East meets west in jazz concert at Goethe Haus Jakarta

The concert by musicians of two continents in Goethe Haus last year was worth-remembering.

Riza Arsyad, Goethe Haus

Jazz is not for the faint-hearted, especially those who make a living out of it in Indonesia. Unlike any other places, jazz is more than just a choice for Indonesia’s aspiring musicians. It is a conviction that fortunately has gained appreciation over time by the public.

Everything is so specific and segmented when it comes to jazz. Just like when the word public is mentioned, meaning a very specific audience who generally reside in the city, are fond of western culture and history, continuously repositioned themselves in this ever globalized world society.

Riza Arshad hinted at how he coped with frustration having to shuttle back and forth from Jakarta to Bandung. His shows as the co-founder of simakDialog, a prominent jazz band in Indonesia had been limited to these two cities.

That evening, as he hosted two German jazz players playing in Goethe Haus, he voiced his pent-up dream that one day he would in turn be hosted in Germany. Jakarta and Bandung have been known as two of the leading cities in the country in terms of its art scenes.

For the likes of simakDialog, the band with its own style signifier, even less people can get in tunes with the way they express themselves through music.

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Nevertheless, Arshad does not falter. He continues to create songs with unfathomable names. He often took listeners by surprise with several climax slipped into the composition, not to mention the random intensity of the rhythm.

Since its inception, simakDialog consists of special percussion section that uses kendang. A formation of three people fills this section, and has become inseparable to the band. Arshad leads the band with such confidence.

He said that the songs they play are “unlike any other alay bands.” He soon got response of laughter and even bigger applause.

Goethe Haus

The Sunday orchestra

The article first appeared in the Jakarta Post, 2 June 2014.

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There is more to string instruments than just classical pieces. To those who regularly frequent Suropati Park on typical Sundays, Johann Sebastian Bach or Beethoven are just symbols of aspiration on their foreheads.

It is their minds that give inspirations to a variety of compositions which come from the modification of folk songs or those songs from their childhood, short and memorable ones.

Accidental orchestra

On Sunday morning, kids attended an open course at the park. They formed a group of musical ensemble playing some children songs, conducted by their teacher.

A perfect place to share his knowledge after he could tolerate the traffic noise around the park, the teacher presented a unique mixture of public loudness and a well-orchestrated string ensemble that could reach the entire block.

After repeated pauses for corrections, they could finally carry out a short piece correctly into a harmony.

Play it solo  

As the simple tunes from amateur ensemble constituted by young learners still echoed, solo violists across the park staged their own shows for unattentive visitors, and mostly, for themselves only. One of them, sitting under lush trees, showed his skill in playing American-style country song. Although the people around him did not seem to pay attention, his play was a head-turning one.

It showed that the casually-dressed violist has what it takes to play such fast tune, rapid and accurate fingers, excellent memory and improvisation. Apparently he spent his holiday quite seriously.

Across him, another person impressed a visitor who listened with a certain degree of joy a long composition of his. Its melody seemed to be resemble that of Javanese traditional music. At the other corner, a man showed his friend how to make pop songs applicable to violin play.