Salamander Big Band : 9th Anniversary Concert Report



Ever since Big Band emerged almost a century ago and quickly gained popularity as well as becoming the trend in USA, Big Band has attracted music lovers throughout decades. It was the trend that drove everyone to dance during the 20’s to the end of World War II. Being called a dance band shows how important this ensemble was in spreading happiness towards the society. Many prominent bandleaders like Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dorsey brothers and Artie Shaw now listed high in world’s jazz historical timeline. What about now? The magical sound of Big Band is still fascinating. Today we still have notable Big Bands all over the world, either carrying the traditional swing as how it was back then, or inventing something new in terms of musical creativity through standard Big Band format and style.

Next question, what about Indonesia, the largest archipelago in the world? This country is not the place where jazz and Big Band was originated, but it has many standout Big Bands too throughout decades. Even now, we do have many great, world class calibers. One of such ensemble is Salamander Big Band. salamander Big Band was established in September 17, 2006 at Bumi Sangkuriang, Bandung by Devy Ferdianto. It began with young jazz talents from the city with good, continuous process of regeration. They have gained experiences and learnt from world’s best musicians. Look at these mouth-watering names: Benny Likumahuwa, Bertha, Gilang Ramadhan, Sam Bimbo, Margie Segers, Bob Tutupoly, Frank Reinshagen, Dieter Mack, Thorsten Wollmann and Ack van Rooyen. Yes, all of these legends have shaped them to be a good quality Big Band that knows how to play the traditional swing authentically plus smart in infusing sounds from many eras and areas. They have been involved in many prestigious festivals like JakJazz and Java Jazz Festival (the last time was in 2015 edition) in numerous ocassions and spread its wings wider to reach Bangkok at the end of 2013. For us who have covered their regular concerts (the mid-year and anniversary) since 2008, we are proud to see them grow bigger, better and badder.

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One important note, Salamander Big Band was supported by Goethe-Institut Indonesien since 2007 (their 2nd anniversary). But at the end of 2014 the big band no longer has the support. How relieving it is to know that they still manage to keep going. They have to cover the concert’s expenses by themselves with the help of donors. It’s not easy since Indonesia – as many other countries in the world – is currently experiencing terrible financial crisis. The local currency plunged worse and worse to almost 15.000 against US dollar, but somehow they could still running the regular anniversary concert eventhough they only could make only one concert in their hometown. It’s much, much better than none. Oh yeah, eventhough Goethe-Insitut Indonesien isn’t behind them anymore, a representative of Goethe Institut was there too congratulating and enjoying the concert.

Unlike before, this year Salamander Big Band held its 9th Anniversary exactly on their birth date. Salamander Big Band: 9th Anniversary Concert featured the force of its own members, full team. Devy Ferdianto himself as usual stood tall as the conductor. The saxophone section consisted of Dicky Ampouw, Josepha Sinaga, Matt Ashworth, Erik N Chandra and Bonny Buntoro. On trumpets were Brury Effendy, Andri Hadiyono, Eggy Bayu Pratama, Elbana Adrian and Diana Saralely. On trombone: andriyanto HAryanto, Agus Suherman, Afdhal Zickri, Arief Budhyana and Ivan Imran Indramsyah. Then the rhythm section was filled with singing pianist Imelda Rosalin, Rika Andriyani (piano), Gallang Dalimunthe (bass), Bramania Bachtiar (guitar), Augustinus (drums) and young Adya Dhivara (percussion). Other than Imelda, Salamander has more than enough source of awesome vocals. The Indonesian Diane Schuur, Nenden Syintawati and male crooner Gail Satiawaki were back, plus the awesome Salamander Voices: Lia Amalia, Sekar Teja Inten, Devi Remondi and Adi Sigerra. Just as always, the hall were filled by many guests (many of them were youngsters) even before the concert began.

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The manager Mr Yongki Nusantara wasn’t there because he’s still in the hospital. However, by a video he wishes the best as well as reminding the audience that Salamander Big Band is the real big band, not a band that’s big in number of players.

Starting 7:45 pm, under huge applause they kicked off with “Take the a train”, in full grand swing with wicked improvisations and solo runs.

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Devy Ferdianto gave a speech, welcoming everyone and shared a brief history of Salamander Big Band. He also told us that he came to know big band from Diane Schuur’s songs which were played on radio when he was still young. “It was then, now here I am with a big band.” he said. Then, former Minister of Industry and one of the founders of Mara radio Mr. Mohamad Suleman Hidayat gave a speech too.

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Indonesian Diane Schuur, Nenden Syintawati walked in and led with a song popularized by many artists including Ms. Schuur’, “Caught a Touch of Your Love”. Gail Satiawaki then switched the mood to romantic with Michael Buble’s “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You”.  Next, Lia Amalia gave a beautiful rendition of Cole Porter’s 1936 song, “It’s De-lovely”.


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Imelda Rosalin shared her golden voice while still playing piano. It was the sexy Cole Porter’s “Too Darn Hot”, just as good as madame Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition. The Salamander Voices which was established 3 years ago got their turn with “The Days of Wine and Roses”. Brury’s solo trumpet shone too in this one.

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Gail and Imelda then gave a harmonious duet with “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” More Cole Porter “Night and Day”. Matt Ashworth gave short but meaningful sax lines.

Gail came back and sang a song popularized by Frank Sinatra, “Witchcraft”. Then Lia sang another Cole Porter classic which always reminds us of the opening of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, “Anything Goes”. The last song for first session was “September in the Rain”.

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The second session began with another Cole Porter’s  gem “You’d be So Easy to Love” through the vocal of Imelda. Then they blew up the candle set above the birthday cake. Mr Mohamad Suleman Hidayat, former Minister of Industry (2009-2014)  sang “All of Me”.  Then Nenden came back with Arlen/Mercer’s “Come Rain or Come Shine”.

Gail lifted up the tempo with a superhit of Cole Porter which was brought to fame by so many prominent artists (including Frank Sinatra and Ella Firzgerald), “I Get a Kick Out of You”.

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Devy called Lia to sing “Just One of Those Things”. Though this song was sung since 1935 through voices of Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and many more, younger jazz lovers would probably remember it from Diana Krall or Jamie Cullum. Imelda Rosalin then sang “Mean to Me” without leaving her role on piano.

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They switched to Indonesian song. This time Salamander Voices stood tall and delivered a big old hit of Eddy Silitonga, “Jatuh Cinta”. Again, the top notch vocal harmony along with body swinging brought senior audience to memory lane. Nenden moved to ballad again with Rodgers and Hart”s “Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered”. “Finally I could be released from Diane Schuur’s image”, she joked before she sang this song.

Imelda and Gail then boosted up the power with “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)”. As much as we loved the party, the concert came to an end. Salamander Voices came back with a hit originally from Stevie Wonder in 1973 but later became huge again by Incognito, “Don’t You Worry Bout the Thing.”

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It should be the end, but Salamander Big Band gave one final shot with all singers gathered in front, partying with Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke”.

No guest stars were found in the anniversary concert this year, yet the awesomeness of Salamander Big Band was clearly felt. They shone bright and grand, blended with the majestic view of the vintage, historical hall of Bumi Sangkuriang. Well known songs, cheerful and joy, beautiful ballads took us back to the glorious days of Big Band. And this year the keyword is: fun. Imelda also stated the same to us after the performance. “It was really fun tonight!” she said happily.

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We love it, Salamander Big Band! On behalf of everyone in, we send you best wishes. Happy anniversary Salamander Big Band! Wish you the best for many, many more years to come. Tens of years from now, probably even centuries later, Indonesia would be proud of having a world class big band with the true swingin’ spirit, Salamander Big Band. Keep preserving it  and go represent the country proudly abroad. Swing on and up, fellas!

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Reporter: Riandy Kurniawan
Photographer: Mia Damayanti Sjahir


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