The Braga Jazz Night #63 was successfully held on Thursday night, 19 September 2019. This edition came right after we celebrated the Indonesian Independence Day a month earlier. Unlike usual, because our regular spot was unavailable, the stage was moved to the atrium, the place where we ran the early editions.
In this episode number 63 we featured three groups with diffferent story, also presenting the different side of jazz. There was a duo with wide musical exploration (and expression), a blazing quartet and for the first time, a sextet who brought the graduation recital of its band leader out from the campus to public.
We kicked off with something somewhat interesting in a different way. It’s the second appearance of a group established by a young female pianist from Palembang, Sheira. The group is called PLAN B PROJECT.
We knew her not that long ago, but it didn’t need a long time for us to notice her talent. Our first impression is, this girl has much more than meets the eye. That’s before we learned that she actually had a successful group named Plan B back then in Palembang before she moved to Bandung to pursue her formal education.
We then asked her to build her own band where she can show who she really is, musically speaking.
She brought that band in the 60th edition and surprised us with the combination of wicked arrangements, fired-up play and clean, tight execution. She led her team play around with cool tuttis and a lot of twists and turns which created both ear and eye-catchy show. What we found out later is that she was preparing her graduation recital with almost the exact team. It was done just three weeks ago with a great result.
A graduation recital usually attended by just family and close friends. We thought, why don’t just bring it out to public so more people would enjoy it? She agreed, and lucky for us, the whole team were available too. So we set this second apperance of the band to be a ‘graduation concert’.
For this special occasion the band came in complete team. The lineup are Sheira (keyboard), Jordan Nathanael Yuristiawan (drum), Arya (bass), Arbiyasa Witha Pramara Adhi (guitar) and Valent Angeline Gumolung (vocal), plus a saxophonist that’s failed to join before, Yanuarius Raditya P Verstegen.
Sheira began with a part of her recital, a unique interpretation of Sherina’s song from right before the turn of the millenium, “Persahabatan”. Most of us still remember this hit, but in the hands (and brain) of Sheira, the song sounds totally new. With her keyboard and synthesizer she remakes the song in fusion, and amazingly it’s really believable, as if the song was made originally that way. As she got so many friends and family who came to support her, she bagged loud applause from them.
The saxophonist then took a break, leaving the band in quartet formation. A captivating solo from Sheira worked as the intro of her winning composition titled “Fusion Cruize”. She warned us that the song’s going to be rockin’, and it really was. The progressive fusion spirit of this original song pushed us on the edge of our seats. The sharp drum-banging by Jordan, the non-stop bass swaying by the ‘rubber’ bassist Arya, the rocking guitar of Biyass and Sheira’s killing key-ploration took us into the fusion cruise of a life time. According to Sheira, this composition actually has a neo soul part, but she had to cut it for this time because it would be too long and it needed a drum pad which was unavailable. What’s left was more than enough to see how talented this girl really is both in playing and writing.
Raditya came back with his sax together with the vocalist Valent to bring their two final presentations, two Isyana Sarasvati’s songs in medley, “ECho” and “Mad”. Again, she rearranged the songs for fusion trip with high pitch soulful vocal vibes giving us special treats.
Great composition, great rearrangement and great execution shows that Sheira is indeed a talented musician, so do her mates. Wicked, or probably ‘sadistic’ improvisation packed in such sharp performance. They were like a pack of young lions having fun together. We captured a lot of smiles and laughters, also their body gestures indicated that they enjoyed their moment fully. Plan B Project and of course its leader deserve the attention.
The second act was the duo, RASAKARSA. This duo consists of key-wiz Jason Limanjaya and vocalist/pianist Vidya. This duo is considerably still new, established just a couple of months ago, yet they surprisingly move rocket fast not only in live performance but also recordings.
Jason is surely not a stranger to us. He’s been bringing many groups in different concepts for the past 3 years, either as the band leader, one of the team, half of a duo or sessionist. We love him in New Equinox, with Nayra Dharma, New Blood, not to mention some short-lived projects and duos, especially when he opens up our eyes that there’s a different dimension of jazz when played with pentatonic scale, as shown in his group with Otto Stuparitz. He is a mad jazz pianist, great in composing/arranging (his deranged brain could create interesting pieces inspired by ‘odd’ things). Other than that, he is expressive while performing. As for the other half Vidya, we never met her before this event. But we know that she is the kind of girl who’s always connected with her heart while singing, someone who has deep emotion attached in each note and word, like a singing poet.
A pair like this can of course be surprising. No wonder they move fast like we said earlier. They landed here just before they participated in the Rawayan Festival, something that’s surely will be taken as a milestone in their career.
They directly took us back in time visiting the old Betawi (Batavian) town with the folksong “Kicir-Kicir”. Vidya didn’t just sing but dance too, something that she occasionally does throughout her performance. We have seen how Jason exposes the ancient pentatonic world by using jazz, this time he wowed us again when he took his jazz wheels into the distinctive and authentic Batavian music.
Still with vintage feeling, they introduced their original titled “Mahligai”. The classy nature of this song quickly reminds us of the soundtrack from 70’s cinematic experience.
Next, vidya took a recent controversial hit written by Billie Eilish, “Wish You Were Gay”. Originally a slow-burning track with lush melodies, Vidya made it as if her own by placing her spirit into it. Her chemistry with Jason is so strong, so strong that we would believe if they were a real couple.
Their interesting song choice became even more evident on the next one, “Amin Paling Serius” (Sal Priadi/Nadin Amizah). This song is phenomenal, as it’s been heard more than a million times on Youtube just within 15 days of its release. Jason says he’s not surprised with that fact, since for him this song should easily be listed in the Indonesian songbook in the future. “In other words, it’s going to be a future Indonesian classic”, he said. Its beauty is mesmerizing and glorious, it’s an epic. Jason did a unique arrangement of another folk song, “Tokecang”. They played around with melody, tempo and body gesture, making this song appeared in a whole new way.
Speaking of epic, their last drop was another original called “Pulang”, which for us is undoubtedly their winning song. Not just that, Pulang seems to be the most important song for both of them too since it’s meaningful to them in different way. For Jason, it’s about his personal experience when he came back home to Indonesia after years of study in Singapore. For Vidya, it refers to coming back to someone she loves. Step aside of those backgrounds, this song also become a material for Jason and Vidya to experimenting on pelog. Other interesting fact, Pulang was used as film scoring. The film is “Nusa” by Lukman Hoedi. They wrote a really beautiful ballad. It has beautiful melody, deep lyrics and the way the delivered it with full emotion created a wonderful moment as well as a perfect ending.
Rasakarsa has a unique music concept that’s naturally wide. They have a unique way of telling stories in heartfelt delivery. While their talent individually is unquestionable, the chemistry between them is extraordinary. It’s naughty, at other times romantic. Sometimes it’s playful, but then they got a deep, heartfelt moment too. Rasakarsa is preparing their debut single and of course album, and we have no doubt they will continue their journey on many stages. A really great duo this one is. We expect them to keep going and achieve everything they are targeting at.
Face it, life isn’t always pretty. There are times when we face the kind of reality that doesn’t go our way, feeling down and suddenly doubt whether we have taken the right path or not. Feeling down can happen to anyone. The question is, what should we do in times of trouble? Should it stop us to chase our dream, or can we turn it to our advantage, in other words, make something good out of it? And, if you are a musician, what could, or should, you do? The final act is about that.
There’s a phenomenal young jazz guitarist named Anjuan Julio. Lately he feels the difficulties of being a musician. We know that he’s been serious about taking this path, and he’s sure a great one. Very talented, passionate, creative and love his moment on stage. He has many successful moments in his career, which is remarkable considering his age. But just like us, he has some down moments too. And he’s experiencing it.
Here’s the good thing. Instead of letting it taking him over, he decided to step out of his comfort zone. Keep on being creative, establishing a team where he can unleash all his anxieties, go wild on stage turning every negative things to positive. Freedom of playing, freedom of expressing, or even just the word ‘freedom’ becomes really important here. That’s why he name this group as ANJUAN JULIO FREEDOM QUARTET.
It could look like an intermezzo, but Anjuan is actually serious about this. In this quartet he brings in some of the best players from his friends’ list. They are Kevin ‘KJ’ Jonathan (bass), Gafie Garcia (saxophone) and Shallom Tangki (drum).
“This is not a performance but a chance to know me. Who I am, what I think… my life story, my struggle, my wishes and dreams.” Anjuan said before the gig. Since that’s the occasion, Anjuan told them all through 4 original songs that we think brilliantly capture the important milestones in his life.
The quartet started with “What Do I Think?” . This song is telling the things that are filling up his mind. It gave us the chance to enter his mind which seems to be complex yet electrifying. From the composition we got the idea that despite of all the anxieties, he’s still able to think positive and optimistic as the song goes with power rock punches over jazz.
The joy of improvisation continued on with “2,5”, telling the story when he was diagnosed with autism at that exact age. It’s a rollercoaster wild ride, emotional and challenging. That diagnose might have affected his life, but we say it’s for good reasons, as how we see who this really amazingly talented young guy is today.
Anjuan Julio Freedom Quartet then moved to ‘lighter’ subjects, that said without losing their vicious grip on jazz rock at all. “Chit Chat Here” is the song where Anjuan shares his way to feel better, that is by going to friends to talk to when he’s feeling down. This song is much slower than the first two, but it has lethal funky dose that moves the blues jazz to its strong grip. This song probably is the most captivating one since it has all the joy of jazz playing. Look at the funky power house bassist KJ did his role on infecting us with his toe-tapping funk chops. His bass slapping stood out high and tall. This song also has mad solo runs and cool call and response action when Anjuan traded punches with Gafie’s sax-ecution. Shallom was busy sketching variety of beats on his drums, reminding us once again that he is one of the remarkable young drummers we have at present time. Anjuan also inserted many famous melodies here and there, making this song the most playful one from them.
The last song’s called “Rochu Dechu” where Juan tells he’s optimistic that he will find his soulmate someday. Melody-wise, this song is the most interesting one for its rich texture. This song contains splashes of pentatonic scale, they also twisted the mid part of the song with reggae. Can punchy funk jazz-rock fusion be cute? This song proves it can.
You see, life doesn’t always be good. Sometimes you’re on top, sometimes you’re down. It may not easy, but Anjuan shows that even in the lowest moment of your life, there are still great things you can do. For a musician as he is, you can still being creative in making songs, creating concepts and throw away all the things that’s been bugging you through music. This show is merciless, edgy and sharp. It’s like they are throwing those funky jazz-rock bombs to explode us in extacy. For us, a band like this is interesting. Not only they give us lesson to learn, they also deliver one helluva entertainment through both music and appearance.
We thank the bands/group and everyone in them for giving us a rock-solid performances. They really brought their game, proving that a quality shows don’t existed only in big festivals but could also in a small community event like this. We also send our huge appreciation to all supporters and the audience, for without you this event would never be existed. We will be back again next month with a different batch of talents taking on the different side of jazz. Thank you once again and see you then.
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Reporter & Photographer: Riandy Kurniawan .