5th Asean Jazz Festival 2012 – Day 1 : Report

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The 5th Asean Jazz Festival had finally arrived in the beautiful city of Batam! Ever since the launch of it’s publication two months ago, people from around the globe have been keen to come to this event for so many reasons including the chance to see wide arays of artists from more than 10 nations (along with many interesting collaborations from them). Better off was, the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy of the Republic of Indonesia, Kepri Province and Batam City supported and facilitated the event with what they had. With Dwiki Dharmawan seated as the Festival Director, we knew from the beginning that the quality of this festival would be very well kept.  The latter exaclty knew how this great event would boost up tourists to come to this beautiful city which is located in a very strategic site, able to be accesses by ferry or plane very easily from Singapore and Malaysia. So, pointing out the Cross Border Tourism, the festival wishes to attract tourists especially from the neighbrouring countries other than the local ones and also from other parts of the globe. How happy we are to see that jazz can be a great ambassador for this mission.

Nineteen shows, three stages, two days straight, and totally free! With all that provided, you could enjoy the feel of jazz brought by multi-national participants serving all kinds of jazz on various plates (where many traditional ethnical forms were being fully exposed too) while enjoying the gentle wind and sea breeze scent along the beach.

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For the first day of the 5th Asean Jazz Festival 2012, the commitee had nine acts differing from stage to stage. Ardhya Band from Batam and the female band Starlite started heating everyone up before the festival officially opened. Ardhya Band started first with groovy pop jazz tunes such as Fariz RM’s hit from 1979 “Selangkah Ke Seberang”, Sheila Madjid’s “Sinaran” and also “Spain”.  Standing as one of two representatives of the homeland, Ardhya Band showed that they can give up a good show. This band appeared in complete team including vocals, keyboard, bass, drums, guitar and violin. What a surprise to see two little boys in this band, positioned on drums and guitar.  You should know that Batam also has a lot of potential young musicians. Way to go, Ardhya Band, we’re proud of you.

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[flickr id=”7419549822″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”true” size=”medium” group=”” align=”left”]Starlite replaced them and carried on the action. All receiving their formal music education at Farabi Music Education Center, Sheila Permatasaka , Jeane Phialsa and Rieke Astari represented that girl power by bringing in  their fusion style and an astonishing drumming action by Alsa who had been in Farabi since eleven years old. With a background of music since their early childhood, they successfully brought moments that captivated the audience watching.

Such a stunning fusion blasted big early in this first day with them.  These girls rocked the audiences with their own songs such as their single “Di Dalam Hatimu” and pinned our own folk song “Cik Cik Periuk” nicely.  The popular young soulful singer Matthew Sayersz joined them and scat through “Night in Tunisia” before singing his single from his debut solo album “Bukalah Hati”. We’re really proud of you girls! All the best with your upcoming album and keep it up!

[flickr id=”7419979596″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”true” size=”medium” group=”” align=”right”] The opening ceremony started at 7 p.m a welcome speech by the Vice Minister of The Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy of the Republic of Indonesia Mr. Sapta Nirwandar. Head of Kepulauan Riau Province Tourism Office Mr Guntur Sakti, the festival director Dwiki Dharmawan and others joined the stage too. This ceremony followed by Dwiki Dharmawan  with his new trio consisiting of two lethal young guns, Demas Narawangsa (drummer) and Shadu Shah Chaidar (bassist). Also on stage were percussionist Steve Thornton originally from USA but currently living in Malaysia and British trumpeter having experience playing with many Indonesian jazz musicians over the years, Ian Ingram.

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[flickr id=”7419981276″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”true” size=”medium” group=”” align=”left”] This multinational team heated everyone up with their hot-spicy fusion wrote by Kamal Musallam entitled “Rima”  that attracted every attendees and forced them to clapped their hands and cheered. “Not only we unite nations in this festival, but also generations.” Dwiki said before he called the beautiful songstress Sierra Soetedjo on stage.

Sierra Soetedjo charmed the audiences with her satin soft vocal character, beauty and charisma. Together with Dwiki Dharmawan and friends started with  “Save the Last Dance For Me”  in samba party,  She greeted the audience before they carried on with “At Last”. Her voice became thick in soulful blues in this song. Along with Dwiki’s charming blues-gospel  piano playing  and the nice work of everyone, their version now stands as one of the most beautiful ones we’ve ever heard. The swingin’ “Cheek to Cheek” became the song that ended her session in grand. Ian Ingram gave cool trumpet run in this one.  Dwiki Dharmawan’s composition sealed up this big party on the Wonderful Indonesia Stage. The solo run by Demas, Shadu were stunning and awarded by claps and cheers by the crowds. All in all, it was a grand and highly entertaining show.

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After such a spectacular show, we went to the other two stages where two shows were served at the same time. At the Economy Creative Stage, Bigu Suara impressively had the audience in their hands. This group was led by the maestro of Minang (West Sumatra) Music, artist, composer and teacher, M. Halim from Padang Panjang who masters the authentic legacy of Minang Music. Bigu Suara wasn’t only just the name of the team but also stood as the theme which was diverted into 4 parts. “It’s like us..there’s head, body, legs etc..” explained Mak Lenggang, the name M Halim’s folks like to call him as. As I was told to bring something unique, after serious consideration,  this is what I came with.” he added further. Interesting? Keep reading, we’ll give you more.

[flickr id=”7420311434″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”true” size=”medium” group=”” align=”right”] The interestingly unique Bigu Suara started with “Hujan Ameh Dirantau”, presenting M. Halim himself on solo saluang before Steev Kindwald joined in with the traditional algozah from the Indus Valley.  A very different atmosphere appeared from them. Earlier we talked with Steev for many hours in the hotel’s lobby where he shared his explorative adventure visiting some of the ancient and traditional cultures like the Indian villages, Gujarat, Japan, the Middle East, Indus Valley, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos all the way to Pakistan. All these experiences made us realize how all the world’s musics are actually historically connected, there are actually so many spaces still left untouched, and how the combination of these musics can create magic, even helps a lot to bring the spirit of peace. Specifically about agozah, he explained that the tuning is quite similiar to Minangs’ Pauah and also told us how this ancient music makes a bridge between human and nation. The percussion team  joined them until the end.

In the next song “Dialog Keramahan”, we got the chance to taste the vocal harmony with all the acrobats and play-arounds. No music at all, just voicings that were really, really entertaining. “Orang Unggan Bertegur Sapa” was delivered with the combination of talempong, sarunai, saluang and vocal. Then for the last drop, M Halim brought “Low and High II” where he showed a tremendous solo saluang (both big and small) combined with singing.

If Mak Lenggang was already amazing with his Bigu Suara percussions, Steev Kindwald gave an extra push to make this show became undescribably unique. It was nothing but pure traditional music with instruments made from natural resources with lots of spaces to improvise.  the freedom of playing, the fun, the wide array of combinations, even the spirit itself are all pointed to jazz. In a way, they served a magical spirit of Minang Music with lots of surprising rare blends, something that should remind us of how rich our culture is and how actually it can go hand in hand with today’s music. Wow, what a show!

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Meanwhile at the Ocean Stage, we felt happy to finally able to see the band came all the way from Amsterdam, The Brag Pack, supported by the Embassy of Neteherlands. This band consisting of Indonesia’s young pianist prodigy Sri Hanuraga, Hungarian Dániel Mester (tenor/soprano sax), half Aruban/half Dutch Roald Becher (drums) and German Paul Rutschka (bass), also joined the lineup. What’s interesting about this band is that their multi-layered backgrounds resulted in a wide musical/jazz spectrum executed in mad creativity. Some might refer it to contemporary fusion, but their music is actually infused by uncountable inside influences from bop/hardbop, swing, funk, blues to modern groove, progressive, experimental and even classical. To top that off, this band gave a daring twist in pinning Indonesian traditional folk songs containing pentatonical scales, recreating them into their own style. This all, created a surprising intercept of musical dimensions, making you feel as if you are sitting in Charlie Parker, John Coltrane of Sonny Rollins’ gigs in the bop emergence era but with much wider sound scopes.

They didn’t want to wait any longer to present their music. “On The Road” became the first song to greet the people who stood in front of their stage. This song showed their energy over funky groove, resulting something joyful that fitted perfectly as an opening. They carried on with other songs listed in their album “Just Braggin'” (available at our online store: http://store.jazzuality.com/products/cd/the-brag-pack-just-braggin-amsterdam/) including the unique version of “Bangun Pemudi Pemuda”, “Ilir-Ilir” and “Cublak Suweng”, being twisted in a way that we never listened before. Other songs like “Blues for McCoy”, Cassubian Notes”, “Daddy’s Habit” and “Drive By” were served chilled as well. The Brag Pack surely brought us into a wondrous jazz journey. What a magical experience. They will play again on the second day, so if you miss the first chance, make sure to be there by then.

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We might not find many jazz artists in Thailand especially those shining under the international spotlight. But back at the main stage, A beautiful artist from Thailand and also adjunct professor in vocal jazz at Rungsit University’s Jazz Department, Natasha Patamapongs poured her jazz soul with her satin-smooth voice wrapped up in full emotion making it such a heart-warmer. Her performance was a request from fans wanting to see her back in action this year with a performance of an all-star cast of the highly experienced female pianist Nita Aartsen, the ‘drummer of 1000 bands’ Gerry Herb, trumpeter Ian Ingram and great bassist from Philippines who’s also known as the member of K10 Bands, Jeri De Leon serving as one of the multi-national collaborations at this festival. Adi Darmawan was featured too in this show.

Starting with her own songs “Something Happen To Me”, “Rainbow Connection”, and her favorite “Guess Who I Saw Today” she turned the night into romantic scene, turning at least 3000 audiences deeply in swingin’ love. From there she switched to Latins, where samba and bossa nova ruled on stage. That included singing in her native Thai language and Portuguese. In the Thai song Jeri De Leon demonstrated his demonic funky fingers. Later on Steve Thornton joined in to give more percussion touches. It was really, really nice. This wasn’t her first appearance at the Asean Jazz Festival, but it was the first time for us to watch her live. Thumbs up Natasha, we enjoyed it!

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The second and third stage got heated again afterwards. First, let’s take a look at the stage where Yeppi Romero did his action. The young girl drummer Alsa from Starlite was back again on stage along with senior bassist Harry Toledo. Yeppi Romero is a guitarist very well known with his delightful flamenco touch among other Latin musics he’s also capable of. As a proud son of the Batak tribe, he also happily stands as the representative of the respective ethnic through his project called Batakustik. Another important thing from his achievements is that a in 2008, a MURI record was presented to him for playing 150 songs for 10 hours non stop, in 10 genres and 4 languages, along with 100 top class Indonesian musicians. Other memorable shows have been brought up by this talented musician, including his collaboration with DJ Max Don at two editions of Java Soulnation Festivals,  in 2010 and 2011.

Yeppy opened up in great Latin solo guitar pinning “Spain” in a whole different tune and made people shouted cheerfully. Then he asked Harry Toledo and Jeane Phialsa (Alsa) to accompany him and the show turned into groove. Harry successfully connected the audience with the show and had fun with them. Alsa as usual charmed everyone with her great drum playing. A Batak song was served in rock n roll with jazz ambience on the guitar. The combination of Latin guitar, bass groove and energetic female drummer made this session turned out to be highly entertaining and lovely.

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At the same time of Yeppy’s performance on stage, next door’s stage held a poppy jazz show featuring the famous Calvin Jeremy and one of Indonesian Idol’s alumni, Karen Pooroe. The talented young Calvin Jeremy always believes that pop and jazz listeners can be united under the same roof without any gap. To him, jazz is never segmented only for high class or adult/elder listeners, but it can suit everyone, regardless of their gender, age or status. His friendly stage act in singing and playing guitar at the same time may remind you of John Mayer, but of course he has his own music style which is very attractive to a wide array of listeners, especially the youngsters. Karen Pooroe herself comes from the musical family of Zen receiveing the same musical blessings like most of her family members. She has a lovely thick soulful tone in her voice perfect for a jazzy tune. Though she did not come out as the winner of the talent show, but she sure came out as a winner of her own style on stage.

They all delivered what pop-jazz seekers were waiting for. Fully backed by the Farabi Band featuring Tendra (bass), Eink (guitar), Rieke (keys) and Seffrino (drums), they kept everything in pocket by singing their hits and recent popular songs. Karen started first with set of songs including “Love on Top” and “How Come You Don’t Call Me”, then sealed her part by doing a duet with Calvin on “Moves Like Jagger”.  Calvin continued the session by singing his own hits such as “Berdua” and “Maaf”. While on the other stage the crowds were seduced by Latin and groovy beat, this Economy Creative stage presented hot pop jazz groove with the spirit of youth.

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As much as we love the whole scene, the schedule for Day One came to an end with two good friends, on and off stage, Donny Suhendra and Trie Utami.Perhaps most of us, especially the adults would link them to the supergroup Krakatau, but they have been supporting and collaborating with each other in other occasions too. After the lovely show at the previous Java Jazz Festival 2012, we finally saw them join forces together again in Batam with such a strong chemistry.

[flickr id=”7421234972″ thumbnail=”medium” overlay=”true” size=”medium” group=”” align=”left”]Drummer Demas Narawangsa, keyboardist Roberto Joko and the eccentric bassist of Ligro Trio looking more like a spiritual leader than a musician, Adi Darmawan enriched this gig with their skills.Together with Donny Suhendra, they started with some original fusion instrumentals such as “Ten Spirit”, “Pagiku.”

Then Trie Utami came on stage under heavy applauses from the audiences. She brought the first song originally sang by Noa,  “I Don’t Know” and then continued on with a sweet song from Krakatau written by Indra Lesmana and Pra Budidharma, “Save the Whales”. Dwiki Dharmawan replaced Roberto Joko and gave thanks to everyone participating in this festival and invited the audiences to come again tomorrow. The crowds popped when their ‘reunion’ brought back one timeless Krakatau song from 1986, “Gemilang”. Trie Utami asked Steve Thornton to give some percussive treat and once again the crowds popped because they played another Krakatau’s hit, “Sekitar Kita”.

Trie Utami once again showed that she’s a true entertainer with unique and excellent singing voice as she brought such an interactive show by connecting to the crowd. With their performance, they wrapped the first day of Asean Jazz Festival into a pretty package for everyone.

Many unforgettable performances, rainbow-like jazz styles, interesting and spellbinding moments colored the event. Multi-national atrists and a diversity of stages reflected a sign of peace towards music. We love the vibe from Batam audience. They were responsive and weren’t shy to show their excitement. Estimated about 3000 audiences for the first day were there enjoying the package.

Day one done, day two to go! Curious enough? Let’s join us or wait until we post the second day of Asean Jazz Festival 2012 report.

See more pictures:

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Reporter: Riandy Kurniawan, Khairiyah Sartika Syofian
Photographer: Anggha Nugraha, Yockie Verinico Simamora

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