Jazzuality Community at Seni Bandung #1 : The Report

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Bandung city got a very special gift for its 207th anniversary. For the first time Bandung held a grand festival for not a day or two but one full month involving 5 art forms: MUSIC, VISUAL ART, THEATRE, SCULPTURE and DANCE, integratedly. It’s called SENI BANDUNG #1. There are around 2500 artists in 600 events, spreading on 48 different locations around Bandung, both conventional and public areas. The theme is “A Collaborative Arts Event”, underlining the collaborative work ethics which shows the characteristic in Bandung’s world of arts. The title given to this first installment is “Air, Tanah dan Udara” (Water, Earth and Air).

What’s interesting is that the fest doesn’t only cover traditional arts but also contemporary, even those who are originally not from Bandung or Indonesia. Jazz for example, is a music style originated in America around the turn of the 20th century. But as it’s spread aroun the world, this intoxicating music is now belong to the world, especially since jazz has the ‘habit’ to blend with regional, local music cultures everywhere it’s landed. This ‘habit’ has been giving rise to many distinctive style which is still going on until now.

So what about Bandung? Proud to say that historically speaking, Bandung is one of cities where jazz first came in. So, Bandung and jazz has been having historical connection for many decades. Today This city never runs out of jazz players, and speaking of jazz style, Bandung has it all, including the fuse between jazz and traditional Sundanese music or any other ethnics. Based on these facts, jazz is indeed a part of Bandung’s art forms, especially music. The committee and Bandung’s government seem to realize that too as they included jazz in this one full month art fest.

After running a regular monthly jazz community event for more than 4 years with many things to be proud of, we are thankful to be selected as one of jazz representatives for this event. For us it’s an acknowledgement that encourages us to keep going.

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For Seni Bandung #1 we were listed as a part of “Musik Interupsi” series. It’s called like that because the committee has the idea of interrupting the daily activities happening in a spot with good quality music. We set the lineup by inviting bands who we think could suit the concept, also those who have unique concept and stand as some of the best we got so far from our regular community events.

We got two schedules, Friday 13 October and 20 October 2017 both took place at the public (hangout) places. For each part we presented two shows that contained traditional Sundanese music inside progressive fusion jazz, and also those who recently have given fine contributions towards Bandung (West Java)’s music as a part of its art world.

Let’s see the part one first, located at Dalem Kaum street. Here we invited a nu soul diva who recently made a remarkable breakthrough with her single after a year of ‘absence’ from wide public appearance and a mind-bending cross Sundanese-Minangkabau ensemble who locked themselves up inside a progressive jazz fusion, featuring an 11 year-old wonder girl on piano.

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Appearing first was the no soul diva, Agis Kania. She found success as a part of vintage Gypsy Swing group Satura and even better as a dynamic duo Agis Bape, but her career actually began much earlier when she was still in tender age, not in any modern western music but in pop Sundanese.

After her duo Agis Bape reached the end of the line, she decided to step out off the spotlight for a while. After around a year, one day she was contacted by Ajier T-Five who offered her a composition, asking her to add up the lyrics and sing it. She fell in love instantly with the song. She directly wrote the lyrics and did the recordings, amazingly all was done only in just 2 hours. The song’s titled “Baby You”, made with love within tasty, steamy Nu Soul. This song already has the videoclip (watch it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CM3RyTUbMU4) and officially launched in our event Braga Jazz Night #36 (http://jazzuality.com/jazz-event-report/braga-jazz-night-36-ramadhan-edition-the-report/). This song has been doing really, really well over the top digital outlets and received praises from her friends and fans. In just 3 months, 16.000 people have listened, it’s been downloaded by many, with 70% of them were from other countries. That’s a remarkable achievement.

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For this event she performed in minimalist formation, together with keyboardist Aria Nugraha. The cool after the rain weather created a perfect atmosphere for Agis’ smooth, mellow soulful selection. Look at what she started with: Brian McKnight’s “Another You.” Don’t you think this song, under the voice of the lady of soul would match? Romantic, relaxing, dreamy, but that’s not all because the audience also admired her voice as Agis and Aria received applauses and cheers.

SeniBandung1-13Oct-AgisKania (7)Then Agis chose two Sundanese (folk)songs for two reasons: one, she wanted to share a part of her career when she sang Pop Sundanese around 2002, and two, she wanted to fit her repertoires to Bandung’s art fest. The songs were Iyar Wiyarsih’s “Mojang Priyangan” and Benny Corda’s “Bubuy Bulan”, rearranged in sweet Soul Jazz by them, played beautifully by Aria.

Agis then sang “You and I”. Some of you might have remembered the Michael Buble version from 2005, but originally the song was written by Stevie Wonder which can be found in his 1972 album, “Talking Book”. She effortlessly built the momentum, climbing the notes until she reached the end with stunning climax. For the last song, she sang her most recent hit, “Baby You” and showed why this song could become a global hit on the digital platforms. This song has everything needed to be a global Nu Soul hit. Catchy melody, cool mid-tempo beat, sexy lyrics, lovely arrangement, it’s current and built within a strong soulful voice with character. She received huge appreciation from the crowds.

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Agis is a top-notch jazz and blues singer. She has the old soul just like the jazz and blues ladies in the golden era. That’s true. She even admits that eventhough she could sing anything, jazz always has a very special place in her heart. But when it’s about Nu Soul, this modern soul movement seems to represent her the best at present time. Her voice has a very thick, pure soulful character just like fine singers who were born and raised out there in the land where this music was originated. Even appearing only with a keyboardist is not a problem for her since her voice is already like an orchestra.

This big breakthrough of Agis will make her being exposed not only nationally but also internationally, as we heard she got offers to build her career abroad. It certainly makes us happy when we see a friend finally receives the recognition she deserves after long, struggling years. And if you want to know another important reason of why we invited her to represent our community for Seni Bandung #1, we see her as a perfect example of Bandung’s success story in arts especially music.

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The second round was crazy. There’s a group of madmen who played music borderless inside a multi-dimensional horizons. On one foot they embrace the mystical Sundanese world of music, but on the other one they dig modern western music from jazz, blues, rock even rock and roll. The gang consisting of founder Zahar Mustilaq (drum), YD Nafis (keys), Dede SP (bass), Randy Gevenk (traditional woodwinds) and the youngest IpinZbet (kendang), together as West Java Syndicate.

SeniBandung1-13Oct-WestJavaSyndicateCollaboration (4)It didn’t take long for them to find the blending formula after they were formed in 2010. But what’s good about this band is, they keep evolving. You can listen to their transformation from the first EP “Album Leutik” to the just-released “Bubuka”. But they don’t stop there, because they also dare to explore another traditional realm from West Sumatra. With Maspon Herizal and his solid team Palanta Line Art, the West Java Syndicate has been having fun in finding the harmony between pentatonic and diatonic, optimizing the role of Minangkabau’s traditional instrument talempong (small kettle gongs) played by Sandy Ndunk and Kiki Septian along with the ancient woodwinds mastered by Maspon. This year this unique combination has performed a couple of times, from the Asian-African Carnival 2017 to our event, the Braga Jazz Night.

For this event, two of the members of West Java Syndicate was missing: Randy is still studying in China and Ipin was having an exam. But that’s not a problem, they even widened the pallette by having not one but two sets of talempongs, sets of Minangkabau traditional woodwinds played by Sandi Ndung and Kiky Septian. If that’s not enough, they also got an 11 year-old wonder girl who has collaborated with them earlier, pianist Nadine Adrianna. This combination created an ace composition and the unique musical texture like no others.

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After Agis’ sexy, smooth Nu Soul Jazz music, the mood quickly changed with strong Minangkabau rhythmical patterns. They began from 50 meters in front of the stage, playing some of the kettle gongs and woodwinds as they made their way to the stage. Zahar guarded the steps with strong syncopatic drum beating. Then, when all gathered on stage, they quickly locked with “Bubuka”, the title track of the new album. We have heard the original version which purely made in modern, progressive Sundanese fusion, but here the version got splashes of Minangkabau music. SeniBandung1-13Oct-WestJavaSyndicateCollaboration (5)Throwing a killing punch for a start made them quickly gained lots of audience. Many of the audience recorded their performance by using their smart phones/gadgets.

For the second song, they played a song written by the 11 year-old Nadine, “Harewos Bulan”. Imagine a complex pentatonic-based song made by a girl so young to honor the late Riza Arshad, then played by a cross ensemble like this, it was totally magnificent. As this is Nadine’s song, she got a lot of space to fly freely, which she took happily with manic improvisations, twists and manouvers. This girl is magic!

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Then, it’s time to hear the epic composition from Maspon, “Andalas Raya”. Opening the song with saluang (traditional bamboo flute), this song invited us into a glorious journey through the landscapic hills of Minangkabau land. As usual, Zahar kept on laughing and shouting, boosting the spirit of his mates and made the performance really fun to watch. For the last song, they invited Agis Kania to join them for Guruh Soekarnoputra’s “Zamrud Khatulistiwa.” As the late Chrisye later made the song popular again, the song is still very well known. Many of the audience sang along and in the end gave them loud applause.

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Having out of the world collaboration like this shows the creative side of Bandung at max, and for us gives a solid proof that there are still many things to explore in music. This multi-generation team has done magnificent cohesive works that creates a new hybrid. They build the bridge connecting the diatonic land of Minangkabau and pentatonic Sundanese, and let us ride on it with modern, progressive vehicle. That is why we think the West Java Syndicate Collaboration has to mark their existance in Bandung’s grand art fest.

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SeniBandung1-20Oct-Tidbits (5)A week later, on 20 October we proceed with the second part of our contribution. Due to some problems, the venue was moved to another location, the Cikapundung River Spot. Eventhough we love the first location, this new one is very interesting due to the huge historical contain this place has. From what we learnt, this is the very spot where the civilization in Bandung began thousands of years ago. We felt happy that we had the chance to bring jazz to where everything started. This time presenting another two bands: the new format of 17 year-old girl’s band and a spontaneous crossover band consisting of youngsters.

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Let’s begin with the first act: Nayra Dharma Group. This group is the continuation of Nayra Dharma Trio, the band owned by a young girl talented in jazz guitar playing and sing, Nayra Dharma. She began not that long ago, only around two years earlier but she hatched fast, gracing many stages in just a short time. From appearing alone, she formed a trio involving bass and drum. Then she changed the format, replacing drum with keyboard which for us is a brave move since not many band dare to form a band without having any drummer.

Lately she thought of expanding the concept with more player in. Because of that, she changed the name from ‘Trio’ to ‘Group’, allowing her to have the number of players as she wishes. At present time this group actually grows by adding up a kendang player. We planned to bring this new formation, however, due to some reasons the bassist and kendang player canceled their participation. It’s quite unfortunate, but above all, Nayra Dharma and the expressive key-wiz Jason Limanjaya are the core of the group. That’s what’s important for us.

SeniBandung1-20Oct-NayraDharmaGroup (1)Just like the first event, we had to wait until the rain stopped to run. People started coming soon after, ready to enjoy the show. The sweet, smooth swingin’ bossa music from the dynamic duo was really perfect for a cool, after-rain late afternoon. Antonio Carlos ‘Tom’ Jobim’s classic, “Wave” was the song. Then they moved way back to year 1934 when a famous jazz standard, “Stompin’ at the Savoy” was made. If some of us are familiar with the grand big band version from the likes of Benny Goodman or Chick Webb, or maybe through the magic hands of Art Tatum, this song is actually nice to play by using the combination of guitar and keyboard. Just like the first song, Nayra demonstrated her ability to sing and playing guitar in fingerstyle at the same time.

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Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely” was their next presentation. The more familiar song like this one made some of the audience sang along and swayed gently. Then Nayra and Jason picked a song mostly related to Billie Holiday, “The End of a Love Affair”. Not many people might remember this song nowadays especially in Indonesia, so it was a very nice reminder for us, delivered beautifully by them. They moved back to bossa, playing another Jobim’s classic “How Insensitive” that put us deeper into the chillax mood. For the last song they invited young guitarist Anjuan Julio who happened to be there to join them. From two to three, they expanded their musical canvas to play “Four”, a Miles Davis’ song. Anjuan demonstrated his ability in singing what he plays on guitar. Then, Nayra, Jason and Anjuan did cool three-ways trading that drew cheers and applauses from the audience. With this song, they sealed their performance in such style.

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The combination of Swing and Brazilian from two connected young is able to create such beautiful preentation. Smooth, sweet, but clearly contains skill and feel. It’s a demonstration of playing music effortlessly which actually is very important in jazz. Both Jason and Nayra, then anjuan who joined them in the end play as simple and natural as drawing a breath. That makes everyone in there, even those who are not really into jazz could accept and feel their music. For us, they can become an example of how success could happen from such young age. Cute, charismatic, female singing fingerstyle guitarist with his genius compatriote behind the keyboard is a great pairing, full of charm and solid. Nice, really nice.

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The second round was a band formed back then by a circle of friends consisting of high school and junior high school students called Sasadana. 4 years passed, the band’s still alive and kicking. With a little changes over the years, the band now keeps its existance by having 4 musicians: the founders Pangestu Hning Bhawana (violin), Rifky Adam Rahman (bass) and Diaz Guntara ‘Digun’ (drum/tatabeuhan), and a cute and beautiful young lady positioned on keys: Ratih Putria. Joining them was a lovely lady with powerful voice, Tiara Effendy.

From smooth, chillax show of Nayra Dharma Group, Sasadana took us into a wild, joyride right from the start. All of them including Tiara delivered a cool mashup of JavaJazz’s “Bulan di Atas Asia (Moon Over Asia)” and Indonesian folk song from Sulawesi, “O Ina Ni Keke”. It’s a surprising blend as these songs are not similiar at all, yet they mashed it perfectly. They bagged loud of applause. Since the praying call was about to come, Sasadana had to pause their performance for a while.

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After around 15 minutes break, they came back again and delivered their original composition named after the group, “Sasadana”. Pumped fusion song became a jolly playground for them, which suits the name which more or less means: sounds as free as their wish. For the next song they brought us to the West Sumatra by playing a folk song from that land, “Ayam Den Lapeh”. Again, like a bunch of kids having fun in a park, they played freely with lots of laughters, changing the beat, the tempo, twisted the song up side down, resulting one helluva performance.

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Ratih might be petite and cute, but she is wild on the keys. Diaz worked perfectly as the beat factory, throwing all kinds of beat which amazingly locked cohesively with Rifky’s basslines. As for the motor, Gypsy violinist Estu he controls everything to ensure the finest products. He is also attractive and expressive in front.

Tiara was called to be with them for a very interesting cover of “Djanger Bali”. Tiara sang it out loud, capturing all the mystical nuances together with the free-flowing sounds from the band. It looked like they spent all their energy on this song, but it turned out that it wasn’t the last song, because they took us into one last ride, rockin’ and rollin’ with The Beatles’ “Come Together”.

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Right near the end came a surprise. There was a lady suddenly arrived on the scene, dancing merrily while holding two koi fish painting. She placed the painting on the left and right side of the stage then continued dancing with scarf. This scene created what the Seni Bandung #1 is all about: celebrating variety of arts collaboratively. With her appearance, we got music, dance, painting and theatrical act altogether. What a scene!

SeniBandung1-20Oct-Sasadana (5)Sasadana is the kind of band that doesn’t like to be trapped in any particular genre. They all have colorful backgrounds which has been shaping them to be explorative (and at times, explosive) musicians. What’s amazing is, their crossover style happens spontaneously based on where their hearts lead them to. In just one solid, clean-cut strike, you can find jazz, blues, rock, Sundanese even Balinese coming out of their instruments in harmony. What’s also cool is that they have high entertaining factor. They like to joke, playing around just like a bunch of kids enjoying their moment in the fun park. That makes their performance often brings laughters, loud cheers and applause as the audience don’t only enjoy the music but also their stage act.

Based on the skill, the multi-colored music style, the fun factor, the energy and dynamics, we just believe we have bring them in our participation for Seni Bandung #1 Festival. People has to know that crossover music doesn’t always have to be complex and difficult to chew, it can also appear as a joyride for everyone. They proved us right. Look at how they gained love from the crowds.

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SeniBandung1-20Oct-Tidbits (5)We feel blessed by this invitation to be a part of the Seni Bandung #1. In this very special fest, we wanted to show the rich, multi-colored jazz existed in Bandung, the talented musicians who live in this city to penetrate the public, presented by some of the best performances in our regular community events throughout the years. The combination of experienced musicians and daring young guns, the collaborative acts, mind-bending concepts and fine jazz crafts hopefully would let everyone know that jazz, as a part of Bandung’s creative art is still pulsing and progressing healthily. We hope we have sent the message right.

On behalf of Jazzuality.com and jazz in Bandung, we thank the committee for having us in. We hope this event to continue for more years to come. It feels great to see a creative city like Bandung now has its own party that embraces all kinds of arts from music, visual art, theatre, sculpture and dance integratedly. As a part of music, jazz has been doing really well over the years, and we are happy to have the chance to contribute in it. Thank you, see you again next year.

See more pictures:

Reporter/photographer: Riandy Kurniawan
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