Going out, or as in my case staying out, on a rainy Friday night in Jakarta is asking to be stuck in horrendous traffic. Just sometimes, though, it’s worthwhile as Friday 28th October was to prove.
Nesia Ardi had been kind enough to make sure that I and my two young companions, both looking to make music of their own, had our ‘free tickets’. There seemed to be no other way to “grab” them. Arriving early we were able to wander around the shiny lobby area, noting that bottled water and a strange coffee drink, and snacks of sliced fruit, which were more than welcome at the end of our lengthy day, were also there to be ‘grabbed’.
R. has a passion for singing jazz and is on the bottom rung of the jazz ladder, so I introduced her to Nesia, who was later to receive the iCan ‘Artist of the Year’ Award, and well deserved too. With selfies taken and connections made, we found our way to comfortable seats with ample legroom. (Note: This was my first visit, and for those two reasons, I hope there will be many more.)
The evening proper began with Ican Wallad introducing his board members – and all these years I’d been thinking that iCan Studio was so named because of iPod or Obama’s election catch phrase of “Yes we can!”.
Indra Aziz started the music section of the evening by leading the assembled audience in a rendition of Indonesia Raya. Given that he is the vocal coach on Indonesian Idol and other TV singing contests, it sounded fine.
Bass player, producer and iCan board member Barry Likumahuwa then introduced the Indonesia All Star (sic), who included guitarist Oele Pattiselno , ‘Pop’, trombone player Benny Likumahuwa, singer Margie Segers, Jeffrey Tahalele on double bass, and pianist Fanny Kuncoro. Benny Mustafa is in the middle of this photo, informally dressed as befits the drummer on the seminal album Djanger Bali recorded in 1967 by the original Indonesian All Stars.
Pak Benny spent a minute or so getting into his groove while the others settled into position and then they swung into action and Ms. Segers sang Almost Like Being In Love, the Lerner-Loewe song from 1947. And my, what a powerful voice she has for such a petite lady. The second song was Semua Bisa Bilang, a hit for her in 1975. What I particularly liked was how Benny L’s trombone floated harmoniously over her singing while Pak Oele’s guitar floated under it. It was music of a bygone era, perhaps, but performed with the love these veterans of Indonesia’s jazz scene have for it. That was much appreciated from the audience.
Next on stage was Tesla Manaf clutching a small green solid guitar. I hadn’t seen him or heard him play for over a year, but I still expected that he would play something from A Man’s Relationship With His Fragile Area, his album with an international release on the NYC based MoonJune records album.
Yes, he played as per usual focussed on his guitar, not looking at us, but then produced washes of sounds which kept us totally entranced. Looking down from my seat I could see that except for a couple of gossip-mongers heads were still, as mine was. It was a rare spell that he cast. We were sucked in and taken wherever the music and our imaginations lead us.
Applause was hesitant at first, because we didn’t want to leave our trances? I certainly could have listened to a lot more, but it had been that kind of day. Tesla told me afterwards that he hadn’t got a new album, so if those who were there wish to recapture something of the mood, then seek out Pat Metheny playing his Pikasso guitar, Al di Meola, Vini Reilly (Durutti Column), or Robert Fripp-Brian Eno.
That music is in stark contrast to what came next from Nita Aartsen. According to her Twitter feed, Ms. Nita is “a classically trained pianist who is striving to create a new paradigm in music, mixing Classical, Jazz, Latin and Eastern music.“
She sat at the back of the stage at a grand piano, while at the very front a percussionist sat on cushions with an array of kendangs and faced her. A double bass player was behind him offering a powerful, if swamped, underbeat and a trumpeter who stood immobile behind a microphone adding a sweet flavour.
What we heard certainly presented her “new paradigm”: snatches of Mozart and Sunda tunes with Cuban rhythms was what I deciphered above the over-miked kendangs. However, due to constant and irregular shifts it was fidgety with little cohesion or flow to carry us along into the realms which the other artists presented to us. It was a relief when the bass player had the opportunity to take a solo, it was not only something he richly deserved, but the coherence we, the audience, sorely needed.
Rifka Aola writes
Having been chosen as the iCan Freedoms Festival Artist of 2016, Nesia Ardi and her friend and piano accompanist Irsa Destiwi were on last. Unfortunately, the hour was late and what had been a half empty hall before became even emptier.
Nesia sang three songs, two her own compositions – Undefined and Minya, about a cat – and the standard Don’t Put Sugar In My Coffee.
I especially liked Undefined, a song about a boy and girl falling in love but …
I felt that Nesia was singing to me!