Balai Pertemuan (Meeting Hall) Bumi Sangkuriang has been known as the home of jazz for many decades. The first regular jazz event ever held in this historical building was Jazz Break in 1981 by Hari Pochang. It didn’t take long for this event to bear fruit. Other than being an attraction to jazz lovers in Bandung and beyond, many successful groups were born from it too, for example Krakatau. This first installment stayed strong for about 8 years. Almost a decade later, in 2008 the regular event ran again under KlabJazz with the word ‘Revival’ being added to it. After two years the event was cancelled and re-appeared by Hotspot. Unfortunately it didn’t last long. Shortly after, the regular jazz event was gone from this building.
Now, 5 years later jazz is finally back again to its home. The name of the event is new: BUMI SANGKURIANG JAZZ NIGHT, brought by the cooperation between Jazzuality.com and Venche Music School (Venche Manuhutu and Kanggep Kusuma). For us this is an important mission. There have been many art and music events held in this building throughout the years, but we have to say that jazz probably is the strongest identity. We are proud that this important mission is now on us and will do our best effort in carrying the legacy. The spirit from the past will be kept as we are writing the new chapter in order to bring jazz back to its home.
The first edition featured two stars from Jakarta, guitarist Robert Mulyarahardja (Robert MR) and saxophonist Ricad Hutapea. These two players are the iconic jazz figures from young generation who have been contributing a lot for the development of jazz in Indonesia. From the local Bandung we brought one of the most happening duo in Bandung recently, Agis Bape and a group of young guns who play pure jazz, The New Equinox.
Robert MR graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston, USA with a degree in Performance in 2008. He has a group named the Shadow Puppets Quartet, he has his own solo project and also active as sideman. With Shadow Puppets he has released three albums, including the latest one Indonesian Songbook with Harvey Malaiholo (2015). One solo album ‘Gratitude’, a duet album with Riza Arshad, a quartet with Nial Djuliarso and also participating in some other albums of his friends. Speaking of style, he is stylish and calm, but if you listen to the notes he produces, you will find something rich and adventurous.
Just like Robert, saxophonist Ricad Hutapea has graced many prestigious stages as well. Ricad started learning classical but then fell in love with jazz. He has released one album titled “Jalan Pertama” that tells stories of his life and his true-self. His appearance in Bumi Sangkuriang Jazz Night was made possible by Music Gear as his endorser. Ricad can go really funkin’ wild with his sax, but he can also be seducing.
This first edition started late because of the heavy pouring rain. A brief introduction of Bumi Sangkuriang jazz history presented by Jazzuality.com, Senior Advisor of Bumi Sangkuriang, Mr Sukar Samsudi greeted everyone and gave an inspiring opening speech. “This event will stay on as long as we all spread the news together. The media, the organizer, the venue, and the audience, keep spreading the good news about the return of regular jazz event in Bumi Sangkuriang.” he said. A token of appreciation then given to us on behalf of the organizer.
The first in action was The New Equinox. This promising trio consists of brave, skillful young talents from Venche Music School who play jazz the right way. This band began their career a couple of years ago as Equinox, but with some changes in the lineup, they decided to add “New” in front of their old name.
Ezra Manuhutu (bass), Alman Naufal (drums) and Vico Wibowo (piano) filled the hall with pure jazz extacy starting with John Coltrane’s “Moment’s Notice”. The edgy, rock punching jazz continued on with 2 more songs, Miles Davis’ gem from 1963 “Seven Steps to Heaven” and followed by Miles’ other song almost a decade earlier, “Solar”. This last song includes a wild solo run by Alman.
All of these compositions of senior pianist Imam Pras are complex and not easy, but The New Equinox executed them well. Knowing that they are still young, this trio still have more than enough time to grow. There are not so many pure jazz groups in Bandung today, especially the young ones. As we care about the regeneration, we can put our hope to New Equinox to stimulate musicians around their age to follow their footsteps.
Next on stage was a dynamic duo, Agis Bape. This duo consists of two great talents: soul sister with 5-star voice Agis Kania and skillful all-rounder guitarist with tasty swing on top, Opik Bape. They have known each other for many years. They were once together in a band with gypsy swing Satura, but since 2014 they embarked a new journey in more simple formation, just a duo and got their first shot at Duotone Concert two years ago.
Agis Bape stunned the audience right from the start, covering the notorious “Gloomy Sunday”, a creepy song that has been connected to so many death ever since it was written in the 30’s. Agis sang it deep in haunting vibe, locking everyone’s eyes on her and Opik.
The soul swinging delight continued on with several more songs, including “One for All”, the vintage “Nuages” and a beauty from the past, Rose Murphy song, “Peek a Boo”. The swing was so alive, many of the audience clapped their hands and swayed following the melody and rhythm.
One of Billie Holiday’s evergreen, “God Bless the Child” was covered triumphantly. Agis sang it in perfect control with amazing singing skill, created goosebump on our shoulder, so good that she bagged the most applause on this one. Their debut single “Embun Pagi” was next. This feel good, happy mood pop swing song again proved its strength as the audience here loved it too. This song has a good chance to be a major hit, no doubt about it. They gave one final swingin’ picnic with a popular song from the 50’s, “Singing the Blues”.
Free flowing, groovy, soulful, swingin’ and full of spontaneity played by an awesome guitarist and singer that share chemistry to each other. . At the moment they are strengthening the character with vintage as the key. “We are now narrowing our song choice, selecting the gems from the vintage era because that’s where our soul seems to be at ease” says Agis. There are many factors that make them shine. Other than they are both high quality artists with remarkable skills and strong chemistry, they also put all their souls into any song they sing. They learn what the song is all about, catch the spirit and then share the story to the audience That’s why their performance always feels heartfelt and memorable.
Before the last band played, we invited Hari Pochang to share how it was back then in 1981 when he made the first regular monthly jazz in Bumi Sangkuriang. Accompanied by Venche who played a lot in there at that time, he brought us into the memory lane and sincerely wish us the best. We are proud to have him come to give us blessings. What also makes us happy is some other jazz community leaders/founders and VIPs also came, including Tri Budi Waskito (Margo Jazz Friday), Angga Wardhana (Butterfield Jazz Society) and the program director of Jendela Ide, Djaelani (Bandung World Jazz Festival).
The final segment featured two guest stars Robert MR and Ricad Hutapea. Supporting them were the attending players of New Equinox: Alman (drums) and Ezra (bass). They played together for the first time, but this instant shaped quartet showed tight connection to one another.
Standard “On Green Dolphin Street” directly filled the hall with wonderful jazz spirit. Robert and Ricad shared their moment evenly, supported fully by the two young guns from Venche Music School. Charlie Parker’s “Au Privave” opened up the chance for them to do tradings, followed by another Parker’s collection from the late 40’s, “Scrapple from the Apple”. Robert and Ricad did really, really well in spreading jazz joy to everyone. Tight, clean and sharp, connected and united. Like two builders they worked together side by side in building each song to perfection. Alman and Ezra also did great in supporting them, resulting explorative yet ellegant show where people could both enjoy and learn from.
More standards coming in such as “All the Things You Are” and the smooth, romantic “My One and Only Love”. “Still want us to play?” says Robert. Of course, who wouldn’t. To answer it, Robert led Ricad and the two boys to play not only one but three more songs: Wes Montgomery’s “4 on 6” and two more Miles Davis’ gems: “So What” and “All Blues”. The show reached the end about ten minutes before 11:00 pm.
Since there was heavy rain almost the whole day, we got not so many audience. But we are still satisfied with the result. Unlike making an event in the mall, the audience are jazz fans who come because they want to watch the concert. More than 50 appreciative people were there, so we think it’s not bad at all.
For us it was a success for many reasons. We managed to serve real jazz with its variety, a successful collaboration between experienced musicians from Jakarta and the young guns from Bandung, we got surprisingly many audience, and most importantly: jazz has finally returned home to Bumi Sangkuriang. We are happy to see the progress of jazz development in Bandung lately. More playground to play, more players, more supportive audience.
With no intention to compete against other regular events, we do hope we can provide another alternative for jazz talents to explore and for the fans to enjoy. The more, the merrier, that will be good for jazz in Bandung and Indonesia in general. Another important mission we put in this regular event is to bring the real jazz, the right way. May we be able to follow the success of previous regular jazz events ever made in this historical building. We look forward to see future supergroup born from here. We will be back again next month in February. It’s going to be on the second Wednesday. Until then, keep jazzin’ everyone!
Special thanks to/Supported by: Music Gear, 3 Negeri, Infobdg, Pikiran Rakyat and Yoga Ogoy
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Group photo is credited to Indra Purnawan