“We want to make it different than other festivals in Indonesia.” That’s what Erucakra Mahameru told us in April 2011, just a couple of months before he launched his brainchild, the first-ever jazz festival in Medan city called North Sumatra Jazz Festival (NSJF). By saying different, actually Erucakra meant to uphold the idealism in presenting high quality of jazz-tertainment, without forgetting the rich traditional music from different tribes living in that particular area. It was in 2011. Since then, we have been witnessing rapid growth. It now stands as an international festival. Many spontaneous collaborations indicates the fact that jazz is indeed a universal language. That’s not an easy thing to do in Medan, but it does work. Jazz penetrates Medan in the way never happened before. They have jazz communities, good regeneration and better and better acceptances from the societies. If Medan was once known as rock city, one must admit that it is jazz city too now. And North Sumatra Jazz Festival plays a very vital part of it.
Just a couple of days ago, the North Sumatra Jazz Festival as the fruit of solid collaboration between Waspada emusic (WEM) and Indiejazz Indonesia as the organizer has reached its 5th anniversary. At the press conference held in Marin Lounge Karibia Hotel on Friday, April 10th, Erucakra said that he’s ready to bring more jazz subgenres into the mix of cultures which has been seen as the city’s distinct scenes for years. This new theme’s called Jazzversity Culture. This year’s edition once again showcased spontaneous collaboration among performers from various countries.
Along with the official home band Erucakra C Man Band, from South Korea we got Phil Yoon Group consists of Phil Yoon (drums), Lee Jongwon (Saxophone), Lee Myeonggeon (Piano) and Heo Jinho (bass). From Malaysia, Razak Rahman and friends featuring Professor Hanafie Imam, Rosita Rohaizad (vocal) and Adrienne Pallikat (drums). From our side were the girl-wonder from Bali, 15 year-old VK a.k.a Vickay joined Emerald BEX’s Roedyanto, and the Indonesian progressive rock-fusion band, The KadriJimmo (Kadri Mohammad & Jimmo) took us back to feel the atmosphere of 90’s Indonesian music scene together with Keenan Nasution. Keenan’s lifespan carreer as a drummer, pianist, guitarist, writer and also famous singer, from the member of God Bless to Guruh Gipsy (with Fariz RM & Chrisye) and Gank Pegangsaan, has made him a living legend in our music industry. To add more excitement to the younger audience, Indonesian Idol’s alumni Teza Sumendra stood tall in the lineup.
The 2015’s edition started early with the performance from Medan’s local bands Elnino from University of North Sumatra, Candle & Moonlight and UNIMED’s Kalila, with some Melayu/Malay and South Tapanuli (Mandailing)’s traditional dance to describe more of this year’s cross cultural theme. The night’s got stronger jazz ambience with Rio Riezky & the Band who sang their own compositions and Gugun Blues Shelter’s “Turn It On”.
Vickay then jazzed up the stage with her amazing performance. Being only 15 year old, this jazz girl-wonder came up with her own songs from her first album, “You Don’t Know Me.” Not only great in singing, she also demonstrated her ability in playing multi instruments including keyboard and guitar. With Emerald BEX’s Roedyanto, Vickay sang ‘What’s Going On?”. the bluesy “Beggin” and “Bahagia Lagi”.
Time to check out the jazz icon from our neighboring country: Razak Rahman and Friends. Razak and his team offered jazz tunes with the ellegance of Malay traditional sounds, even included a Malay monologue. The wonderful chemistry of Razak’s saxophone and Prof. Hanafie Imam’s bass flew smooth over the Malay rendition of Duke Ellington’s “Don’t Get Around Much” presented in a translated Malay format: “Kini Aku Sendirian”. This song was sung by Mazlina Abdul Manan. The treat didn’t stop there, because then they brought in two of P. Ramlee & Puan Sri Saloma’s classic hits “Asmara” and “Mahligai Kahyangan”, sang by Rozita Rohaizad. Rozita is the niece of Puan Sri Saloma (wife of the late maestro Tan Sri P. Ramlee) and daughter of the legendary actress Mariani. Not only in carrying the legacy, Rozita suits perfectly with the song too, as if she was born to sing it.
Erucakra then joined them. Together they ran wild with John Coltrane’s “Impressions”.
With Rheinhard Tobing (one of the founder of Medan’s famous Session Band before forming his own Rheinhard & His Combo) as their new additional personnel on keyboards, Erucakra C Man Band seemed to have new power. This time with the formation consists of Brian Harefa (saxophone), Rusfian Karim (drums) and Okky Pendawa (bass), their compositions felt more variative and melodic than ever. The y played Miles Davis’ classic “So What” in acid jazz variations, Chick Corea’s “Blue Miles” in strong blues touch and Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” in Al Jarreau’s version with lyrics, which became the highlight of their performance. This quite complicated composition was nicely sang by Erucakra. He also showed his scat-singing ablity which surprised the audience. They ended their part with The Beatles’ classic “Come Together” in a quite unique variations.
Phil Yoon then came up on stage and gave everyone a different flavor. He let us enjoy the taste of South Korean jazz which is a rarity to many jazz audience here. Their highly attractive playing clearly reflected on the repertoires which were mostly taken from their albums like from the 2007 album “E.J. (Homage to Elvin Jones)”, “Nardis”, “Jindo Arirang”, “The Ride” and from the 2012 album “The Reminiscence of Mom”, “Joshua”, “Bull’s Eye” and “Boston Blues”, where they collaborated with Erucakra Mahameru’s masterful guitar sound and techniques.
As the night got even hotter, The KadriJimmo (formerly The KadriJimmo The Prinzes of Rhythm) got their shot. KadriJimmo is a duo vocalist group consists of Kadri Mohammad and Jimmo (known from Melly’s duet hit ‘Pujaanku’ from the hit movie ‘Eiffel I’m In Love’). Along with the band, these guys knocked the audience out with their progressive rock-fusion repertoires. Some was taken from their album ‘Indonesia Hebat’ like the uniquely titled “Secangkir Teh Sebelum Kau Pergi (A Cup of Tea Before You Leave)” and the upcoming single “Energi Cinta (Love Energy)” composed by Kla Project’s Adi Adrian & Bemby Noor. After the majestic medley of “Badai Pasti Berlalu” which also featured Popo the keyboardist on vocals, the most awaited Keenan Nasution joined them on stage.
Accompanied by The KadriJimmo’s Noldy (guitarist), Soebroto (bass), Popo (keyboard) and Hayunaji (drums), Keenan swept the audience with his classic hit from Gank Pegangsaan, “Dirimu”. Then he took Guruh Gipsy’s “Indonesia Maharddhika” which also came from 2014 all-star thematic collaboration album featured many Indonesian famous musicians including The KadriJimmo and Keenan. Then finally, the one that started it all in Keenan’s carreer, “Nuansa Bening” came from him in a surprise duet with Vickay, who gave cool improvisations by flying over wide range of notes. It was really, really beautiful.
NSJF 2015 wrapped the event with Teza Sumendra in his ever attractive performance, mostly for the young audience. He sang RnB’s latest hits like Jay Z’s “Show Me What You Got”, Beyonce’s “Drunk In Love”, Jessie J’s “Bang Bang”, Mark Ronson feat Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk”, his own single “Real Love”, “Tonight”, “I Want You, Love”, “Girlfriend” and the festive Earth Wind & Fire’s classic “Let’s Groove”. Teza’s performance successfully brought the audience came closer to the stage and dance.
This festival is fully supported by the city’s government and proudly stands as an international-scaled annual that should be able to attract tourists to visit Medan, as said by Medan’s vice governor HT Erry Nuradi in his official speech. The collaboration between Erucakra Mahameru’s Waspada Emusic and Dion Momongan’s IndieJazz Indonesia isn’t just successfully introduced jazz and its various subgenres to the wider audience, it also gives more opportunities to the local jazz bands and musicians. In a hope to see more and more success story in years to come, let’s never stop giving our support to North Sumatra Jazz Festival.
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