“It’s only natural that Indonesian jazz musicians look to our traditional music for inspiration. We are born and raised with it, it’s right in front of our eyes.”
– Gilang Ramadan
All jazz is an intensely personal creative process. What comes out in performance, whether in the studio or on a stage, comes from within and is performed in the moment. Yet its roots are in the past.
As an example and in terms of Indonesian jazz, on October 18th at a gig in rock and jazz guitarist Dewa Budjana’s native Bali, he will be joined by John McLaughlin, one of his major influences. John McL’s first professional gig was with Alexis Korner, often referred to as “a founding father of British blues” … think Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin.
John McL. recorded a few jazz albums in the UK before being invited to join Miles Davis in the USA. Miles was a connection with the bebop era of Charlie Parker et al. It was the experience of playing with Miles that lead John McL. to the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Dewa’s early and still current influence.
(Note: IndoJazzia will not be going to Bali and, along with many others, hope that a Jakarta gig can be arranged.)
IndoJazzia has been working for the past few months gradually tracing the roots for ‘A History of Jazz in Indonesia’. A major gap in our knowledge is the pre-WWII era, when presumably the Dutch colonialists brought in their 78’s. In the 1950’s, we see the influence of mambo and cha-cha in the music of such pianists as Nick Mahamit. Later, in the 60’s there was ‘cool jazz’, from the west coast of the USA.
It was not until 1967, with the recording of Djanger Bali by the Indonesian All-Stars, Bubi Chen, Jack Lemmers-Lesmana, Benny Mustafa et al who were a ‘house band’ for the Royal Dutch Shell Oil company, that Indonesian ‘etno-jazz’ became influential. How much of this music genre was a result of Soekarno’s 1965 declaration of ‘war against the Beatles’ in favour of more nationalistic music has yet to be determined.*
The accession of Suharto to the presidency in 1966 opened up economic and diplomatic ties to the west. Thus the late arrival in the cusp of the sixties-seventies of ‘psychedelic’ groups which copied the music style, if not the sentiments. (Listen to Brim’s Anti Gandja from 1972 here.)
The seventies saw the influence of British prog-rock on local jazz musicians, including, perhaps surprisingly, the Indonesian All Stars who in 1976 proved that they had mastered the genre. (Listen here.) Better known for its infusion of Balinese gamelan by Guruh Soekarnoputra, Megawati’s brother, is Guruh Gypsy, our Album of the Month in June.
In the eighties vocalists may have sung in Indonesian, but that was the generally the only ‘ethnic’ flavour.
The early nineties saw a resurgence in the fusion of traditional music genres: Two groups, Krakatau and Karimata, soon followed by Java Jazz, lead the way. However, that was also the decade when Pat Metheny proved to be a major influence, as he still is.
The ‘abdication’ of Suharto in May 98, and his successor B.J. Habibie’s abolition of the Ministry of Communication (= Censorship) has, in the words of Jeremy Wallack, “has provided young Indonesians with creative possibilities for exploring their identity in a culturally diverse nation undergoing dramatic changes in an increasingly interconnected world.”
Hence IndoJazzia’s ‘Album of the Month’ for August, a compilation which demonstrates those “creative possibilities“.
1992. Karimata – Seng Ken Ken
1993. Krakatau – Dance To Your Roots
1998. Java Jazz – Bulan Di Atas Asia
2002. simakDialog – Sampan (Sailboat)
2007. Ubiet (w. Riza Arshad) – Gambang Semarang
2007. Trisum – Cublak-Cublak Suweng
2012. Brag Pack (w. Sri Hanuraga) – Cublak Suweng
And in 2013 …
Ring of Fire Project (Djaduk Ferianto, Jen Syu, Idang Rasjidi)
*Note : “In 1959, in his Independence Day speech, Soekarno praised Indonesian youth for their opposition to economic and political imperialism, but asked why they did not oppose cultural imperialism. Why did they support rock and roll and cha-cha-cha, he asked; why did they like ‘crazy’ music? The government, he said, would protect national culture, but the youth must protect and develop it as well.”