Braga Jazz Night #36: Ramadhan Edition: The Report

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For the second time Braga Jazz Night (previously known as Braga Jazz Walk) held a special Ramadhan edition. If last year we focused on making up the concept to celebrate the holy month, this year we decided to use it for better purpose. Since we found out that a dear friend of ours who had been laid low for about a year suddenly announced a big break through with a new single around the corner.

Then, a mind-bending group who play cool cross progressive Sundanese ethno-jazz also made a very interesting move by widening their musical territories, expanding their path passing the java island to reach the western part of Sumatra. Then, we haven’t invited a jazz couple since two years ago. So, instead of just making up an event to fit the theme, we thought it would be better to use it for good cause. Having that in mind, the Braga Jazz Night #36 : Special Ramadhan Edition presented an official single launching album, a unique collaboration involving the traditional musics of two different tribes packed in progressive jazz and an intimate moment in jazz by loving husband and wife.

Unlike before, this time the event was moved earlier to the afternoon, so we could entertain jazz lovers and mall-goers who decided to go somewhere cool while waiting for open fast. Also, by making it earlier, we don’t have to disturb any audience to do the special Taraweeh praying during the fasting month which starts around our normal time.

BragaJazzNight-36-Ramadhan-Misty (5)This edition started with Misty, accompanied by her husband YD Nafis and the hyperactive drummer Alman Naufal. Tuti Iskandar, that’s her real name. But since her students called her Misty, shortened for Miss Tuti, she used it as a stage name which for us is perfect inside the jazz scene. Being a mother of two, a wife and teacher should take most of her time. But she surely can sing good jazz. Her smooth and calming voice suits jazz and bossa standards. Other than her voice, we love her maturity in singing. She loves to keep it simple, no overdo. Other than singing, she can write songs too. With her husband, a well respected pianist who also shares passion in jazz, they extend their romance to stage performance.

BragaJazzNight-36-Ramadhan-Misty (1)YD Nafis and Alman Naufal started first as a duo, playing an interesting version of “All the Things You Are” which certainly fit the month of Ramadhan. Misty came in and sang “Waltz for Debby” as her first shot. Then she sang her own song, written by her and husband titled “Kau Tak Sendiri (You’re Not alone)”, made to encourage victims of the chronic autoimmune disease called Lupus. As the song was meant to be encouraging, Misty didn’t make it as a ballad but a smooth groove pop jazz. A really good song and meaningful this one is.

Her other original song followed right after. This time the song is religious, “Jagalah Aku (Take Care of Me)” dedicated to her beloved husband. A hit of Krakatau from the 1992 album, “Sekitar Kita” made some of the audience sang along with her. In the end she surprised us by singing a soundrack of cult anime television series Cowboy Bebop titled “Flying Teapot”, composed by Yoko Kanno. This song is not easy to sing, but she nailed it.

BragaJazzNight-36-Ramadhan-Misty (2)BragaJazzNight-36-Ramadhan-Tidbits (3)A real couple on stage always brings something different. It’s like they share the connection and romance to the audience through music. We could clearly feel how they love each other and share the same passion in jazz. It’s still clear in our mind when they gave a beautiful show 2 years ago, now they brought it back again onto this stage. Misty gave a smooth, relaxing start that made us all felt at ease. What’s sweet is their 5 month cute daughter Alifa was there sleeping in front of the stage throughout the performance as seen in the picture.

With all her activities as wife, mother, school teacher, it’s probably difficult for her to build a singing career, but Misty does have a beautiful voice with jazz vibes. Now we also know that she can write and compose songs as well. She may have a good chance to pursue a music career, but anyhow, We’re glad to have her back again.

BragaJazzNight-36-Ramadhan-AgisKania (6)In the second session we’re proud to support a soul diva for her single launching. Being blessed with such gift in singing, we dare to say that she is a force to reckon with in the Indonesian music scene, most particularly soul, jazz and blues. She is Agis Kania.

We got to know her by her quite often appearances in Klab Jazz’s events. This lady has a thick, flawless wide ranged soulful voice, that would make one think as if she was born there in the motherland of Soul and has been singing for many decades. We recognized her top-notch vocal quality, singing skill and charisma when she was with the gypsy swing duo Satura and then, a dynamic duo Agis Bape which managed to release some successful singles before they parted ways. With these two groups Agis flew high in establishing her career, but speaking of career, it has been going on for a very long time, since she was still in the kindergarten, that’s when she wrote a Pop Sundanese song about her hometown, Sukabumi that became the icon of the city.

BragaJazzNight-36-Ramadhan-AgisKania (8)Entering the college, she moved on with variety of genres, from Keroncong (with PHK, she made her way to be on air often in national radio station, the RRI), Soul/RnB (with Brown Sugar, T-Five) also Blues and Jazz. In Blues she has been appearing very often too like in Monday Blues at Ruang Putih, BBS, Blues in Art and so on. She is also featured as the vocalist of Trias Acoustica and Blues Libre.

Back to jazz, she was growing with this music, thanks to her mother who introduced it to her. She later learnt it all by herself. When she came to Bandung, she digged it deeper with the legendary singer, Tula Samjoen since she was still in her late teens. She admits that jazz is very special to her. “I could have sung anything, but jazz always feels different to me.” she says.

But then, when she laid low after her duo ended, she was contacted by Tabriz Muhajir Effendy a.k.a Ajier T-Five who composed a song but got no lyrics and singer just yet. She took the offer and worked on the lyrics, recorded the material and amazingly, all done in just 2 hours. From there, everything has been flowing smoothly, as if the path was already prepared for her. A video clip, photographs, solid team, even establishing her own label AK Music Concept. Speaking of the song, it was made in thick Neo Soul where jazz lives on, plus a splashes of EDM which carries the song into the current trend. The song’s titled “Baby You”. Exactly on this date (15 June), her song was released internationally on all major digital platforms. We are proud that it took place right here at the Braga Jazz Night.

Ajier was supposed to be here, unfortunately he had to perform with T-Five at the same day. So Agis brought in her friends within her circle including Aria Nugraha (keyboard), Dimas ‘Ror’ Setiawan (bass), Reza Bachtiar (guitar) and Iir Danur (of Anima band, drum). A strong team of young but experienced players like this gave a solid support to her big day.

BragaJazzNight-36-Ramadhan-AgisKania (3)Agis started with Lauryn Hill’s “Nothing Even Matters” which directly put us all in neo soul atmosphere. Agis seems to be improved in stage appearance as she now shows deep emotions and body gestures like swaying in smooth rhythm. Then she took two of Stevie Wonder’s hits from his 1972 “Talking Book” album, “Superstition” and “You and I (We Can Conquer the World)”. In “Superstition” she demonstrated her ultimate force in singing soul with her 5-star vocal quality. Then in “You and I” which got popular again around 10 years ago through the crooning voice of Michael Buble she showed how good she could build a song to reach the ultimate climax.

She was generous to bring not only one but two singles. First, the breakup song “Erase My Number” is also built upon the current sound of neo soul. We think this song has the same chance as the single she just launched to succeed. Cool groove, cool rhythm, catchy melody and the lyrics which reflects what we might have experienced before. Put all this in Agis, it becomes an ace. Then, she finally came to the single which was officially launched in the same day of this event: “Baby You”. This song has all the ingredients to become a hit in the global nu soul scene. The rich arrangement which has splashes of EDM inside the current nu soul style should have no problem to penetrate music lovers out there. Agis’ vocal character perfectly clicks with the concept. Her voice breathes life into this song in reflecting love, lust and longing to appear deep, sexy and sensual. As a breakthrough single, this song is brilliant.

BragaJazzNight-36-Ramadhan-AgisKania (2)Not so many female singers now dig this side of music, so we feel happy that finally a singer with pure soulful voice takes her journey inside this scene. We are even happier that it’s Agis Kania.  “Baby You” is a single that could bring her career more than she ever thought of. This song has everything. It’s trendy, it’s packed in style, the Neo Soul sound feels rich, the melody, the arrangement, the lyrics, the storyline, the way she sings it, the amount of emotions being poured inside, all fall into places. Soon when the videoclip’s released, you will see that the it’s very well made too. It feels great to see that Agis is up and running again, even faster than ever by taking the genre that truly represents her true-self. With everything she has, she should be able to fly high among the stars. May this single be the new promising dawn for her.

Congratulations for the single launching Agis! We are proud that it took place right in this event. Hail to the new soul diva!

BragaJazzNight-36-Ramadhan-West Java Syndicate Collaboration (5)Indonesia is blessed to have so many different tribes with their own fascinating cultures and arts, including the traditional music found in each tribe. Each of them has its own trademark whether in sound or rhythm that could easily be distinguished. Now, as a music genre has been showing a unique ‘habit’. As it spread around the world, it drew on different regional, national and local music cultures wherever it’s landed which gave birth to many distinctive new breeds. Imagine what would happen when jazz lands everywhere in a nation that has almost one and a half thousand tribes like Indonesia. And true, we have seen many differend kinds of ethnic jazz created from coast to coast. The next question: what if two traditional music blends in, sewn in progressive jazz? How would it sound? For the first time in Braga Jazz Night’s log, it happened. The combination is between the mystical sound of Sundanese (West Java) and the rhytmic music of Minangkabau (West Sumatra), brought by the WEST JAVA SYNDICATE COLLABORATION.

We were lucky to see the birth of this crazy gang back in 2010 as the brainchild of its drummer Zahar Mustilaq. YD Nafis (piano) and Dede SP (bass) are the co-founders who are still with the band. The recent formation including IpinZbet (kendang) and Randy Gevenk (traditional woodwinds) who unfortunately couldn’t be with us because he’s still finishing his study in China. This band boldly explore the multi-dimensional world of music where the traditional Sundanese and modern, western progressive jazz live in harmony. They are unique, challenging and fun to watch since they love to joke and has cool stage act.

BragaJazzNight-36-Ramadhan-West Java Syndicate Collaboration (10)From Zahar we heard that the syndicate recently expanded their musical territory by merging their music with the Minang music. They brought in an expert of this traditional music from West Sumatra, founder of Palanta Line Art who graduated from ASKI (Indonesia Art Institute) of Padang Panjang and STSI Surakarta: Maspon Herizal. This native West Sumatra musician (originally from Payakumbuh) plays woodwinds like Gevenk. The different is, if Gevenk plays woodwinds from West Java, Maspon digs the traditional instruments of Minang. He brought some of those in this event including Saluang, Bansi, Sampelong, Tanduak, Serunai and also did Beluk Padang (voice humming).

With this ‘enhanced’ formation, they were featured in the Asian African Parade last month (13 May 2017). But what’s interesting is, for this event they expanded the concept even further by bringing in another player from Palanta Line Art, Kiki Septian to play talempong, a small kettle gong known as a famous traditional instrument/muic of Minangkabau people of West Sumatra. Amazingly, this formation performed in public for the first time in this event.

BragaJazzNight-36-Ramadhan-West Java Syndicate Collaboration (4)For tonight, two of the West Java Syndicate’s mates couldn’t play. Randy is still studying in China, and the ‘rockin’ bassist Dede SP have flown back to his hometown for Ied. To replace him on bass, the band brought in a cool substitute, Luqman Hertanto Herman, bassist of successful rock band Sylvia. He has a different style of playing, but we have to say it works very well. Not only he did great in guarding the bass lines and gave strong punches over the rhythm, Luqman actually added up a new color into the Syndicate’s canvas.

The magical, mystical nuance was felt directly from the first presentation, “Bubuka”. If usually this song was made in Sundanese feel, now they take it into a noir, surrealistic nature. Maspon did cool ethnic voice humming, Tanduak (kind of ancient flute made from bamboo and the real buffalo horn) and the thick bamboo flute Sampelong. According to Maspon, the voice humming, tanduak and sampelong were used in performing mantra and blackmagic in the ancient time. Nowadays people no longer do that, but still the using of these instruments create a whole different ambience.

The next two songs were already familiar to everyone’s ears since both are famous folk songs. First, “Panon Hideung” (West Java) then “Gundul-Gundul Pacul” (Central Java). It’s indeed interesting to see how they deliver these both songs by involving West Sumatra’s traditional instruments which has a big difference than the Javanese’s typical music pattern, like the rhythm and scale-wise where Javanese mostly uses pentatonic while West Sumatra is more into diatonic. Amazingly these musicians found its grip and shape something unique we never heard before. “The key is tolerance. We have to know when to do this and that, when to let the Minang musical pattern take over and when to let the Sundanese do the work.” said Maspon to us after the show.

BragaJazzNight-36-Ramadhan-West Java Syndicate Collaboration (8)For the last song, West Java Syndicate played Maspon’s composition from a couple of years ago titled “Andalas Raya” (The Great Andalas). This song is epic. It began with pure Minang traditional music led by Maspon, then it went wild, switching to swing, bebop and even rock n’ roll. That said, with the Minang and Sundanese traditional music were still very well kept. For you who are curious to know what Andalas is, it’s the kind of tree found in Sumatra areas that has been used as the mascot/symbol of West Sumatra. This song takes us up on a spiritual and adventurous voyage throughout the beautiful land of Minang. A true masterpiece brought in spectacular treatment by these out-of-the-world geniuses. All of them released every drop of energy they still had left and sealed it triumphantly.

A new musical dimension in a new horizon is created by the West Java Syndicate Collaboration. They prove what we always believe, that music has no border, no boundaries and that there are still so many terrains to explore. Sundanese and Minangkabau have their own distinctive style. Both are traditionally strong in art including music, both are different in many ways, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t go hand in hand creating magic.

And the fact that it all happen inside a progressive jazz shows one of the role of jazz people seldom realize, that’s the role of being an universal language. The openess and freedom of exploration jazz has once again open up something we never heard before. Magical concept brought alive by a syndicate filled by genius musicians. Words can’t describe how proud we are to see this formation came alive for the very first time in our event. Kudos to you all guys! May this collaborative project be continued on. Keep boldly exploring the archipelago with this awe-inspiring, mind-bending concept!

BragaJazzNight-36-PhotoGroupWhat an edition this is. Three sessions with totally different stories in different genres created an episode that we won’t forget easily. We hope our idea in cooking up this edition would make it more than just a party and celebration. And we do hope those who came and watched the event could see the colorful world of jazz which resonates peace, love and freedom. Jazz was originated from USA, but now it belongs to the world. There are so many breeds of jazz created by the way it drew on the local music cultures wherever it’s landed, and it will never stop doing so. That makes the world of jazz is always exciting.

Still a couple of days left to fast, we hope everything goes well for our Muslim friends and readers. May this holy month brings you lots and lots of blessings. Next month we will back to our normal time again with fresh batch of talents. Thank you for keep supporting us and the artists. See you again on the 37th edition in July!

Watch the highlight of Braga Jazz Night 36 Special Ramadhan Edition

See more pictures:

Reporter and photographer: Riandy Kurniawan
Video Editor: Vierna Mariska Kurniawan  .

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