One of the unique things of jazz is its ‘habit’ to absorb social musical cultures wherever it’s landed. The freedom and openness of jazz has helped to give birth to so many distinctive styles. Since Indonesia has so many different musical styles and patterns owned by thousands of tribes found throughout the archipelago, there are unlimited possibilities of finding new jazz hybrids in it. If the pentatonic Javanese or Sundanese has been widely explored, there are still many other traditional musics of Indonesia waiting to have its moment in jazz. One of them is the West Sumatra’s Minangkabau music which has a very strong pattern and character. It’s mainly built upon the diatonic scales with distinctive rhythm. Let’s leave it there for now.
Next topic is, how jazz is doing in today’s pop culture? As jazz is not the mainstream in Indonesian music scene, we might not find it too often on tv or radio. But that doesn’t mean that jazz has no existence at all. We can still find it here and there, including in talent search competitions. Then, how about finding jazz inside the indie pop scene? As the word ‘indie’ or independent usually reflects the wide musical spectrum and genre, jazz is found too in this particular corner in its own portion. And hey, how about duo that can resonate the beauty of jazz in simple and intimate way? These topics are the ‘bones’ of the Braga Jazz Night #39. A progressive Minangkabau ethnic jazz fusion, the sensational newcomer in Indie Pop and a new acoustic jazz duo were inside this edition.
If you saw our e-flyer and info event, you should notice that one act is missing. Yes, actually the runner up of The Voice Indonesia Deason 2 (2016), Sekar Teja Inten was supposed to be featured too in this edition. But unfortunately since last week she’s been sick and in no condition to perform. We will reschedule her appearance for the Braga Jazz Night to any upcoming edition(s). We wish Sekar Teja Inten a speedy and full recovery.
The smooth, pleasuring classy new acoustic jazz duo started first. It’s Ael/Hardi, consisting of young female singer Rahel Putri and guitarist Hardi Suryana. Rahel actually came from classical background. She was one of the ITB Student Choir who did really well at d’Arezzo International Polyphonic Competition in Italy 4 years ago.
Classical was her thing, but then came a time when she wished to continue her journey to jazz based on her love towards Disney songs and Jane Monheit. There, she met Hardi Suryana, a senior jazz guitarist in Bandung who gladly showed her the direction. Hardi is no stranger to us. He has performed in this event a couple of times either with his friends or students. Other than being an active musician, he is also a recommended jazz guitar teacher. So, Rahel has been in good hands. According to Hardi, Rahel has been showing vast improvement. “She adapts easily to (jazz) standards”, says Hardi to us. After making her debut on jazz stage at Klab Jazz’s event, now it’s time to have her in this edition.
Such talent shouldn’t be wasted. That’s probably what Hardi had in mind. Realizing that Ael has a very beautiful, rare vintage voice which resonates jazz in every note, he offered her jazz standards from the golden era, also some of the finest bossa tunes which became their first choice: “So Nice (Summer Samba)”. This classic from 1964 sounded really sweet from them. Then, Louis Armstrong’s gem from the 60’s, “Hello, Dolly” served as a fine tribute to the jazz legend. We don’t get to hear this song on jazz stage in Indonesia too often, so we enjoyed every moment of it. Again, a perfect song choice for her.
Ael/Hardi went far back to the 1930, presenting a song firstly introduced in the Broadway show, “Exactly Like You”. This song has been sung and recorded by so many legends throughout the years, but once again, this song isn’t really popular in Indonesian jazz anymore. Her crisp, high-pitched, thin but solid vocal character gave a nice reinterpretation of it.
Hardi then led Ael to move to the Great Britain, singing a famous song from 1939, “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square”. They decided to seal their wonderful performance with an everlasting tune that has been sang by legendary names from Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington to Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole just to name a few, “On the Sunny Side of the Street”. “If I never had a cent, I’d be rich as Rockefeller, Gold dust at my feet, On the sunny side of the street”, that’s a part of the lyrics she beautifully sang.
The combination of really rare, old soul jazz vocal and pure delightful jazz from a guitar like this would make anyone fall in love easily to jazz. For those who have been living with jazz, it could be a sweet reminder of why they love this genre in first place. Ael/Hardi is a new duo, but they do have strong chemistry and good technique. We wish the duo to keep going, and if you ask, would we invite them again later? We say, absolutely. Who can’t resist a beautiful jazz from a duo, especially the one as good as this. We would love to hear more gems from them.
For the second session, we featured a young man debuting on his solo career. We first met him as the vocalist (and co-founder) of a blues, rock, funk, jazz band Green Dolphin Street where he showcased a ‘hyperactive’ appearance, but since he quitted the band last year, he directly built his solo career. He worked fast, releasing the album just a while ago with one carrier single dedicated to his mother titled “Thanks To You” (you can watch the video clip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BK3abda-1SI). The album “The End of the Beginning” is now available on digital platforms such as iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Amazong Music, Deezer, Shazam and many more. As he is promoting the album, we are more than happy to have him in. He is Antoni Sidjabat.
He must have gotten his gift in music from her mother who had a very short career with one album in 1985. Singing is his forte, but he does play a couple of instruments too like piano and guitar. If we knew him before as a rebelious, rockin’ singer, it’s a surprise to see the whole new, much softer side of him in this solo debut, which actually works really well if not even better. The road he is taking, according to him, is Indie Pop. Not just an ordinary indie pop, because other than he keeps the ‘obscura’ feels inside some of his song especially his single, he also reflects all the music he has encountered over the years, from blues, rock, folk pop to jazz.
For this gig he performed with some of his closest friends. They are Arif Rahman (guitar), Marlon Fridolin (backing vocal, acoustic guitar), Boyke Nainggolan (bass) and Alman Naufal (drums). Not wasting any time, Antoni immidiately offered a song we all know so well from a decade ago, James Morrison’s “You Give Me Something”, followed by Tom Odell’s “Jealousy”. Both of these songs suits him, his stage personality and style.
After that, Antoni and his mates introduced two songs from his debut album. First, “Song About You” where Antoni didn’t just sing but also played guitar. This smooth, soothing folk-pop based song should have no problem in reaching the taste of common listeners including the youngsters. The last song was his carrier single, “Thanks To You”. If in the videoclip he involved piano, this time he relied fully on guitars. This version works very well too and served nicely as the final song.
A very interesting solo debut which shows not only his talents on writing, composing and singing the songs, but also his charm. Looking at his music style which is relevant to today’s music taste of the youngsters, we believe his solo debut will be successful. Ear catchy melody, pop- based but rich, lyrics that tell story of our daily lives, all can become the force to carry him up. The journey of Antoni Sidjabat is just started. It’s the end of the beginning, and he is ready to march on to the next chapter. You can show your support by listening and purchasing his songs on the digital platforms we mentioned above and follow his social medias to get his next appearance. We are proud to support him and wish him luck for his debut solo album.
For the final session we featured something really different. It wasn’t just ethnic jazz fusion, but it embraced the beautiful, distinctive traditional sound of West Sumatra (Minangkabau) in modern, progressive way, brought by an ensemble named Palanta Line Art.
Established in mid 2012 as the brainchild of senior maestro Maspon Herizal, this group has been existing in traditional Minang wedding, but what they are capable of is actually much more than just that. They have senior and junior team who have the same quality. They clearly stick to the traditional sound of Minang, using traditional/ancient instruments like talempong (set of small bronze or brass kettle gongs) and woodwinds such as saluang (an oblique bamboo flute), bansi (a small end-blown bamboo block flute), sarunai (bamboo pipe), tanduak (ancient flute made from bull’s horn which was used in black magic rituals in the old days) and so on, but they fuse it with modern, western music and instruments. They play jazz songs in diatonic scales, they play traditional songs in stunning cross-dimensional way. Technically speaking, we amaze of how they tuned the gongs chromatically, accomodating both major and minor scales resonating the harmony of basic ‘western’ chord progressions, especially jazz. All these creating harmonious borderless music, it sounds mystical yet contemporary, fun, attractive and captivating at the same time.
We met Maspon for the first time when he collaborated with the West Java Syndicate in our Ramadhan edition a couple of months ago which involved West Sumatra’s woodwinds and talempong in Sundanese music (http://jazzuality.com/jazz-event-report/braga-jazz-night-36-ramadhan-edition-the-report/). Then, we captured their magnificent performance as the opening band for West Java Syndicate’s “Bubuka” album launching (http://jazzuality.com/jazz-event-report/west-java-syndicate-bubuka-album-launching/). We invited the exact team, the junior ones led by Maspon Herizal himself, consisting of Arts Fiaris (guitar), Regi Permadi (drum), Shendy Susanto (bass), Qorry Restu Qodirullah (keyboard) and two talempong players stationed left and right, Sandy Ndung and Kiky Septian. However, since Regi couldn’t be in this gig, he was replaced by West Java Syndicate’s drummer/founder Zahar Mustilaq. So, the combination of senior and junior team was what we got, they created madness right from the very first drop.
This showcase began interestingly not on stage, but from the left side of the stage. Almost all members took two gongs with the captain, Maspon blowing a very tiny woodwind and made their way to the stage. The only player left, Zahar spread the beat until they all reunited on stage, which soon escalating into a grand Minangkabau rhytmical pattern and melody, an epic composition written by Maspon himself titled “Andalas Raya” (“The Great Andalas”). Andalas is the name of a certain tree which has been used as the mascot of West Sumatra. This act quickly caught the attention of mall goers as many of them came over to see what’s going on. Many of them took their mobile phone and recorded the performance, enjoying being taken to the landscapic, wonderous journey through the beautiful land of Minangkabau.
Then they took a famous Minang song, “Sansaro” and redressed it like never before. As the song is about misery, Maspon’s traditional flute painted a heart-tearing feel. Then, surprisingly they went swinging. Zahar demonstrated his swinging style, even doubled it up in the middle. The boys did well to catch up, and the result is very interesting. Far different than the original, the Palanta Line Art delivered it fusioned with jazz.
From there, they took us to Bali by playing “Djanger Bali”. It’s a wonder to see how the Palanta Line Art takes this traditional Balinese song into their chromatic style. While the Kiki and Sandy delivered perfect harmony and tight connection with their talempong sets, Zahar and Shendy provided lethal beat and rhythm. Arts in front was given plenty of room to explore, which complimented the sounds of talempong and tasty keyboard melodies from Qorry. The captain Maspon didn’t just use his woodwinds (including the eerie ‘tanduak’), but he created a deep, mystical and haunting scene with his hummings. The combination of Minangkabau, Balinese, Javanese and Sundanese from this ensemble was simply magnificent. Brilliant.
For the last song they presented something nobody probably ever thought of listening. It’s Chick Corea’s most famous tune, “Spain”. They played around with the notes to make it as if it was made in Minangkabau. They executed the tutti clean and tight, they made risky manouvers and had a lot of fun with the song. Have you ever thought of having this song in Minangkabau music’s way? Have you ever imagined playing this song with talempong, traditional woodwinds that go hand in hand with western instruments simultaneously? Fitting it into diatonic and chromatic? And, they twisted it by pouring some pentatonic Sundanese scale here and there? It was sensational and mind-bending. Huge applause and cheers were given to them in the end.
A unique multi-dimensional music presented by the Palanta Line Art was simply unbelievable. They played the authentic Minangkabau music by using traditional instruments, but progressively fused with modern western music styles including, or especially jazz. We don’t get to hear jazz in diatonic scales too often, it’s even rarer to have it go alongside some remarkable chromatic tunings. The melody, the rhythm, the harmony, the mystical nuance, the fun but surrealistic atmosphere, all were served spectacular by the Palanta Line Art. What they play is technically challenging, but surprisingly their music is fun and entertaining. It’s a work of art at its best, it’s an adventurous exploration, a genius creation that give us a new borderless, multi-dimensional experience.
Since we still got time, the jam session was launched immidiately. Here’s what unique: for the very first time our jam session got two talempong players also traditional Minangkabau woodwinds! The guitarist, bassist and keyboardist of Palanta Line Art also stayed. Joining them were drummer Alman Naufal who played with Antoni Sidjabat and guitarist Fahmi Al Falaq. After a simple 12 bar blues, Erick Gabe took the mike and then they delivered “Route 66”. Kiki and Sandy worked the talempong very well, breathing unique spirit into it. Boyke Nainggolan took the bass position from Shendy and this formation took Sting’s “Englishman in New York”.
Because we got closer to the closing time of the mall, the jam session eventually has to come to the last song. This time Antoni Sidjabat and Marlon Fridolin took the vocal lines and sang The Beatles’ “Come Together”. Fahmi showed his ability to scat sing what he played on guitar like what George Benson loves to do. The group photo session wrapped this 39th edition.
We feel blessed to find them through the West Java Syndicate especially its drummer Zahar Mustilaq. It might be difficult for them to penetrate the music industry since the industry always has its own boundaries, but in our world, we always proudly welcome them with huge respect. We do hope that performing for our Braga Jazz Night can become a gateway for them to establish their existance in today’s music scene.
We always know that there are still many possibilities can be done in jazz, there are still doors yet unopened or fields untouched. Tonight, one of those ‘doors’ was unlocked by this music explorers. It feels amazing to be able to bring them into this edition. What the Palanta Line Art brings is like none other. It’s genius, it’s incredibly genius.
Another unique edition’s added into our account. Pure swingin’ jazz, the ‘obscura’ indie pop and progressive ethnic (West Sumatra-Minangkabau) jazz fusion created such different tones. Also, we are glad to be able to present the multi colors of jazz to everyone.
We thank every participating musicians, those who generously support us and this event, our partners, and of course everyone who came to watch and enjoy it with us. We will be back again next month with another fresh batch, styles and theme. We hope you keep your support to our movement, to this regeneration process of jazz musicians and also, we hope we are able to keep you entertained. See you again next month!
Watch the highlight of Braga Jazz Night #39
See more pictures: