The Indonesian jazz world got shocked last month when a highly respected figure Riza Arshad passed away in his sleep. He showed no sign of health problem but the heart attack took away his life so suddenly at the age of just 53. Riza Arshad was a brilliant artist who was committed not only in crafting masterpieces but also to nurture, guard and mentor the young musicians who we depend on carrying our future of jazz.
His brainchilds are outstanding and widely praised by the world. Look at his internationally acclaimed simakDialog which presented a cross ethno-jazz progressive ensemble through a continuous research and development for over 20 years. If you listen to sD’s album from the first album to the last one, you will see a fascinating story of his mind and creation. Then, you can also see his love over the subtle funk influenced of early jazz-rock in Trioscapes. As a key-wiz, he explores much further than just using piano or keyboard as he is well known as a master of rhodes. Many musicians agree that he was able to produce creamy sound with this instrument.
If you go back to the late 70’s, you will find one of his first milestones in an Art Rock Fusion group called Rara Ragadi which also featured his elder brother, Iwan ‘Luke’ Arshad. Just by listening through these bands, you would find out that Riza is one of a kind. He was a virtuoso, he was a genius composer. “As a composer, there’s none like him.” said Indra Lesmana. The way he pushed the boundaries in musical creation, the way he worked in using kendang to replace the role of drums, then enhanced its role to go beyond the rhythm keeper or producing beat are monumental, something he was still working on until his final day.
If playing with other senior musicians are considerably normal, you should know that had been giving his time on the young musicians as well. He created many events that gave more chances for these young cats to establish their solid grip. Often he didn’t just open a playground, he also provided clinics or workshops that have borne fruits. For example, his work as the creator and curator of Serambi Jazz for Goethe Institut Indonesien allowed us to see many artists who have committed their lives to jazz, both from Indonesia and Europe, mainly Germany. There were many successful musicians and bands today started from the workshops he provided in Serambi Jazz.
His collaboration with much younger musicians has given a lot of benefits too to their career and helped to create new musical horizon. W/H/A/T and Tuslah could be a great example of this side of him. Interestingly, you could find him too in so many independent (indie) bands and projects, inside or outside jazz. He was rooted in jazz, but he liked to stretch his journey beyond limit. As a person he was humble and down to earth. He was friendly and warm to everyone, and he never gave complain or negative statement to anything or anyone. What we describe here is just a few of Riza Arshad’s life story. That’s why he is one of a kind, that’s why we miss him a lot.
As he has inspired us in many ways, we just have to make a special tribute to him in our event as a way for us to pay respect, remember and carry his legacy. Just a day after friends in Jakarta made a phenomenal tribute to him in an event called “Riza Arshad Berkarya” at Gedung Kesenian Jakarta, we held much smaller one as a special edition of our regular monthly event in cooperation with the venue Braga CityWalk and KPH Music, the Braga Jazz Night. By giving it a theme “For Riza Arshad”, we intended to give this edition to him with full respect. By having that in mind, we invited the combination of a project came from his idea, a cross ethno-progressive jazz quintet and two groups of youngsters in a hope to be able to highlight his music style, his heart, passion and wish, as well as letting him know that we will carry his legacy here in Bandung.
Performing first was a relatively new band, Lala & the Mates. We said relatively, because this band consists of friends who have been playing together for quite some times. It features a soulful singer Fadhilla ‘Lala’ K Pramastij and the mates: Joe Bastian (bass), Omega Touselak (keyboard/synthesizer), Anthony Joseph (guitar), Dony Manurung (keyboard) and Kevin Bernard (drum). We know these musicians and recognize their ability and achievement. So, eventhough the band is just built, the personnels inside are not new to us at all. More about the singer Lala, she has been consistantly active in talent searches shows on various tv channels, from TransTV in 2010, X Factor in 2015 to The Voice. Luck hasn’t been on her side just yet, but this girl has something special that we really want to explore and expose. With all these facts, we knew we could count on them in this tribute.
Choosing The Carpenter’s evergreen “Close to You” for the first song was nice, since then Lala could demonstrate her gift on vocal to everyone layered by sweet music by her mates. The jazzy rearrangement over a well known song worked well too for the audience. This song also gave enough space for the musician to show their skill. Then they gave a song related to Riza Arshad: “Ini Rindu”. This is the song of Mian Tiara from her album “The Comfort of My Own Company” released in 2014, sung only accompanied by piano played and composed by Riza. Dony Manurung covered the piano part very well. Just like the original, eventhough this song is really short, the emotion and classic elements were captured beautifully by Lala and Dony.
Another evergreen written by Paul Anka and popularized by Frank Sinatra “My Way” was their third choice before sealing the performance with groovy nu soul on India Arie’s “Yellow”. This song shows Lala’s forte which lies in between soul, RnB and jazz standards.
With only four songs, Lala and the Mates gave us an impression that they are promising. Lala captured the emotion contained in the songs perfectly well with her voice, and her mates provided good jazz-based music. Nice selection of songs including heartfelt cover of songs related to Riza Arshad shows that this band knows their exact playground and ready to sail in any wheather. They are just begun, we hope they carry on because we do see something in them. Would love to see their progress in the future.
The second act featured a stunning young female guitarist Nayra Dharma and her new group, The Nayra Dharma Trio. As a proud daughter of bass legend (co-founder of the superband Krakatau) Pra Budidharma, she does inherit the awesomeness inside her blood vein. But it’s important to know that she’s not taking it for granted. Instead, ever since she stated her wish to pursue her career in jazz, she has been working hard to equip herself. She spends hours of practice every day both in guitar playing and singing. By having this kind of spirit and effort, no wonder she was ready much faster than normal.
She has been riding her career for more than a year, gaining experiences everywhere from small to big, international stages, from lots of jam sessions to being featured either solo or as a part of a band. What’s interesting is, she doesn’t just play guitar, she works hard to go beyond limit, to come close to the skill of long time experienced musicians and legends. In order to do so, she often overworked and injured her fingers, but that’s never enough to stop her from establishing herself as a skillful artist which we believe will place her among the jazz greats of the future.
Now she has established the next step of her career in a trio. Joining her are another sensational young musician, Nicholas Dheo on bass and the energetic drummer Alman Naufal. This was their second gig since they were formed a couple of months ago. Calling the band simply as The Nayra Dharma Trio, the young lady and two lads are looking forward to paint the nation’s jazz canvas with their vivid colors.
We know Nayra as a brave girl who dare to take risk and never stop challenging herself to do difficult things, even the impossible, especially to those who are considerably new to this. By having partners like Dheo and Alman, she seems motivated to go extra mile. That’s the impression we got from her songlist. Look at the song they began with: “Lady Bird”. This sixteen bar jazz standard composed by Tadd Dameron from decades ago is quite rare to find among musicians’ repertoires in the nation today, yet the young lady and two lads nailed it. We have heard her play one of her favorites, “Lullaby of Birdland” when she was still flying solo, but this time it appeared differently with a trio. She sang and exploring the fret at the same time. The next playground was “Billie’s Bounce” and threw their final punches on “Farmer’s Market”.
We have invited her a couple of times in both of our regular events, which allows us to see her progress time after time. Now she has found reliable team mates who she can share her passion and happiness with: a genius 15 year old bassist and blazing drummer. The Nayra Dharma Trio has everything needed to give a strong statement. They are brave, bold and sharp in exploring the jazz terrains and willing to spend hours and hours of practice every day. A good combination of passionate young lions like this should be well kept and developed, since they still have more than enough chances to grow. We are happy to see the birth of a pure jazz band like this, because then we know we don’t have to worry of the jazz regeneration and its future.
It’s nearly impossible not to involve any ethno-jazz crossovers in a tribute to Riza Arshad. We totally realized it. Since it’s not easy to play this kind of music, there are not many bands do it. But even so, that doesn’t mean we have none either. In fact, we do have some really good ones who open up a new horizon by sticking in the east-meets-west and traditional-meets-modern concept. In the previous edition we have invited the mind-bending ethno-jazz progressive band, West Java Syndicate. This time we brought in another ensemble from the same roots but has their own distinctive character. The band’s called LALAKON.
Lalakon consists of 5 musicians coming from different backgrounds. Rian Rastian (Rian Lalakon), the guitarist is a member of BGC (Bandung Guitarist Compilation). Lian Sianipar (Gepe) is also the bassist of rock band Orock, the homeband of Antv’s program Selamat Malam Indonesia. Cilprayoga Sandy (Acil), the bamboo flute/woodwind player is a member of Indonesian Bamboo Society (IBS), while Rasyid Vanadi (Acid) is from Komunitas Iket Bandung and the gamelan player of LISENDA (Lingkung Seni Sunda) Itenas is positioned on kendang. Last but not least, Septian Yusuf (Abah Ucup) plays drum and cajon for this quintet.
Not only Sundanese traditional instruments, they utilized the wind instrument which has been used for more than a thousand of years in Australian Aboriginal music, the didgeridoo played by Acil. Both him and Rian in front interestingly created unique harmony between the modern instrument (guitar) and ancient, traditional instruments (didgeridoo and flute). The percussion, kendang and bass provided a fine, seamless blend of rhythm that placed their music in a dreamy world where the modern West and traditional East collided as one.
Their distinctive music put a spell on everyone right from the start when they played Karimata’s song from 1997, “Apokayan”. This song gave us chance to have a mind-boggling imaginaire voyage into the dense tropical rainforest of Borneo. The tranquil, peaceful and relaxing sound of nature continued but with more intensity on with their original song which could work as an introduction to the band and their music concept, “Lalakon”.
To honour a great jazz/soul/RnB legend Al Jarreau who passed away just two weeks ago, they played his famous song in collaboration with Earl Klugh, “This Time”. Unlike any version we have ever heard, they redressed this song into a smooth world music style, which incredibly worked amazingly well as if it was meant to be made this way. For the last song they covered one of simakDialog’s gem from the first album “Lukisan” in 1995 titled “Kata Hati”. Attractive ‘battle’ between Rian and Acil, the tight beat from the combination of kendang and percussive instruments and full rounded melodic rhythm from bass brought a new way in enjoying this song. In front of so many crowds and photographers, Lalakon satisfied everyone until the last drop.
In their first attempt in jazz stage at Braga Jazz Night, Lalakon made us realize that there are still many possibilities in music that needs to discover. Through their music, they let us travel into the imaginary dimension where two worlds collide as one. Their music lies in between traditional and contemporary, using instruments listed in both categories resulting a tranquil, peaceful sound of nature with some progressive jazz/rock, new age and other breeds breathe alive. Had Riza Arshad still alive, he would have been happy to see a band like Lalakon who dares to follow his footsteps.
For us, Lalakon is great not only because they have cohesive blending of East and West and know how to cook it well, but because they care about the traditional music especially Sundanese where they live in and promote it widely by using jazz-rock fusion as the universal language. Simply magnificent.
The last segment showcased the project initiated by Riza Arshad himself: Serambi Jazz Collective . As mentioned earlier in this article, this is a group comprising of the alumni of series of workshops as a part of Serambi Jazz, the event created by Riza Arshad for Goethe Institut Indonesien existed from 2009 to 2014. There are many young musicians took part in it and got enhanced both in knowledge and skill. Some of them even moved on to establish their own bands after tasting the lessons they got from the workshops. Around 2 years ago, Riza Arshad spoke to one of the alumnus, guitarist Arnando Putra about his idea of utilizing the alumni. From there, this project was born.
Just as the name says, this project should become a home for any musicians graduated from any edition. Riza planned to join this project anywhere it land, unfortunately he passed away before he did. Realizing the importance of this legacy, Arnando Putra wishes to keep this project alive. They involved in the big tribute in Jakarta a couple of days ago (22 February 2017) “Riza Arshad Berkarya”. Lucky for us, they agreed to participated in this event just a day later.
Serambi Jazz Collective appeared in almost complete team in Bandung. Arnando Putra brought his mates from his band Triology to Bandung: Nicolaus Edwin (saxophone) and Indra Bayu Rusady (bass). For Bandung, he also took in another alumnus from Bandung, guitarist Hardi Suryana. Since the current drummer of this project Yusuf Shandy Satya couldn’t join, the project got helped by the drummer of New Equinox and Nayra Dharma Trio, Alman Naufal.
Arnando opened up with his reinterpretation of “Ingat Dulu”, a song listed in Riza Arshad’s collaboration album with Robert MR relased around two years ago. A song from Pat Metheny, “Bright Size Life” was next. Arnando said that he chose this Metheny’s ECM song because Metheny was one of the influential names in Riza’s list. Arnando and Hardi’s guitar playing worked like a charm with the sound of Nicolaus saxophone that enriched the tonal color of this collective group. Tonight Bayu used the electric upright bass in serving the project with flourishing bass lines, and Alman Naufal, the only player not graduated from Serambi Jazz workshops showed that he could join the alumni without any problem.
The jazz standard “All the Things You Are” became a fun swingin’ playing ground for them. Endless stream of notes flew freely from everyone on stage. It was like a cool jam session by jazz giants. For the last presentation they featured a composition written by one of Serambi Jazz’s performer and workshop coaches/mentors, jazz pianist Benny Lackner entitled “Pianohaus”. We think it was brave and unique to take this song since they didn’t play it with piano the way Lackner did. Eventhough as a pianist and based on the title Lackner must have made it mainly for piano, Arnando and the band surprisingly could bring it by using their respective instruments. Watching the manic finger dancing not on the keys but over the fret was really something. They reached the end exactly at 10:00 pm.
“We know that he had played with so many senior musicians like him.. but eventhough we hadn’t played with him as much, probably not many people know he was behind our movements. He sincerely supported us. He has done so many things for us young musicians. That’s why we put a lot of respect to him and we miss him a lot.” said Arnando Putra to us. Yes, that’s who Riza was. He didn’t just existed as a remarkable artist, he also had a big concern of the regeneration and future of jazz. He made a lot of accessible and friendly playground for young musicians to gain experience and learn from, he pushed and motivated them to grow better and better.
Watching this Serambi Jazz Collective project proved him right. The Serambi Jazz workshops have produced many great talents whom we can depend on. We totally agree with Arnando. This project should be kept alive no matter what. This is his legacy where his heart, mind and spirit would always live on. May Arnando have the power to carry this legacy and brainchild of Riza. We extend our grattitude to everyone inside the project . Thank you for coming all the way to Bandung and brought a beautiful rememberance of Riza, and thank you for reminding us of why we love jazz in first place. Long live Serambi Jazz Collective, keep his spirit alive!
For more than 3 hours we paid our respect and remember the works, spirit and legacy of Riza Arshad. There were his songs, music that representing some of his favorite styles and the project he created. We want everyone to remember who he was: a humble virtuoso, a mentor, genius composer, creative person with ‘dangerous’ mind and someone with commitment who consistantly contributed to the Indonesian jazz development. We want everyone to learn from him, as he gave so many invaluable examples of how to live in dignity and positive in a negative world. We hope he liked it and smile to us from heaven. We miss him and will still do. Eventhough he is not here with us in person anymore, we want to keep his spirit alive in us and always carry his legacy. We know that there will be many musicians get inspired by him for many years to come. Rest in peace mas Ija, you will always be in our heart.
For next edition it’s confirmed that we will have the special visit from a producer and arranger of many famous names (including Lingua) and the MD of the Voice of Indonesia: Teffy Mayne with two of co-founder of the legendary band Emerald (also Emerald BEX): Iwang Noorsaid and Inang Noorsaid. In April we will proudly feature an Indonesian female jazz pianist who has moved to Phnom Penh, Cambodia: Metta Legita. It’s getting more and more exciting isn’t it? We will keep you updated! Keep jazzin’ folks, see you again soon!
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