Category Archives: Indonesia Jazz Review

Jazz Buzz last day: Trodon

The last performance in Jazz Buzz Salihara 2018 by progressive rock band Trodon brought unrelenting hard beat and the harshest sound you could expect in the genre, but in a melodic arrangements. They incorporate ear-piercing hard rock with the harmonic tones of classic and modern composition notable in video games.

It bodes well with the theme Myth and Draconis they presented, where each song sequence was accompanied by displayed graphics on the backdrop about the legend of the dragon.

Trodon interpreted the many characters in the legend with a variety of style. There were middle-east music theme, fantasy melody, and the rhythm chosen to build the atmosphere that support the story of each repertoires.

Most of the songs were composed by the lead electric guitarist Biondi Noya, who is accompanied by the rest of the band consisting of keyboardist Irene Pattinaya, drummer Peter Lumingkewas, bassist Aprila Sitompul, synthesizer by Alexander Jason, saxophonist Nadya Romanenta, and cellist Adela Batfutu.

The saxophone and cello in their formation partly explains Trodon’s uniqueness, of which they produce progressive rock jazz pieces by taking the inspiration from, as contrast as it sounds, video game sound elements and European classics such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Gustav Holst, Igor Stravinsky and Claude Debussy.

Their performance since 2013 display all the complexities of the unique combination.

Trodon has graced numerous stages from Piston Brake Cafe, Rolling Stone Cafe, Leitstar HQ, to festivals such as Solo International Performing Arts in 2016, and Jazz Sans Frontieres of Komunitas Salihara, 2016.

Trodon at Jazz Buzz Salihara 2018. Photograph by Witjak Widhi, courtesy of Komunitas Salihara.


Pianist and drummer experimental collaboration in Jazz Buzz 2018

It took a year for Adra Karim and John Navid to prepare a collaborative work in a duo called Mirak Div. They recalled Tony Prabowo, a music composer with contemporary taste, whose initiative led to the group formation, and later they accepted the invitation to play in his annual event, and eventually staged their maiden performance in Jazz Buzz Salihara 2018.

It was meant to be a recording project, as John described it. But when the plan slacked off, the duo realized they had to take whatever the chance coming at them.

Having trained for the past three months, they did not rely that much on anyone else to do the preparation. John’s sound experiment, for instance, was developed through self-observation of his surrounding, while Karim said that, unlike other mainstream jazz events, here they were more involved in setting the stage and doing the sound check.

The performers are more concentrated to their respective works performed in the much segmented event such as Jazz Buzz Salihara.

John, an IKJ graduate in percussion, and the drummer of the pop-retro band the White Shoes and the Couple’s Company, said the most interesting part of playing in this event was the hunt for items to be made rhythm instruments and to be used to exploring new dimension.

Karim, on the other hand, told that collaboration led to unexpected findings such as in Mirak Div. Having applauded John as a knowledgeable musician with his background and experience, Karim is definitely not new in the world of experimentation. He is a member of contemporary jazz band Tomorrow Ensemble People.

After all. their aim is only to prove that they could compose an alternative music experience to audience of Jazz Buzz Salihara 2018.

Although John admitted that there are less listeners in the country for this kind of experimental music compared to pop or electronic, but it is in the lesser number where he sees the opportunity.

When asked about the challenge and opportunity, Karim, who obtained master’s degree in Prince Claus Conservatorium, Netherlands, has less worry about the level of reception among the Indonesian audience, as he is convinced there are a lot more who can appreciate the different style in music.

But he attributed the challenge to the key players of the local music industry whom he perceive as a little too hostile to experimental music like what they have worked on.

“I am more concerned with those people up there who keep on making notion that the listeners are not ready for this kind of music, or that a certain style fits only to a certain audience, and so on,” he added.

On stage, Karim and John seemed to have played for their own, whereas actually they both play a collaborative, complex composition. Karim’s synthesizer created the deep ambience, amplified with the dim stage, a proof of a good lighting work. As he improvised and switched between his keyboard, organ, and grand piano, John scratched his drum, and later on created a diminishing effect of echo by using his drum stick.

Their composition create a sense of solitude, but also raucous with the use of unlikely sound inducing items, such as duct tape, kerecekan tukang patri (street smith worker’s tool), toys, ping-pong balls. Even he was seen pedaling bicycle to bring out the sound of chain gear.

Just when they showed a piano drum interaction in a more rhythmic sense, suddenly they continued with another eerily sound experiment, and progressed to traditional Indian arrangements and rhythm, perhaps influenced by John’s long period of practicing tabla in Indian Cultural Center. It is all a well-planned experimental performance.


The upcoming 2018 Jazz Buzz Salihara

Jazz Buzz Salihara 2018 posterJazz Buzz is an annual music program by Komunitas Salihara since 2012 that highlights the contemporary compositions seldom heard in any regular concerts. think archipelago is a proud media partner of the music festival which runs from 17 February until 25 February 2018. To see more of their schedule, please click the Jazz Buzz Salihara 2017 banner found in think archipelago website. 

Whereas Jazz Sans Frontiéres II gave the opportunity for experimental rock jazz by Imanissimo, solo instrumental composition by Arief Winanda with his set of Marimba, and a capella by Cinconotas, the upcoming Jazz Sans Frontiéres III continues to give the opportunity to jazz musicians who dare to surpass the mainstream genre, such as the progressive and contemporary bands Trodon, Trio Ligro, and the collaborative works in Mirak Div duo, and the uncharted experimentation of Dewa Budjana.

Trodon produce progressive rock jazz pieces by taking the inspiration from, as contrast as it sounds, video game sound elements and European classics such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Gustav Holst, Igor Stravinsky and Claude Debussy. Their performance display all the complexities of the unique combination.

The contemporary rock jazz of Trio Ligro is influenced by Mahavishnu Orchestra and the works of composer Olivier Messiaen. The ever wild improvisation reflects their solidity in maintaining the formation since their inception in 2004: Agam Hamzah on guitar, Adi Darmawan on bass, and Gusti Hendi on drum.

Rare collaborative works

This year Jazz Buzz Salihara presents Mirak Div, the result of fruitful collaboration by the retro pop band White Shoes and The Couples Company percussionist John Navid, and fusion jazz group Tomorrow People Ensemble pianist Adra Karim.  Together, they bring a wide spectrum of musical styles in their keyboard and percussion repertoire.

Dewa Budjana is set to perform a completely new arrangements of both his old and new tunes, bringing a string quartet, vibraphone, and electric drum as he seeks out the possibilities he never played before in his fulfilling musical career.

Below are the 2018 Jazz Buzz Salihara lineups and schedule:

  • Trio Ligro, Saturday, 17 February 2018, 8PM
  • Dewa Budjana, Sunday, 18 February 2018, 8PM
  • Mirak Div (Adra Karim and John Navid), Saturday, 24 February 2018, 8PM
  • Trodon, Sunday, 25 February 2018, 8PM

Ticket price for public sees an increase of IDR25,000 compared to last year, but still a great deal for what it has to offer.

  • IDR100,000 (public)
  • IDR50,000 (students)

She ain’t quitting

Dira Sugandi performs on the opening day of the 13th Java Jazz Festival, JIExpo Kemayoran, Jakarta, 3 March 2017

Even a prominent Indonesian female jazz singer such as Dira Sugandi could make a confession in front of the sitting crowd who filled up the concert hall at JIExpo Kemayoran, Jakarta, and also to the dutch big band whom she shared the stage with, about how difficult it is here to make a living in jazz.

“There were times when I keep telling myself I wanted to stop singing,” she confided. But she is certainly not quitting that night, on the opening of the three-day Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival 2017.

Led by conductor Dennis Mackrel as of 2015, Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw (JOC) a primary Dutch big band established in 1996, performed classy jazz tunes featuring Dira Sugandi, who showed up with modern white gown and her signature bleached short hair.

Dira should be proud as she now shares the same status as such Benny Golson and Chick Corea, some of the guest artists JOC had performed with. The latter also makes a presence in the 13th Java Jazz Festival.

They picked classic pieces from jazz standards notably popularized by Billie Holiday, whom Dira considers as one of her most influential artists. Johnny Green’s Body and Soul and Thomas “Fats” Waller’s Ain’t Misbehaving (Saving All My Love for You). There were also Billie’s original scores such as Good Morning Heartache and God Bless the Child.

The organizers allocated more jazz content in the total of 170 shows this time in response to last year’s criticism saying the event was too pop.

JJF 2017 now offers 360-degree view online stream, a feature improvement of last year, when they introduced live streaming on youtube. In addition, home viewers can watch live broadcast on one of cable networks.

Java Jazz Festival is heralded for its contribution in bringing talented yet lesser-known musicians into the limelight. And he prides himself for showing the world that Indonesia has a handful of bright jazz musicians. During press conference, founder Peter F. Gontha claimed that many newcomers had surfaced from this festival.

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Last no least in Jazz Buzz Salihara

web-banner-jan-2017-think-archipelago-jazz-buzz-2017-revJazz Buzz Salihara 2017 is the sixth jazz festival held by Komunitas Salihara in Teater Salihara, Jakarta. think archipelago is a proud media partner of the music festival which runs from 11 February until 26 February 2017. To see more of their schedule, please click the Jazz Buzz Salihara 2017 banner found in think archipelago website.

Imanissimo ended jazz event with noise in the final show 15 in Teater Salihara.

Imanissimo made a closing show of Jazz Buzz Salihara on 26 February, the same day they announced the launch of their latest album Enigma. Citing the term chaotic jazz, after a brief theatrical overture, the progressive rock band introduced one of the songs from Enigma with high pitches and deafening noise, of which they were relieved to see that right after kicking it off nobody left Teater Salihara.

But the following song Kampretos was similarly thrown to the audience with impunity, making them nervously expect the smallest hints of jazz presence in this final show.

Staying true to musical identity is important. But one wonders would it hurt to rearrange pieces to the audience who had expected improvisation and surprises more than the use of flute, kendang, or angklung just to be considered jazz enough?

Fifteen years of experience in the niche market contributed to the generally positive reception of the show. The nearly two-hour raucous concert extended with an extra song at audience wish.

There, the sound of jazz

Trace of jazz was clearer as the concert went further in Tembang Ambarawa, one of their latest songs. There was traditional vocal and composition, and lead guitarist Jordan exhibits his ability to play flute.

Later he would play saxophone to prove he has a knack for wind instruments. This is one of the things that convinced him to introduce jazz element besides the typical metal nature of the 15 year old band.It was a night of collaboration, as promised by Jordan that the progressive path of Imanissimo offers a variety of elements to make the best album ever. For instance, Indonesian senior soprano Siti Chairani Proehoeman offered vocal in Death of Love.

The contemplative song Echo in the Distances had two vocalists sang in two different languages simultaneously. It was as if the bilingual vocals translated one another. There were saxophone and kendang to provide light rhythm instead of drum, making us contemplate on the current national situation of deception and pretense. They could elaborate more with the use gamelan as is what originally present in the recorded version. Perhaps technical difficulty in the venue was unresolved.

Bassist Iman took the turn as the vocalist in another new song Impromptu Visit, talking about a traveler who is eager to get to know people of all social class.

Simponi Indonesia

The last two songs of the same title Simponi Indonesia has rock, jazz, and a feel of orchestra. It described classic feud between Indonesian and neighboring country Malaysia in claims of cultural identity. Agung said that the song aims at raising awareness of the things the Indonesians take for granted. It was a magnanimous musical approach of introspection. One wonders if this had suggested organizer’s particular agenda.

Imanissimo now comprise keyboardist Raden Agung, guitarist Johanes Jordan, drummer Marcellus Putra and the indispensable figure Iman Ismar. It is the same formation since 2013, the year that marked the end of long hiatus.

Xylophonist takes center stage in Salihara jazz event

web-banner-jan-2017-think-archipelago-jazz-buzz-2017-revJazz Buzz Salihara 2017 is the sixth jazz festival held by Komunitas Salihara in Teater Salihara, Jakarta. think archipelago is a proud media partner of the music festival which runs from 11 February until 26 February 2017. To see more of their schedule, please click the Jazz Buzz Salihara 2017 banner found in think archipelago website.

Arief Winanda (left) and members of Pamuncak Mudo perform at Jazz Buzz Salihara 2017, Jakarta

Arief Winanda, who is currently preoccupied with the development of urban art discipline in Institut Kesenian Jakarta (IKJ), has wit and, at times, cracking humor, in his show on Saturday night as part of Jazz Buzz Salihara 2017, an annual two-week event aiming at promoting alternative forms contrary of mainstream music.

The percussionist and xylophonist not only perform for his self-satisfaction, he diligently shared the work and knowledge of each piece to the attentive audience who otherwise would not have known the history of boogey, a popular genre in the 1940s marking the wake of American depression era, or another piece that was inspired by the dynamics found in the sound of wind.

It is also interesting to know that Marimba, originating from Central America, and now is the national instrument of Guatemala, initially applied only in light dance background diatonic music. But now original pieces came out of it, and frequently played at the center stage with more chromatic alternatives.

The concert began with the minimalist, rigid 4/4 Rhtyhm Song, a classic repertoire of 1984 by composer Paul Smedback, who took his postgraduate music degree Itacha College master’s degree in music, specializing in Marimba.

The following repertoire has more freedom in the rhythm. Upon brief introduction that sound are everywhere, and even in silence comes an inspiration to create a xylophone melody, Arief played Wind Sketch, by Japanese composer Keiko Abe. She is an important figure behind the early development of Yamaha Marimba product design in 1963.

Arief also presented Gitano by the Mexican immigrant Alice Gomez, an intense piece of work that describes the gypsies and the hostility against them in the US.

And then came the moment where Arief started to introduce pianist Angelica Liviana and other fellow musicians in Pamuncak Mudo in the last three dance-inspired pieces: Scottish composer Richard Michael’s Boogey, the dance composition in Spyrogyra’s Morning Dance and the eerily uplifting Dancing Tears by Dewa Budjana. This partly explains why the one hour concert was titled welt tanzen or the world of dance.

Sing and laugh it out lout in Mezzotono’s a capella show

Indonesia Jazz Review


The Italian a capella group of five, Mezzotono, performed in front of the public audience they claimed to be the greatest under the concert title “The Mezzotono Show” in Ice Palace hall, Jakarta, 29 September.

Indeed, the title implied an attempt to present a more than just musical concert, but combined with a rehearsed stage comical gesture. They take the laughter business seriously.

As a capella rose steadily as a musical style without the accompaniment of instruments since Renaissance, and was made apparent at church service, its development in the current days has brought a variety set of culture that predisposes to the new pop-oriented styles.

In the case of the globe-trotting, Italian modern cultural ambassador Mezzotono, their show is strongly committed to the diffussion of Italian music and culture through voices that managed to reproduce the sounds of instruments, often introducing a comic touch and encouraging audience participation.

Besides, who is not surprised by the sound effect of electronic beats and synthesizers that was coming from vocal section?

But the audience seemed to be slow in adapting with the show due to initial failure in expecting an original musical performance with a twist of humor exchanges. And perhaps, the selection of Italian songs only gained an appreciation but less enthusiasm.

The sweet, final touch

However, the “greatest audience” came to fully enjoy the show apparently at the end of the show, when Mezzotono had concluded one of Italian’s most recognized song of 1962 Quando, Quando, Quando, or the hilarious, inventive twist of the Gangnam Style.

Humor never lost its universality. As the tenor vocalist Fabio Lepore, insisted the audience to at least try and make it look hard to see show ended, they have invented a novelty in a capella show.

Four other members are Daniela Desideri as soprano, Gaia Gentile as the semisoprano, Marco Giuliani as the baritone, and Alessandro Gnolfo with his fine skill of mimicking the multilayered sound of drum set as the bass vocal.

See also events held by Instituto Italiano di Cultura Jakarta:

The Sum of Stefano Bollani’s Tenacity

The quartet who play music, with a caveat

When Betawi meets jazz

indojazzreview utuh-logo   @america The article first appeared in Indonesia Jazz Review, 2 May 2015

Lantun Orchestra
International Jazz Day with Lantun Orchestra live in @america, Jakarta, 30 April 2015

From swing to bebop, acid, and the further rapid evolution of jazz when the western world brought it on board of the trade ships to meet Indonesian vernacular music in the 20s, Lantun Orchestra played their repertoire based on a timeline that tells about each period of the constantly-altering musical genre. Their live performance When Betawi Meets Jazz in @america, Jakarta, 30 April, started with the 1929 song Ain’t Misbehavin by Fats Waller, before moving to another era of bebop which was popularized by the 30s era trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.

Continue reading When Betawi meets jazz

The sum of Stefano Bollani’s tenacity

indojazzreview utuh-logoInstituto Italiano di Cultura Jakarta

The article first appeared on Indonesia Jazz Review, 29 April 2015.

Stefano Bollani simultaneously plays with two piano instruments.

In 1996 Stefano Bollani chose to drop all he has worked for in pop since he first took a professional path at his teenage years, and in his solo concert at Usmar Ismail Hall, Jakarta, 28 April, the Italian pianist showed his aptitude, more of nurtured than inherent, after over 15 years of dedication in jazz. He left traces of his childhood aspiration to become a singer by singing a couple of songs in melancholy for Jakarta audience, meanwhile he was sure not to let them miss the anticipation having him played out one of his best talents: swing, especially after his last performance in Jakarta seven years ago.

Continue reading The sum of Stefano Bollani’s tenacity

The real Java Jazz

indojazzreview utuh-logo
Galeri Indonesia Kaya

The article first appeared on Indonesia Jazz Review, 17 March 2015.

Swing boss jazz band

Swing Boss Jazz Band dedicated itself since it was founded in 2014 to promote Indonesian vernacular songs in a unique arrangements combining jazz and bossa nova. Given that jazz emerges from an alternative cultural expression of folk songs developed by a particular group of immigrants in the US, the seven members of the band applies similar approach in the modern Indonesia, a diverse country where they can find abundant cultural reference for their works, such as folk songs from the eastern province of Maluku, Sulawesi, to Java. The latter became the theme of their performance in Galeri Indonesia Kaya, Jakarta, on Sunday, 16 March 2015.

Popular traditional Javanese folk songs such as Rek Ayo Rek and Suwe Ora Jamu showcased their creativity to make rural culture more receptive to urban trends. As the host repeteadly uttered in the opening words, “this is the real Java jazz,” alluring to the recently held International Java Jazz Festival 2015, the biggest regular jazz event in the country, but dominated by global pop culture instead of identifying local character. Talking about local identity, exceptional  30 year-old singer Sruti Respati, also in the same spirit to increase the popularity of Indonesian folk songs among the pop-influenced Indonesian public, sang Gundul Pacul and Gambang Suling in a classic style, but in harmony with the band’s play.

Continue reading The real Java Jazz