Braga Jazz Night #61 : The Report

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From one edition to another we try to present the colorful world of jazz by opening our stage for variety of bands to play on. It works two ways. On one side we are letting the public see how wide jazz style is, on the other side we are supporting young musicians, not just giving them the ground to play but also promoting them in our website and social medias. By doing so, we hope they could have a good start and have successful career in the future. That’s what filling our mind in every edition of the on-going Braga Jazz Night, and before we realize, we have reached the 61st edition. That’s equal to almost 5 years in service.

For Braga Jazz Night #61 we invited three bands that we think represent our idea well. One is a project based on our wish to push a talented young pianist to be a band leader, one is a unique multi-national duo sharing huge interest in jazz-ethnomusicology, and one is an indie band that’s currently taking one step further with a single. This edition was held on 18 July 2019 in our ground zero, the Braga CityWalk.

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The indie band was the first to go. The band’s called HUNI (in English: Occupancy). They use the name not for without reason. The members are inspired by a philosophy that despite of different background found in human’s life, all can live in harmony side by side under one roof.

The band was born not too long ago, almost exactly just a year ago. Erfan ‘Pehung’ Iksan Fauzi (vocal), Fajar RM (kajon), Alan ‘Ibonk’ Marlan (bass), Dado (guitar) and Iwank Ux (guitar) came from different musical background and decided to establish a band without taking side to any genre, rather trying to create a different kind of music by combining each of their musical preference. According to Dado, each of them has to spread the spirit of goodness inside the band and able to ‘translate’ it to be felt by their audience.

Huni has their first single titled “Duniaku” ready. it will be launched sometimes around next month. We heard about this band from its vocalist Pehung when he performed in this event with his pop jazz band SavaSika a couple of months ago. We know him as an expressive and dynamic singer, we think their music is cool, so we’d love to bring them in.

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Huni connected us with nature right from the start with their upcoming single, “Duniaku”. “It’s weird to sing in front of many people, in the middle of the city, not in front of trees and grass where we used to do”, Erfan joked, but their songs in fact best to listen when you are celebrating sunrise inside the green nature. So serene, peaceful and mind-wandering.

The second song was “Karya Tuhan”, another original song that has a really sweet, good-feeling melody. We know how good Erfan’s falsetto voice is to go with jazz, but it’s proved to be perfect to carry on this music as well, if not even better. The mellow mood went deeper with “Konsumsi Nada-Nada Sendu”, placing us deeper into the serenity of a dream.

“Enough talking about the nature, let’s talk about man.” said Erfan. They delivered “Lumpuh”, another well-written original that’s presented effortlessly. For the last song, Huni sang a famous hit of an indie band that’s featured in ‘Filosofi Kopi 2’ soundtrack, Zona Nyaman” by FourTwnty. These boys know exactly where their music lies, that makes them able to pick the right song to go with when they feel like covering. Some of the audience sang along with them with smile painted on their faces.

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Since we base our concept not on ‘jazz by genre’ but ‘jazz by spirit’, once in a while we invite non jazz band that is still relevant to the grand design of our concept. Huni brings something folk-based, yet has strong signature of their own. They bring in good music, they play really nice, but that’s not all because we also love the way they are connected to nature, and the way they rule the stage even by sitting.

It’s like a breath of fresh air to have a band like this participating, because as Huni wants the band to be a home that’s able to spread good values of life, we hope our stage can become a home for every musician to find their potential, share their positive life values to others and find their momentum to a successful career.

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The second act was a project made by a talented female keyboardist, Sheira. The band’s called PLAN B PROJECT.

Sheira has played a couple of times as a part of several different bands in this event. We saw big potential in her and sugggested her to take a further step to be a band leader. We believe this will bring the best in her and stimulate her to grow fast. At this moment she is going to finish her study at the STiMB soon, so she must be busy. Yet she still managed to build this project as a response to our suggestion.

If you wonder what Plan B is, it’s the name of her duo with her siblings when she was still in her hometown, Palembang. This band gained quite a reputation back then, but since Sheira moved to Bandung to study, the band was hybernated for the time being. Since the duo means a lot to her, she decided to use the name in her brand new project.

In this project she brings in her college mates from STiMB, from junior to senior. All of them love fusion, but in this band she doesn’t closed off the possibility of playing other genres too, which for us could add up more excitement. The lineup are Sheira (keyboard), Ian Kalangie (drum), Arya (bass), Arbiyasa Witha Pramara Adhi (guitar) and Valent Angeline Gumolung (vocal). According to Sheira, this project actually has a saxophonist, but since the player won’t be able to make it, she proceed with the rest of the team.

Showing how much she respects her mates, she introduced them one by one before they played any note. Sheira has a sweet talking voice, she loves to smile, but don’t be fooled because once she’s positioned behind the keyboard, she turns into merciless, ferocious lioness. Look at her, she didn’t just use a keyboard, but also a synthesizer positioned on the top of the board.

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Plan B Project started with a big bang, roaring loud by using Bob James’ collection. They turned this song into a battlefield where they unleashed madness, jazz-rock style. It was a strong opening that brought them a lot of audience in no time.

After the first instrumental number, Sheira called Valent to join them on stage. They took Isyana’s big hit “Keep Being You”. You think you know the song, sure, it’s familiar. But Plan B did a very cool rearrangement to suit their rebelious fusion soul, that’s including a badass jazz-rock intro. What’s amazing is that, if you haven’t heard the original version, you would believe that it was made that way.

Valent left the stage again, giving the band to surf with another instrumental song. This time it was from Barry Likumahuwa titled “SHRTL”, a song listed in the album “Bass Heroes 2” re-released for the International Jazz Day last year. We don’t know if they rehearsed or not, but this one gave us the joy of watching a jam session due to its openess and free-flowing execution, surprisingly delivered neat and tight, even with the rapid tempo changing found in it. She exploded with her synth in this one. We are sure, if Barry saw them, he would be proud to see how they interpret the song.

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The last song probably gave the biggest surprise. With Valent back on stage, they played Raisa’s most popular song, “Could It Be”. Just like how they did with Isyana’s song earlier, they rearranged this one into fusion. Why we say surprise is because they built this song with lots of syncopated tutti statements. It must be difficult especially for the Valent to sing under this kind of composition, and it won’t be easy for the band to execute it as well. But Sheira and her mates successfully served the idea clean. It’s interesting to see how they use this sweet pop jazz song into a fun action-packed fusion party.

After noticing her great finger works, now we see Sheira’s new role as a band leader. With this move, she could have more rooms to explore which for us shows how good she is. Her colleagues did a marvelous job in backing her up, proving once again that any students and alumni of STiMB do possess good skill. Surprising arrangement, wild execution. In metaphor, if she were a dart player, she didn’t just throw the dart bullseye, she also destroyed the board. We will continue pushing her. If she maintains this project, we will definitely bring it again in next editions.

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What would happen when two mad brains unite? They came from the different side of the world, yet they do share some things in common. That is, to go boldly exploring the multi-dimensional music, especially where jazz and ethnic collides. In our wildest dream, we once thought they would create madness if they work together, and voila, they actually do! And how wonderful it is to be able to bring them in for their debut. That’s the collaboration between Jason Limanjaya and Otto Stuparitz. The duo is simply called JASON & OTTO, creating one helluva final for this edition.

Jason is certainly no stranger to us since he’s been involving with our event almost right away after he came back from Singapore, at that time still for holiday. It’s fascinating to see him moving from New Equinox, Nayra Dharma, his own Jason Limanjaya Trio to The New Blood, plus a couple of projects in the middle. Apart of his expessive and catchy appearance on stage, this man is innovative. He never stops trying to produce something new which for us interesting because he’s like standing on two worlds: jazz and ethnic musics.

BragaJazzNight61-JasonOtto (7)Otto Stuparitz is an American who has big interest in the richness, variety and uniquity of traditional music found in Indonesia, also the history of Indonesian music including, or particularly jazz. well, not just interested, he has been spending many years to dig it deep, artistically and scientifically, which makes him has to go back and forth from Los Angeles to Indonesia. Graduated from the University of illinois majoring Music History, he continued to the Ethnomusicology at the University of California, finishing it with a paper exploring “Balinese Gamelan Pedagogies, Value and Time: The Co-Existence of Punctuated Time and Capitalism.” He’s Advanced to Candidacy (Completion of Ph.D excpected June 2020) at the University of California. One thing you got to know, he speaks Bahasa fluently.

He holds many honors and awards from UCLA where he’s been serving as a teacher for around a decade. He is also active in giving presentations mostly about Indonesian music particularly jazz and ethnic,from the corelation between “Balinese Gamelan and Jazz” at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at UCLA (2017), “Java Jazz: Activist Archives and the Politics of Preservation at the Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal Land en Volkenkunde, Leiden, Netherlands in 2018, “The Indonesian Jazz Archive: Indonesian Jazz as Ethnic Music” to “Gender and Class in Rhoma Irama’s Dangdut Films from 1977-1980” and “Women and Class” from the same subject.

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Taking position facing each other on stage made them able to communicate through eyes, body gesture other than just what they produced with their instrument. From the start, they directly showed how they broke the boundaries between traditional Eastern and modern Western just by using normal instruments. Look at the way they transformed “Bapang Selisir”- a Balinese ancient musical form with the unique scale/mode – that usually played with gamelan to fit the bass and keyboard. If that’s already bizzare, think of their decission to progress this song to find Bing Slamet’s gem, “Nurlela”. It’s kind of difficult to put what they did into words, but just imagine two guys throwing their notes nonstop in pelog scale with Nurlela being trapped inside. We’re like, “oh my God..” , and Otto actually said that the title is “Bapang Selisir Rasa OMG”. Insane and ground-breaking. That’s absolutely a OMG.

They punched our soul again with Jason’s new composition, “Blues-ukan”, a ‘bluesy’ spin from ‘blusukan’, a Javanese word popularized by the President Joko Widodo meaning impromptu visit. While the sound really well describes the way Mr President does the blusukan, technically speaking it appears as a new sound. “Actually it’s a 12-bar Blues Funk in G, but I use new idiom that I currently develop, using all pelog scale. The point is, I’m trying to make new sound from an overused platform” Jason explained. So you can imagine how different the sound is. If blues was invented in Java instead of New Orleans, this might be the sound, we thought. Jason furthermore said that the idea’s been there in his head for the last two years, but it all came real after he exchanges knowledge with Otto and got Otto’s expertise in Balinese gamelan.

As they love messing around, the third and last song got the title “Barang-Barang Paling Disukai”, which in English translated as “My Favorite Things.” Ring the bell? Sure, it’s a famous song you found in the movie Sound of Music. But these ‘deranged’ dudes made it sound like never before: building it fully with pelog, Just like the first two songs, they teased, challenged and filled each other creating an intense flow. While saying pelog scale, you could still clearly notice that it’s jazz. Again, it’s difficult for us to translate it into words, especially since they find the magic to make it as one entity. Loud applause and cheers were thrown at them.

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Amazing, inspiringly innovative, Jason and Otto shows that there are still things can be done by using the same number of notes. Isn’t it insane to run the 12-bar blues funk in G using pelog scale? And that’s just a start, because then they kept on surprising us by making such rearrangements like no other. If you think two is empty, with this duo two is a crowd, because suddenly you don’t even care how many of them with that kind of presentation.

We asked Otto about the possibility that some of the audience might not realize how big their creation really is, and Otto said, “It’s okay. Just let them hear and figure out how amazing and precious their traditional music really is.”

Jazz always opens up possibilities, and when two expert innovators jump into it, a new world could be opened through free-and-fun-flowing notes. No western and eastern, no modern and traditional, it’ simply Jason and Otto’s music, a dimension where jazz and ethnic – and everything in between – no longer can be separable. We are proud that something like this happen on our soil.

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Another cool edition is written. We thank every performing musicians, all supporters and of course the audience for making this Braga Jazz Night #61 hit the spot. For the next stop we are making a special edition to celebrate the Indonesia’s Independence Day by bringing in some of the wonderful Indonesian traditional music fused in jazz, from the upper North to the lower Southern part of the archipelago. Stay tuned for more info, do join us!

See more pictures:

Braga Jazz Night 61

Reporter and photographer: Riandy Kurniawan  .

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