In a fine morning on the 1st of November we got a sad news. Widyasena Sumadio, a communications strategist, independent creative development collaborator, a storyteller, hosting a radio program at Demajors’ Radio who for us is like a brother, buddy, mentor, motivator, passed away at the age of 51 due to a heart attack. He has helped not only us but also a lot of musicians/bands/groups in his life. Helping to connect the dots to achieve bigger and better things, helping with ideas and moral support. A very kind man with a big heart, always placing himself as a close relative who knew what we were struggling with and care enough to give solutions. That’s why many of us grief over his passing.
When we heard about this, we knew that we just had to make something special to remember him. We wanted to bring some of the musicians that he was always proud of and sent our respect through one thing we were connected with: jazz. As we had that plan, we were told that The Papandayan Hotel wanted to share its amazing TP Stage to us. The Papandayan has been successfully running its TP Jazz for around 4 years. Not only it’s served weekly, they also have the grant festival every year and consistently held knowledge sharing with clinics and talks. We feel honored that they wish to support the movement and effort made by a jazz community. We believe this will give benefit to the process of jazz development and regeneration that we have been working on for the last 5 years. We named the event as JAZZUALITY @ TP, set to run on the fourth Sunday of each month.
We respectfully dedicated the first edition for him and gave the title: “In Memory of Widyasena Sumadio”. As soon as we set the theme and date, we started inviting some musicians that we know he always proud of and directly got positive response and support from them. From Bandung are the Manuhutu Brothers (David and Ezra Manuhutu), Tesla Manaf and Grace Sahertian. Then, from Jakarta are Rafi Muhammad along with two friends: ex-BLP keyboardist Doni ‘Don Joe’ Joesran and Taufan Wirzon. As you have probably seen in the flyer and article, a senior guitarist/founder of Ligro whom Widyasena interviewed just a couple of hours before he passed away, Agam Hamzah was supposed to join the lineup, but unfortunately since he catches a bad cold he had to cancel his participation. We hope we could have him in this event some other time.
Performing first was a young jazz genius, Tesla Manaf. Tesla is different. He thinks differently, he executes differently. If you wonder how he could be so different, probably the music environment he grew up with contributed in some ways. Look, he was raised in 60’s-70’s rock progressive styles from the likes of Mahavisnu Orchestra, Gentle Giant, ELP to Soft Machine, but also embracing contemporary music from maestros like Debussy, Bela Bartok and Krzysztof Penderecki. Being fed from these two sides of musical sphere gave him inspirations especially in terms of composing with odd melodies and open-minded, even wild music imagination and exploration.
He has taken his journey one step at a time, which we feel fortunate to be able to witness right from the beginning of his career not long after he moved to Bandung. From a duo with Bayu Kristanto, with Ivan ‘AJ the Real’ Jonathan, with Grace Sahertian and even his successful trio G/E/T to his awesome project combining progressive jazz with traditional Balinese music, instrument and dance, the Tesla Manaf ft Mahagotra Ganesha, he showed tremendous progress. It wasn’t easy, he got to fight all obstacles and kept on sailing through stormy weathers. He caught the attention of MoonJune with the cross-progressive Balinese ensemble who directly signed him, resulting his solo debut album built upon progressive acoustic experimental music that placed him among the world’s top guitarist at recent time.
It’s not Tesla if he stops doing something new. Last August we covered his performance at the Ubud Village Jazz Festival where he played all by himself. He did efforts of connecting ears and eyes to heart in his performance resulting a new experience of enjoying his music. It continued on by collaborating with Mia Damayanti’s photo slides tributing the late key-wiz Riza Arshad a month ago.
Before he begin, he took his time to share his memory with Widyasena. “He loved to give advices, he often said things that I couldn’t understand at first, but when I think of it later, it all made sense and became really important to my career.” Tesla also reminds the audience of something we tend to forget or ignore. “Our works as musicans can be seen through our songs, whether in physics or digitally. But don’t forget that there are people behind the curtain. They might be unseen but we can’t be who we are without them. We have to remember and appreciate them too.” Well said, Tesla.
This time he did another new thing. We were surprised when he told us and the audience that he wouldn’t use his guitar this time, because he wanted to send his respect in special way. “I took my guitar, I played, but for strange reason it didn’t feel right. So I decided to do it in another way. I want this to be special and not like just another gig. I’m sorry if the sound would disturb you later, but this is how I feel for losing him.” he said.
If watching him on stage without guitar is already strange, what he did and the sound he made were much more bizzare. Using his Noise Box/Modular Synthesizer, he created a fully improvised soundscape in such dimension we have never been in before. It’s like he was trying to establish connection to the other world by using the sound of frequencies, sound clips from the movies and songs. The sound of people talking, the disturbing distortion, broken and chaotic, the space-y noise, all were produced from the panel by him.
Throughout the performance everyone were in total silence as Telsa dragged everyone into the tragic realm beyond sadness. In the last 5 minutes, suddenly we heard the voice of Widyasena doing the interview. And yes, it was taken from the last one he made with Ligro just a couple of hours before he died. We could still hear his excited voice, his way of laughing and so on. Then it started to get broken and slowly faded away. Empty, quiet, dark, until the applauses being thrown at him.
Mind-torturing, heart-tearing, provocative, unfamiliar sound to catch, especially on jazz stage. So unfamiliar that we might never understand what he made. But we are sure everyone who listened would get his feeling of pain, anger, sadness and every mixed emotions he has deep within.
Our fellow photographer, Kherisnawan said that Tesla’s play reminds him of Jonny Greenwood, the guitarist/keyboardist of Radiohead. It was like fully improvised bizzare experimental post rock with no pattern or steady beat even melody. This shocking start allowed us to feel the other side of music far transcending whatever we know about it. None of us predicted him playing this way, but after seing it, we realize that another form is existed, and there will be more to discover in other periods of time. And what’s also important is, we can see Tesla now not just as a young guitar virtuoso but also a true artist who know what to do and use in order to deliver his feeling. Simply magnificent.
The second session featured an artistic soulful diva who started her career around the same period with Tesla. She is none other than Grace Sahertian. We have also seen her growth from the start, when she was still with her band Palm From Moodytunes. She began wish soulful, jazz influenced groove, but later on she went on digging wider, reaching the world music as a duo with Tesla and even the urban jazzy hip hop with Circle O’Fifth which has one hit single “Honestunes”.
At a certain time she realized that she had to proceed with her solo career. At first it wasn’t easy for her to find the concept especially since she listened to what people said, but when she decided to listen to her own heart, she finally knew what she wanted and needed to do. After three years in the making, she has released her debut solo album titled “Hela”. With this album she’s taking the listeners into her life process, the highlights of her musical journey (you will find soul, gospel, blues, jazz and world music throughout the tracks) and amazingly brings us into the voyage of finding her roots, using the nearly extinct language of Yamdena. (Read the story about the album here: http://jazzuality.com/album-reviews/grace-sahertian-hela-tracing-back-the-roots/ ). If you follow her career and listen to her albums, also the fact that she is a fine fiber artist, you will agree with us that she is really, really artistic.
For this tribute she took her strong team including Rayhan Sudrajat (guitar), Omega Touselak (keys), Faishal M Fasya (keys and synth bass) and Gantira Sena (drum).
After sharing her memory with Widyasena the last time they met, what he told her and gave his support to Grace’s debut solo album, Grace took us into a journey towards her roots back to the beautiful island in Maluku through her title track “Hela”. Grace’s vocal backed with Rayhan’s voicing and the music served by her team made our imagination appear as if we were rowing bravely in the deep blue sea, facing no matter situation lies ahead with head straight. Just like in the ancient beliefs, this voyage theme could become a way for Grace to sail his spirit out to the better, peaceful world of afterlife in a majestic, elegant and heartful way.
Grace carried on with a track that always brings all her heart and soul out to be felt by the audience due to its strong nature, “Fallin'”. From there, she took Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” and then as how she always wants it to be, she ended up by spreading positive motivating vibe with her song “Sun of Hope”. “The universe wants the best for you, so shine a light and be alive. Bring out the sun to shine,” she sang out loud. If the first song took us into a journey of sailing, the last presentation invited us to go through another different journey, this time into the vast rainforest in Africa through the beat and upmoving melody.
Grace has the kind of voice with strong character that can make any theme to be at its best. Especially for a tribute of someone who Grace knows and respects like this, she gave a heartfelt appearance. As one of the artists that Widyasena really proud of, we know that inviting her is a must. It turns out that she decorated this event soulfully delicious. She gave an expressive, exquisite soul-connected performance.
The sister of Widyasena, Mrs Widyawati, her son and Widyasena’s girlfriend Nirmala Hapsari attended this event. Before we continued with the performance, we invited the representative from the family, Nirmala to share some words on stage. Joining us was Hari Pochang and Venche Manuhutu as the representative of The Papandayan and his friend from Jakarta, show director/production manager Damar Hatmadi to share some sweet memories with the man we gave respect to.
Back to the performance, next we featured The Manuhutu Brothers: David and Ezra Manuhutu. They are the sons of senior jazz guitar teacher and founder of VMS, Venche Manuhutu.
David began his career since he was still a teenager around the same time of Tesla and Grace. After being active for a couple of years either with his own bands/projects or as a part of the Indonesian Youth Regeneration (IYR) who won the Grand Champion at Singapore Performing Arts Junior Competition in 2010, he got the chance to study at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, USA under a scholarship. According to Venche, it was Widyasena who suggested him to contact Dwiki Dharmawan to find the scholarship, and it was a right sugestion. In Berklee, David continued to make achievements, including earning place on Dean’s List given to students who achieve high grades by the average of 3.4 and above.
Now as he has done with his study, he quickly placed himself among the great young jazz musicians who are equipped with high jazz playing technique. He has made an album titled “A Journey” where he played alongside two top American jazz guitarists: Adam Rogers and Peter Bernstein, plus a drummer from Peru, Ken Ychicawa. He recently joins the Indro Hardjodikoro Quartet too and just came home from an album tour in Japan visiting two cities: Tokyo and Nagoya.
As for Ezra, we first knew him as a saxophonist, but later he switched to and found his existance in bass playing. He grew as a solid bassist with The New Equinox and now stands as the bassist of a band full of amazing young players, The New Blood.
As we mentioned before, The Manuhutu Brothers was supposed to play with Agam Hamzah. Since Agam couldn’t come, they had to play alone. But that’s not a problem, because good players like them could always do great things even just by two. For this event they played two jazz standards: 1930’s gem “Body and Soul” and Charlie Parker’s composition from 1946, “Confirmation”. In each song the siblings locked up tightly, connecting their brain, heart and soul to erve jazz in purity. Everything you love from jazz were there. They played tight, cleanly executed each one, spared plenty of room for improvising. A real treat for jazz purists or the hardcore jazz lovers.
Projected to play as trio, they ended up just as a duo at the last minute. But that’s the magic of jazz, you can still expect a good round from a class-act musicians. While we have known the amazing skill of David Manuhutu, it’s great to see that his little brother Ezra is going to the same direction. Beautiful songs, beautiful play, beautiful jazz.
For the final session we featured a phenomenal young drummer who with lots of achievements and holds 3 MURI Records (Indonesian World Records Museum): Rafi Muhammad. If you wonder why we refer him as a phenomenal musician, it’s because he has done so many amazing things since he was still a kid. The first time we heard his name was when his debut album “Can’t Stop The Beat” was released more than 10 years ago. This album was produced by Harvey Mason, featuring no less than 18 world’s jazz giants like Mason’s compatriotes in Fourplay: Bob James and Nathan East, Tom Scott, and Ernest Tibbs just to mention a few. Speaking of MURI Records, he is listed under 3 categories: the youngest musician who performs at the Java Jazz Festival, the youngest musician who collaborated with 18 international musicians and the youngest producer for his own album at the age of 14.
Speaking of skill, he is great not only in mastering variety of styles but also by his playing style which is distinctive and full of youthful energy. He is the master of infusing rock and urban hip hop into jazz that feels natural and fluid. Look at his band and project he’s in throughout his career, from Rafi and the Beat, The Art of Tree, the second formation of LLW (with Indra Lesmana and Barry Likumahuwa) and Her Coat of Arms (along with Sri Hanuraga and Adra Karim).
Just a few days ago he released a new album titled “Transition”. As usual, he made another breakthrough with this album. “Transition” is under a Japanese record label who signed artists in wide array of genres from jazz to rock, AMSA Records. The album launching gig was made not in Indonesia but at Motion Blue in Yokohama, Japan. As mentioned by Rafi when releasing the single a year ago titled “Break The RuleS”, this album depicts his journey in music since the moment he began his career up until now. Because of that you can find jazz, rock, fusion, psychedelic, progressive and urban hiphop.
Rafi is among the artists that Widyasena supported for many years. It’s still like yesterday when we met him with Rafi and his band The Art of Tree in Bandung. Therefore we had Rafi in our list when we came out with this tribute event, luckily he’s available and agreed to join. Rafi performed in trio formation with Doni Joesran (keyboard) and Taufan Wirzon (bass). To Rafi, Widyasena is a figure of his life. He told us that Widyasena played a very important role to his Japan tour. And to Doni, Widyasena is a companion of his life. “All songs we are going to play are dedicated to him, Rafi said right before he jumped into his saddle behind the set of drums.
The trio played songs from Rafi’s new album “Transition”. First was “When I Was 10”, a playful track with strong funky beat. This song caught the attention of the audience as they bagged applause a couple of times whenever the audience were pleased with their shot. The title track “Transition” followed directly afterwards. Don Joe moved from the grand piano to keyboard while the other two maintained their positions. This song is lethal with graphic beat and melody. Certainly not easy to play since it has a lot of twists and tricky moments.
Rafi, made the stage like his fun playground. He teased and threw jokes spontaneously when he’s not busy banging the drums. Then Don Joe stepped forward and gave a speech. Rafi offered to provide some music by placing himself behind the grand piano. Doni then told us about a song he wrote inspired by his chat with Widyasena a while ago about the power of mother’s prayers. The song’s titled “Her-Lachrymose” (Latin – means: tearful/weeping). This song was played in a solo piano recital. Don Joe had a short moment of silence before he started pouring sad, bitter-sweet streams of melody. The combination of classical with light jazz at its best, full with emotion creating a touching moment. This song is so beautiful, we hope it will go into the recording, either appear in Don Joe’s upcoming solo debut or in any other ones. Rafi and Taufan regrouped and gave one last action. Again, strong, furious track was served in full round which sealed this tribute in style.
The trio of Rafi Muhammad hows attractive jazz in urban feel at present time. The energetic powerful beat, the captivating bass walk and the vibrant piano sound, all packed in one rock solid performance. Rafi shared 3 songs from his new innovation/movement which is now available to hear in his latest album released just a week ago in Japan. Rafi and his beat is always too hard to handle, and this trio appears as a very strong unit. We are happy to be able to invite them and hope we can have them again some other times.
We thank all the participating artists who have given their best, The Papandayan Hotel, all who came and everyone behind this event. We hope everything we all did with this event ; eventhough small ; could send our respect and prayers to Widyasena. We miss his friendly appearance, his jokes, his thoughts, his ideas, his support and writings. He’s physically gone, but certainly not forgotten. Rest in peace mas Wid, we will keep on carrying your passion, wishes and hopes. We will always remember you.
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