If we want to talk about the jazz connection between Germany and Indonesia, we have to move more than 40 years back. There we would find a piece of history when a German journalist, producer and book author specialized in jazz Joachim-Ernst Berendt came to visit Jakarta. There he met the owner of Irama records, “the singing Commodore” Suyoso Karsono. Irama Records was the pioneer of jazz recording in Indonesia not long after Indonesia proclaimed its independence. Mas Yos, that’s how Suyoso was called by his friends then introduced Berendt to Jack Lesmana and Bubi Chen. Berendt had already heard the name of these two legends earlier from the clarinetist Tony Scott. Looking at the potential of the two maestros and other jazz musicians by then, he suggested them to play at Berlin Jazz Festival 1967. The Indonesian All Stars was born, featuring both Jack and Bubi with Maryono, Yopie Chen and Benny Mustafa Van Diest. Tony Scott joined them on that occasion. They gained fantastic response from the German audience with their progressive boppin’ ethnic jazz which was actually far ahead their time. Looking at the response, they made a historical album in Germany called “Djanger Bali.” So that was the moment when the jazz connection between two great nations was firstly established.
Germany has been known as a very important jazz country in the world. Look at ECM, the recording company from Germany that not only successfully produced many legendary musicians but also created a new jazz wave. Many people would even take ECM as some kind of jazz genre up to this day. It’d be a great chance for us to learn from jazz luminaries from German. At the same time, it could be the chance for us to introduce our arts and cultures to Germany, especially our jazz. We have many tremendous jazz musicians that deserve to be heard internationally just like what the Indonesian All Stars did in 1967. 4 decades passed, in 2009 Goethe Institut Jakarta together with senior composer/pianist Riza Arshad made it all come true. They decided to rejuvenate this mutual friendship in jazz through series of concert named Serambi Jazz. So far this project has been working tremendously according to its vision and mission. The society got entertained with good jazz quality from selections of artists, the friendship between two great nations grows stronger, and we’ve learned a lot from the international musicians. Those are the things we can clearly see as the results from this regular event. Another result can be seen through Riza Arshad‘s out of the world progressive ensemble with kendang, simakDialog. They are going to perform at Jazzahead! Festival on April 28 at Bremen, Germany. And they are sponsored by the central Goethe Insitut in Munich. We are wondering why our own government doesn’t seem to care about the artists who have the chance to represent Indonesia out there, but anyway we are relieved that Goethe Institut are willing to support them. “I can say it’s the fruit of Serambi Jazz”, said Riza Arshad.
From the beginning Serambi Jazz has been set as two monthly event. Since February 2009 quality jazz event has been launched grand, taking place at GoetheHaus Jakarta. Two German musicians/groups appear each year. Later for this special occasion Goethe Institut widened up their coverage to reach Bandung. Last time in December we got a tremendous presentation of Wolfgang Haffner Trio at Bumi Sangkuriang Bandung, just a day before they reappeared once again at GoetheHaus Jakarta. This month comes another brilliant group with a very unique concept all the way from Germany, YAKOU TRIBE.
We’re happy that Yakou Tribe’s the group selected to come for the 2011 series. It’s indeed a brilliant choice, since this group has a very unique style and concept. Four musicians under the group, Kai Brückner (guitar, banjo, mandolin, dobro), Jan von Klewitz (saxophone), Johannes Gunkel (bass) and Rainer Winch (drum) are undoubtedly talented and full of skills. But what’s really interesting about this group is the way they present the nuance of American western cowboy style inside the European jazz. Unlike the traditional European style of Jazz we often heard from many European musicians, they bridge both elements brilliantly, presenting us the modern jazz picturing the wide scope of the American land and the quiet German night. Some blues pattern emerged within the songs, something that surely added more flavors to this unique concept.
YAKOU TRIBE was formed some times around a decade ago. In 2001 they setted down their standards with their debut album “Road Works”, giving up the kind of urban fantasies of movement with every changing moods lie within. Three years later they released the second album “Red & Blue Days” with adding more western accent. The third one came in 2007 entitled “Rituals”, presenting the world of art that has organically grown inside them all through the years. Whenever you listen to any of their songs, you will get an instant hint that somehow a landscapic American western world can appear sophisticatedly from a German group. The name Yakou itself is taken from Japanese word means “nightly travels” and “nocturnal shimmering”, a name that’s perfectly picturing their concept musically. In their myspace this group describes their music as “the spirit of adventure joins pensiveness, floating in wide expanses of sound merges with the joy of completion.” Having toured around the world as far as reaching Africa supported by Goethe Institut, and also India, this year finally they landed on Jakarta. Lucky for us to be able to experience their expressive compositions along with variety of lively rhythms.
Guitarist Kai Brückner has started playing guitar since he was 8 years old. He’s played alongside many rock bands around the big city of Berlin before he moved on to study at the Hochschule der Künste (College of Arts). He continued for further study to reach New York, in where he got the chance to learn from Mike Stern, John Abercrombie, Wayne Krantz and many more. Having played in many groups beside Yakou Tribe such as Kai Brückner Trio, Jocelyn B. Smith Band, Jerry Granelli’s UFB, Jacobien Vlasman Quartett, Thärichens Tentett, and many more, he surely gained a lot of experience to bring something entirely different to what we have already heard before. Besides active in playing, he’s been giving some workshops too. He’s done workshops while performing at concerts in Europe including his homeland Germany and also in Asia, including India and China. But it’s going to be the first time for him to give workshop all by himself in Indonesia. I’m very excited about it”, he said. Kai Brückner is ready to give a workshop for 5 days straight at GoetheHaus Jakarta from April 25 to 29, 2011.
On saxophone stood Jan von Klewitz. He studied at Hochschule für Musik (College of Music) in Köln and at the Banff Center of Arts in Canada. He moved back to Berlin in 1991 where he soon involved in several recordings and played together with Albert Mangelsdorff, Wolfgang Köhler, Bill Elgart and many more. He gives so much western flavor through his saxophone playing in Yakou Tribe. The way he play is energetic, as if he can’t stop moving when he’s really into it. Johannes Gunkel is the bassit of Yakou Tribe. He actually started with classical music playing violin and piano before he switched to bass. He was involved in many road tours together with Lee Konitz, Sheila Cooper, Steve Davis, Jochen Rückert, Wolfgang Köhler, Gitte Haenning and many others. Rainer Winch on drums studied at HdK and also at the Banff Center of Arts in Canada. He gained experience by playing with diverse artists too including Lee Konitz, Sehila Jordan, Wolfgang Muthspiel and many other artists. Among all the active groups he’s playing, he felt fortunate to be able to visit far country like Indonesia with Yakou Tribe. He told us that right before he performed. “Musicians in Germany play often to make a living, often with many different groups. So it’s not easy to find the good time for touring, but I’m lucky to be able to come this far with Yakou Tribe” he said. He also shared the story of his first encounter with jazz. It was when Chaka Khan‘s album “I Feel for You” was released back in 1984. Besides that album, he’s also really into the 70s funk such as Sly & the Family Stones. It always brought my mood back. I even listened to them when I cleaned my room” he said while laughing. Medeski, Martin and Wood is another group he’s really into. By looking at these, we can kind of guess on his playing field.
Yakou Tribe started their Indonesian road trip on Sundanese soil. Appearing first at Bumi Sangkuriang, Bandung before the second round performance at GoetheHaus Jakarta today (April 21, 2011), they were nice enough to give a little clinic in the afternoon before they started playing at night. At exactly 9:30 pm they started the show right after Mrs Lastri and Riza Arshad greeted the audiences and gave a brief introduction to the band and Serambi Jazz. Yakou Tribe started gently before giving up a lively beat with von Klewitz went on with some action in front on “Darum”. Moving on the second song, Gunkel changed his instrument to contrabass. “Mc Guffin” was played nicely still with energetic rhythm. They slowed down playing smooth with “Round” then went back in action again, on the intensely playful “Fox and Goose”. It was really nice to see them enjoying every second of the song.
“Sometimes we don’t have the name for the composition we made.” said Kai Brückner. He was talking about the next song, which they made while they were on their trip to Nairobi, Kenya. “While we’re thinking of the title, someone came to us and gave the name for the song, “Bila Jina”. This song became the playground for them, as in some parts in went almost experimental along with the mysterious nuance we captured in it. While the Gunkel worked on giving more sound with his manouvers on his contrabass, Winch did remarkably well on drums as well. He wasn’t just guarding the rhythm, but he gave extra flavor into the song as well with his unique rhytmic pattern, just like what he did in all of the songs. Brückner did his part nicely with his guitar. “Rejoice” came right after. Almost everytime von Klewitz blew his sax the crowds gave applauses all through the songs.
The next song was Gunkel’s composition called “Winterlied” (Winter Song). This song gave some kind of traditional touch in creating the peace and calm mood in winter. We imagined on watching the snow fall while listening to this one. “Raogo” followed, where Brückner went forward in some part, giving up his wonderful guitar touch on it. In the album “Ritual” actually Brückner played banjo in this song, but even with electric guitar he still able to bring the nuance. The fresh countryside folk was brought back again with nice funk on the next song, “Jäger Hofstr”. After that Brückner announced that they had come to the last song. After saying thank you, they gave high dose of funkin’ western jazz for the final song “Boogaloo”. Standing ovation was what they got in the end. The applauses didn’t stop even after they left the stage. That was a sign of asking an encore. Without further adue, they came back again and gave the last bite, “Don Camelone”, again from their “Ritual” album. Once again we got the western funk landing on Bandung through Yakou Tribe’s delightful work. Here Brückner showed his delightful guitar exploration side by side with von Klewitz’ sax. Again they got standing ovation from the whole crowds.
Once again Serambi Jazz has given the jazz lovers a very entertaining night. Full with quality, full of surprise and also uniquely different. Yakou Tribe brought us into a journey of visiting the western world through their unique sounds. What makes it more interesting is that they let us feel it from the different angle. It’s certainly nice to experience the combination of the nocturnal shimmering, in which we got the chance to feel the wide scope of the American land and the quiet German night altogether with a modern jazz. Thank you for the lovely presentation, Yakou Tribe, it was really a pleasure meeting and watching you. Also thanks to Goethe Institut and Riza Arshad for inviting them. We are happy to see how the jazz connection between Germany and Indonesia which was established more than 4 decades ago grows better and better through Serambi Jazz. Today Yakou Tribe will perform once again at GoetheHaus Jakarta. (Check out the complete info here). It’s time for you, all the jazz lovers who live in Jakarta to experience something very special from Yakou Tribe.
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