

So that’s the first step of working on an album?
Yes. It’s important to decide what that one wants to share from the album. That’s the startingpoint of what they are going to make. From there we then discuss about making up the music, cover and so on. They have to be sustainable.

Albert, speaking of sending positive messages or vibes, surely that’s not new for you. You have been doing it before, from the gospel album to Indonesian Youth Regeneration (IYR). Is there anything new you learned after signing up with Beatluz?
Albert: Well, yes, I’ve been through quite a long journey. And along the way, I’ve seen many experiences of others. Let’s say from Barry Likumahuwa himself. I’ve learnt that there are many positive messages we can send from the stage. We don’t just play music, but we have to think of sharing something to the audience. It becomes essential for me now. Because music will stop at some point, but they will bring something when they go home.

I agree that music should give more than just entertainment. And throughout history music has been used as a media to send messages or even criticisms like when we were in repressive era back then. But I think Indonesia is starting to loose it. Nowadays we see so many songs based on negative messages, using it even as a sellingpoint.
Barry: Actually in my opinion, since long time ago Indonesia has been using music mostly only as comodity of entertainment. How many music figures in our country that have messages? We can say some names like Iwan Fals, Franky Sahilatua, Slank.. or those who are making religious songs like Opik, Franky Sihombing and son on. But only a few aware of the importance of sending positive messages through their music. But as how our nation is, we are developing, hopefully it will be better.

ExclusiveInterviewwithBeatluz (7)Beatiful girl with beautiful voice and beautiful songs, that probably would do just enough for the music fans. But Adinda, how important this sending positive message thing to you personally?
It is to me as important as a good news. Actually what you’ve said can be used to send the positive messages. But it actually is important to myself too. Like for example, my song “Jangan Didengar (Don’t Listen)”. People would think that I am a really positive person. But actually, when I made the song, I was struggling with some negative thoughts. Since I don’t want others to be like me, I made the song, saying, guys, let’s be positive. Let’s do it together. So, when I make a song, the message is not only for the listeners but also a reminder for myself.

That’s for the vocalist. Now, as a musician, a drummer, Dimas Pradipta, doesn’t it become more difficult to send the positive message?
Dimas: well, now you’re talking. I see it this way. From the generation above me, only a few have album especially drummer as an instrumentalist. And when I talked to Barry, I said I didn’t want to be a drummer who is only showing off my skill. I actually want my listeners came from people outside the drummers. Because, if I can have a listener who is not a drummer, to me it’s an added value.

Also it’s important to write songs based on your own experience right?
Dimas: Exactly. All of my songs were written based on my personal experience. Like “Find Your Way”, that was really me. When I was still at school, my father used to say: “Do you know what do you want to be?” I said, “I don’t know.” Then he said, “Go find it out.” Few years passed, after I went through the process, I finally realized the importance of finding the true passion and purpose of life. Because that’s the thing that will drive them forward. I believe that everyone was created by God with their own purpose and goal. Unfortunately, many still fail to find it hence, still wasting their time. Once you find it and focus in it, all you have to do is following each and every step of the way.

ExclusiveInterviewwithBeatluz-(8)I agree with you. A calling has to be found, being taken seriously and done with full responsibility. Speaking of a calling, here we got a young man with diversity of it: Albert Fakdawer. You already won some awards including Citra (for FFI Award), MTV and some more. You did very well in it and could have been a huge success if you continued on digging it. What you did in the movie Denias: Senandung Di Awan wasn’t easy. It was an art movie with good result. But then again, before that, being the runnerup of AFI Junior has actually pointed on something else of your talents, also when you were standing in front as a proud member of Indonesian Youth Regeneration. You could have achieved great things in any of these fields, but as it is for now, I see that you are focusing in music. Have you found that your true calling is really music? Are you absolutely sure about that?
Albert: Before AFI Junior, I grew up from church. My father was the member of Black Brothers. He built the family as musicians or singers. About being in the movie, at that time, to be honest, I was praying, asking God what I could do for my homeland, Papua. Then suddenly I heard about the movie and long story short, I got the role. But anyway.. back to your question, yes, I definitely know what my true calling really is, and it’s singing. I have felt it since I was still a kid. What I believe is, I have to be responsible in every talent that God has given me.

How far is the contribution of Beatluz for you guys?
Dimas: As an artist and a person, I need someone to help with brainstorming. “Hey, I made this. What do you think?” kind of. And this man here, (Barry Likumahuwa) is there. We are into the same taste of music. If music were a language, we shared the same language. I need someone to walk with, musically speaking, and he is a great companion. As a musician I tend to create music subjectively, based on what I like. But he is objective. He then suggests this and that to fit the listeners. So for me, that’s really important, for me as a drummer, a musician, so I won’t make a wrong step. I need a guidance so I won’t do too far and I can have the color and keep myself within the line.

But you must still maintain your character right?
Dimas: Yes. Music-wise, maybe what I made is different, depends on what I experienced or felt at a certain time. He would give inputs, then the result could be different. But if, for example, from just two strikes the listeners could know it’s me, to me that’s special. Not just, “hey, you play really good, man..”, not just about complicated or not, but when people could know that’s me who’s playing. That’s what I’m searching for.

ExclusiveInterviewwithBeatluz-(9)More about drums, since it’s not a melodic instrument, it should be harder, because you can’t just make drum beat in a song.
Dimas: Exactly. That’s exactly the point where I need a lot of brainstorming. Like when I was working on the album, the take was done fast. But it’s the selection of sound that takes a long time. As the creator, I already had my preference. But others might feel differently. When you know how to combine both aspects, the result would be special. There, he would give me ideas. You should put it here, there… and so on. That’s the function of Barry as the producer, label and management.

What about outside the technical aspect?
Dimas: Of course, I can easily talk to him too about the marketing and so on.

So, teamwork is important in Beatluz.
Dimas: Very much. I believe that working alone and as a team would be very different. Moving forward as a team is a lot better, because then none of us would do it by keeping up the ego.

The next question might come cliche, but I think it’s classic and will always be relevant. Idealism vs market?
Adinda: For me, in between idealism and market lies integrity. Then there’s compromize. In Beatluz we think it’s important to send positive message. If we are too idealistic, the message won’t be able to spread wide. On the other hand, if we are too market-oriented, we will loose our integrity and won’t be able to send it clear. I think the best is standing between them.
Dimas: what’s important for me is being honest. I can’t force people to listen to my music, but I believe if I play from the heart, people will feel it no matter how. What comes from the heart will land on the heart as well.
Albert: ditto.

What do you say, founder?
Barry: For us what’s important is dialogue. We release an album, okay. Next, who is the market? If the ones who buy only our circle of friends, then there won’t be dialogue. Dialogue occur if people who haven’t known us touched by what we make. In short, whatever you make has to be delivered. That’s why we discuss a lot before we get down to the process. What do you want to give, what songs do you have, and that’s the role of label and producer. Every album has to have storytelling. Even the tracklist is discussed and decided before the songs went into the recordings. The recording process are fast, mostly takes only one month or two. I say, process is the best teacher. We have to be patient in order to get the best result.

Here we are having our jazz community. Then you are label, management and artists under it. These two sides are often not connected. Actually if we are connected, we can achieve our goals together faster. But my question is, how important is community like us to you in order to bridge the gap between idealism and market?
Barry: First of all, Beatluz was born also from community. We started from being friends, we hang out, playing music together and then we began thinking of making something together. For example, at that time Albert was busy with his IYR (Indonesian Youth Regeneration) and some more. When he came and told me that he wanted to make something, the process from shaking hand as a gesture of gentlemen’s agreement to making something was filled with frequent hang out and discussion, until we finally found the vibe.

ExclusiveInterviewwithBeatluz (1)So, community is important for you guys.
Barry: very, it’s number one. That’s why, for us being in a community like this, we are in, no matter what. I always told them that you got to understand that you need the market, but the market also needs content. Up to the point where you have the power to bargain, you have to appreciate communities. And even when you have established yourself as an artist, you still have to appreciate them, because that’s where you started from. Only there are certain standards or requirements that must be met, but other than that you have to understand the condition of communities. We never think twice to play at the community events. We are always happy to support it. Without communities we won’t be able to run as well.

Speaking of the selling?
Barry: Here’s what interesting. It’s a fact that communites are actually the best buyers. The most selling we made is when we perform. Last May we played as a team in Singapore, the CDs got sold out. We are glad that even abroad the audience listen to us with enthusiasm. Nowadays, you don’t have to be famous first to make your works heard, not anymore. It’s more like bottom up now.

It’s interesting to see Beatluz With still not so many albums yet, your musical color is strong and clear, genre-wise speaking. I found the music lies between RnB, Soul, Jazz especially smooth jazz and fusion, Modern urban sound. Does it happen naturally or you guys planned it from the beginning?
Barry: Since we were born from the community and apparently love the same music taste, naturally the red line appears. That’s something really natural. If you ask us to mention 5 names of favorite artists, you will find the some same names. We listen to the same music, but we don’t deny the possibility that we might also like other styles or references. In short, we love to have the red line, but each album still has to be specific. You can clearly see or feel the red line between Albert’s and Adinda’s music, yet when you listen to their albums, both are really different. Even Dimas who share the same album with Tommy Pratomo, you can easily differ their musical concept. It’s really obvious.

But then, speaking of vision, after being created naturally, we started observing our style of music. We look for the kind of sounds and then directing our concept to that. In other words, what have been built naturally has to be amplified.

I think a successful label must have a clear music specification. We have learnt that throughout history. Name some like Motown, ECM, MoonJune…
Barry: Exactly. BlueNote Records, Cadillac and so on. All have really clear specification of music.

Motown, Stax and the sound of Philadelphia share the red line, yet we can still easily differ their music since they have clear music type.
Barry: Yes, exactly. We want to go that way.

Will there be genre expansion in Beatluz? Let’s say for example..will there be rock?
Barry: It is very possible. It has to be still within the existed redline. But yes, it is possible.

ExclusiveInterviewwithBeatluz (6)

As a new label, maybe making up a sampler would be good. Do you have one?
Barry: Yes, as a matter of fact we do. What we take as the pilot project is the album “Feel Good Collective”, released in January 2015 before “Rekam Jejak vol 1 ft Benny Likumahuwa Jazz Connection”. The album is thin, consisting of only 8 songs. This pilot project was made as a compilation. You can find Albert, Adinda, Dimas, Jordy and others. This album gives samples of how our music is like.

How did you make the album?
Barry: We went into the studio together, we didn’t have the song just yet, so I said, let’s make them on the spot. So we digged them together. We made one song after another, then, there, we realized the color of our music. From there, it spread. Each of them made their own album.

Last question. I believe many young musicians would love to know what they should do to join the label.
Barry: It’s related to what I explained before. We want to welcome anyone, but since we are built upon the community, first they have to hang out with us. If anyone ask, how? It’s actually easy. It’s not difficult at all to find us and hang out with us. We are very welcome, and we always love sharing. There are many fellow musicians like here in Bandung that we might still know only their names or only have their contacts, but whenever we meet, we hang out. That’s first. Then, speaking of musicality, they got to have integrity, idealism.. their vision has to be clear.

And what’s also important is they have to be able to do good live performance. We don’t only think of recording. For us recording is just the first step. In the end, you will be out there delivering your message. If you want to send it out loud, you got to do it by performing live. As well as being able to fully representing your true musical soul.

Independent, idealist, but also not against the market. I have big hope for you guys. Wish you all and Beatluz the best!
Thank you!

ExclusiveInterviewwithBeatluz-10Interviewed by: Riandy Kurniawan and Bintang S Tania
Photos by: Titus Firmanto
Header photos by: Krisda Komara and Riandy Kurniawan .

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