Bandung should be proud of having a great big band with international reputation and standard, The Salamander Big Band. Ever since it was established in 2006 by Devy Ferdianto, this big band has boldly set off its course against the mainstream. Like a team of time traveller, they go back in time exploring the beautiful world of swing from the golden era to the way big band sounded in different periods. Like what we always said, the Salamander Big Band is an authentic big band, not a band that’s big. The formation is set to be like Cole Porter or Duke Ellington’s, it has so many high skilled professional musicians who could bring the best out of great compositions. We have been with them for almost 10 years now, covering almost all their performances both their own concerts and when they participated in international festivals like the Java Jazz Festival or Ubud Village Jazz Festival.
Speaking of concert, they always try their best to make two each year: The Mid Year Concert and Anniversary Concert. It’s been a higlight for us for almost a decade. From time to time they bring something different and unique to the table. Letting the fans and jazz enthusiasts taste the grand big band sound capturing different jazz milestones, collaborating with giants and legends both from our own nation and also from abroad. The skill, the harmony got tastier and tastier each time we saw them. Not only the musicians, they have an amazing line of vocals too which we can proudly compare with just about any great ones out there.
The last concert the Salamander had was the Mid Year at Selasar Sunaryo Art Space. At that time they gave tribute to legendary artist Titiek Puspa. You can read our coverage here: http://jazzuality.com/jazz-event-report/salamander-big-band-2017-mid-year-concert-the-report/. At that time, Devy Ferdianto had told us that they would be back again this year for the 11th Anniversary Celebration in November. Entering the month, we noticed that that plan has come into realization.
The thing is, eventhough we have known the plan since months ago, this awesome ensemble were still able to caught us by surprise in their 11th Anniversary. Why? At least because of four reasons:
1. they brought in two of today’s mega-stars: TULUS and YURA
2. they paid tribute to key-wiz, composer Riza Arshad
3. they carried TUNES OF STAGE & SCREEN as the theme, presenting great songs from the movies from the 60’s to now
4. it was held as the program of JAZZ AULA BARAT #5
For you who are still not familiar with the Jazz Aula Barat, this event was started in 2013 as a program of the students’ activity unit (UKM) of Institut Technology of Bandung called ITB JAZZ (formerly known as ITJazz). If you wonder why they use AULA BARAT as the name, this building which was built in 1919 and stands as the landmark of ITB building has witnessed and welcomed so many jazz figures for decades. The Aula Barat is a part of jazz history of Bandung and Indonesia, it’s iconic, legendary and important.
Riza Arshad, who sadly passed away in January 2017 had a vision to make Aula Barat as one of the cultural centers that serve good, appreciative music performance especially jazz. That idea came to life in 2013 and then continued on in 2016. Series of concerts presenting big names (bands and musicians) who have been dedicating their life and career to this particular music we all love. Today, acting as the curator of Jazz Aula Barat is highy respected figure in jazz, pianist/composer Imam Pras. We know in his hands, this Jazz Aula Barat will continue to have a great future.
After an opening speech and introduction by ITB Jazz’s chief Samuel and The Director of Public Relation and Alumni Dra Samitha Dewi Djajanti, Salamander Big Band arrived on the scene under round applause from the audience. Without further adue they energized the audience with the theme song of the second most financially successful tv animated franchise, “The Flinstones”. The Salamander Big Band executed this song very well just like the original version which was recorded with 22 piece jazz band. Dicky Ampouw and Matt Ashworth became the soloist on this one. The curator Imam Pras joined the ensemble on this one. Loud cheers and applauses were poured on them.
Starting from the first song, this event gave more than just a music performance. They provided a big screen behind the band that revealed the title and also scene from each movie they took the song from. They carried on with another animated movie, this time from the Disney’s “Jungle Book” called “Bare Necessities”. It’s cool to see Mowgli and Baloo dancing on the background while they played the song. Andriyanto Haryanto and Recky Darmawan on trombones were the soloist.
Enough with the animated movie, they switched to a famous song written by filmmaker/actor/comedian extraordinaire Charlie Chaplin, “Smile”. You could hear this song in the biopic “Chaplin” (1992). The Diane Schuur of Indonesia, Nenden Syintawati was on vocal with established saxophonist from Jakarta Donny Koeswinarno on solo. Like the previous song, the sound of flutes enriched the song’s texture.
The famous song from a 1956 movie starring Bing Crosby, written by Cole Porter came right after: “Anything Goes”. Imelda Rosalin left the piano and paired with Gail Satiawaki in front. If you remember, this song appeared grand again 28 years later as the opening of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, sang by the heroine Kate Capshaw along with cool cabaret, Broadway style dancing. Imelda and Gail nailed it as before, and Matt Ashworth got his role again as the soloist. Another song taken from the same movie also written by Porter followed, it’s “De-Lovely”. Amalia Ramdhan was in charge with the vocal.
We enjoyed the scene from “Anything Goes” in two songs. Then Salamander Big Band jumped years forward to pin recent time’s popular song of Sam Smith made as the theme song of 007 James Bond movie, “Spectre”. Yes, it’s “Writing’s On The Wall”! As this song is familiar to today’s generation, they received some noise from the audience. Gail ellegantly sang this song the way Sam Smith did, including Smith’s falsetto trademark. Having the English super spy while enjoying real big band gave us chills, it’s something we don’t get to see often.
Then came the amazing vocal harmony group of Salamander Big Band called Salamander Voices. This vocal group consists of Amalia Ramdhan, Sekar Teja Inten, Devi Remondi and Adi Sigerra. Its first appearance was 4 years ago in the 7th Anniversary Concert. This group of 4 singers has a superb vocal skills and harmony. Of course, when they sing a song from “Finding Nemo”, “Somewhere Beyond the Sea”, it works like charm.
Imelda Rosalin was given the chance to sing one of her favorite song written by one of her all-time favorite composer Burt Bacharach: “A House Is Not a Home”. Singing while having her fingers dance over the keys on grand piano is one of the things she does best. Do we love it? Absolutely.
As they were also tributing Riza Arshad, the brain of this event, Devy Ferdianto announced that they would play two of Riza’s compositions, and since both songs were arranged by Imam Pras, Devy gladly gave his position to him as the conductor. Imam Pras stood up facing the big band and let them on “Black Hole”. We still remember this song was played by Imam Pras and his group TCP/IP in 2010 edition of Serambi Jazz (http://jazzuality.com/jazz-event-report/serambi-jazz-2010-tcpip-the-report/). Dicky Ampouw flew up high in his solo run, as this song got richer sound by the additional clarinet and flute. Riza’s other composition “Empty Room” hit our emotion. The complexity and feel of emptiness made us realize that the master composer is no longer with us physically. We believe those who know him could shed a tear listening to this one.
For the last song of the first session, they flipped our mood back up again with Gordon Goodwin’s song “Backrow Politics”. This song offers a trumpet feast where the straight eights groove and funky punch rules big time. Not only the magical sound of 6 trumpets altogether, 4 trumpeters (Oki Dirgualam, Ujung Sitorus, Wisnu Maulana and Brury Effendy) also got their solos. Devy made them run solo in order from left to right, giving us some visual action along with the playful music. This song was the real kick both for the Salamander and audience, making us unpatiently waited for the second part of the concert.
After 15 minutes break, everyone outside rushed in to enjoy the rest of the show. They made a very interesting open up by taking Quincy Jones’ 1962 gem “Soul Bossa-Nova”. This song was used as the theme song of comical 60’s hipster, psychedelic secret agent movie starring Mike Myers, “Austin Powers”. As we said before, the Salamander Big Band doesn’t only play traditional swing from the golden era, but they also capable to bring the scene of big band sound from later years. In this song we enjoyed the 60’s feel created effortlessly by the ensemble.
If you already watched movies in mid 90’s, you should remember there was a rom-com movie with the late Whitney Houston and Denzel Washington as the lead stars. The movie’s titled “The Preacher’s Wife”. There’s a Whitney song within the soundtrack that’s not only became a top five hit in the USA at that time but also nominated for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance at the 40th Grammy Awards: “I Believe In You and Me”. Perhaps no one’s better to take on this song than the runner-up of The Voice Indonesia season 2 (2016) who is also a proud member of The Salamander Voices, Sekar Teja Inten. This young lady has an outstanding soulful vocal quality which is perfect to sing any R&B songs including a difficult ones like Whitney’s. Sekar took her time, connecting her heart with the audience until she completed the song. Rika Andryani was the only pianist playing in this part.
Gail was back on stage to sing Oasis’ “Wonderwall”. As shown on screen, this song was featured in the final scene of an episode of Smallville season 3. We have heard some jazz versions of this song before (including by Brad Mehldau), but now it’s arranged for big band. Cool arrangement, nice vocal work. The blind lady with unbelievable voice Nenden Syintawati replaced Gail to cover “People”, a Barbra Streisand’s hit from her movie in 1968, “Funny Girl”. Dreamy-flowing melody and strong vocal blew our mind away.
Imelda Rosalin got her second round leading in front. This time she sang not other but her own song, “Hidup Ini Indah”, a hit from the soap opera “Strawberry” in 2002. “Life is beautiful”, that’s how she sum up the character who has honest and sincere personality. Many of the audience still remember this song as we saw happy smile rose upon many faces. A hit circa 1970 from the late Chrisye, “Badai Pasti Berlalu” sounded beautiful in vocal harmony style by the Salamander Voices.
Then came the time for Salamander to bring in the guest stars, starting with Yura. Yura (Yunita Rachman) is a very talented lady with unique beautiful voice that is following Tulus’ footsteps as popular artist. It’s no secret that she gained popularity after being the contestant of The Voice 2013. Eventhough she didn’t win, Glenn Fredly knew that she’s different offered to make her album and signed her in his label. Their duet “Cinta dan Rahasia” topped the charts of many radios. True, but her own songs have the power to be hits too, like “Balada Sirkus” and “Berawal dari Tatap”. Another interesting fact, before she competed in that mentioned talent search above, she was already active as the keyboardist of Risa Sarasvati. She was also existed as a backing vocal, for example in Tulus’ “Konser Diorama” in May 2013 that we still remember clearly.
Yura has just made a wonderful achievement by winning the Best Song for AMI Awards 2017 and Best Female Solo Artist with her album “Intuisi”. Huge pops from the crowds were heard as she walked in. “I’m going to sing the song as requested by Salamander”, she said. And it turns out to be the another James Bond theme, “Skyfall”. It’s kind of surprise us since we didn’t expect her to sing this one, but Devy seemed to know Yura’s indeed the right choice. Her strong voice, steady vibe and clear pronounciation made the song served grand.
Yura carried on with her own song, “Kataji”. “Since I perform here in Bandung, I’m going to sing my own song written in Sundanese”, she said. So there, we got the chance to hear the song in big band fashion. Imam Pras joined Rika on keys. She involved the audience in this one.
Then came the phenomenal star of the decade, Tulus! On the surface, people would think that Tulus rose to fame over a night with his phenomenal first single, “Sewindu.” Although the single and the debut album was really a bullseye in hitting people’s hearts, Tulus has worked hard since at least 5 years earlier to establish himself in this business. He can make catchy melodies and smart lyrics. It can be poetic, it can be simple, but these lyrics which give portraits of what we all experience are made with class. No wonder all his album, from the self-titled debut “Tulus”, “Gajah” to “Monokrom” are all very well-received by fans. He is also a great example of how a musician could achieve success from the community. We know how serious and committed he is, so we are happy to see him being on top today.
At the AMI Awards 2017 (16 November), Tulus wins big by sweeping 5 awards in categories: The Best Album, The Best Production, The Best Soul/R&B/Urban Album, Best Male/Female Soul/R&B/Urban Singer also Best Recording Producer, all for his album Monokrom. We have listened and loved his songs from the albums and concerts, but as we wished, this time we got the chance to hear some of the hits in Big Band arrangement.
Thunderous cheers and applause filled the hall when he came in and waved. On stage, he told a little story that eventhough he wasn’t studied in ITB, he actually came there often, sitting in one corner to write many songs. The third track from the phenomenal first album, “Kisah Sebentar” was the first choice. Many of his fans sang along with him. Some girls moved to the front of the stage so they could snap some photos with their gadgets. Tulus’ crooning voice suits to go with big band. Maybe he doesn’t get much chance now since he has so many invitations from everywhere, but lucky for us, we could see it in this event. “I was so happy and excited when I was asked, I said yes right away.” said Tulus while smiling wide.
For the next song, the audience already knew when he gave a little introduction. It’s the title track of his latest album which swept the AMI Awards, “Monokrom”. We guess nobody in the room are strangers to this song. They sang along and did even louder when Tulus led them from the stage to be a giant choir. The curator of the event Imam Pras took part in Tulus’ performance.
Just two songs from both guest stars, but for us it’s already enough to create something special. Watching Yura and Tulus singing with the big band, for us it’s like a dream come true. We send respect to them both for being a part of this event and for making up such charming, energetic and memorable appearance.
Salamander Big Band still got one last song to deliver. Behold, the force was felt so strong because they played John Williams’ “Star Wars” theme. We have heard many version of this song from classical to disco to even jazz, but we never heard a fully jazz version like this. The song gave a perfect ending after we all got wonderful treats from the combination between lovely big band tunes and visual scenes from the movies.
So there, it was a blast, more than you can imagine. This is what’s funny about the Salamander Big Band. Everytime we saw them performing, we thought we have seen the best, but they kept on topping their previous ones with even better play. Plus, they never stop surprising us. Tonight they brought in two mega-stars to join their cruise, for a tribute to a highly respected figure in music particularly jazz, for an important event like this, it was wonderful!
Based on this and how we have seen the Salamander, we know that they can achieve much bigger things in the future. It’s far from over, the best is yet to come. We are always proud of the Salamander Big Band. As for the Jazz Aula Barat, we believe this event is important and have all the right to be one of the milestones of Indonesian jazz history. We wish ITB Jazz, the stakeholders and the curator, Imam Pras the best. Long live to you all, we enjoyed it, we loved it, we hope to see you again soon!
Salamander Big Band are:
Conductor: Devy Ferdianto
Saxophone: Matt Ashworth (tenor), Joseph Sinaga (alto), Dicky Ampouw (alto), Donny Koeswinarno (tenor), Bonny Buntoro (baritone)
Trumpet: Brury Effendy, Oki Dirgualam, Andri Hadiyono, Wisnu Maulana, Ujung Sitorus, Diana Saralely
Trombone: Agus Suherman, Andriyanto Haryanto, Afdhal Zickri, Arief Budhiyana, Recky Darmawan
Keys: Imelda Rosalin (+vocal), Rika Andryani, Imam Pras
Bass: Roy Bimantoro
Percussions: Adya Dhivara
Vocal: Nenden Syintawati, Gail Satiawaki, Salamander Voices (Adi Sigerra, Sekar Teja Inten, Amalia Ramdhan, Devi Remondi)
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