A Sketchy Rambling Review
I Know You Well Miss Clara (IKYWMC or Clara for short) are known quite well by this reviewer: I’m their pet western groupie. I first didn’t see them play at @America in 2011, was blown away by their first album succinctly entitled Chapter One, and then wrote a profile of guitarist Reza Ryan in which he credits his classical guitar mentor at Yogya ISI (Institute of Arts) Royke B. Koapaha for inviting him to join SAdA, a prog-jazz group which played several festivals.
I closed my profile with the comment that “in displaying a ‘can do, why not’ attitude, the group has a refreshing curiosity which augurs well for Chapter Two and beyond.”
Naturally that lead me to catch them at a few more gigs both here in Jakarta and last year in Solo. We also linked up at the televised AMI Awards extravaganza because Chapter One was nominated in the prog-rock category. In the event, guitarist Iwan Hasan, a veteran from Discus and Sea Serpent was the deserved winner.
The most recent time was at last December’s Kota Tua Jazz day, which was followed by their live appearance on the state’s TV station TVRI with guest vocalist Tanya Diaputri (video)
By now you’re probably asking why I haven’t yet reviewed Saturday’s gig. The answer’s simple: my notes were few, it was dark and their hour fifty minutes or so flew past because we were so rapt.
For this gig. Clara’s core trio of guitarist/composer Reza Ryan, Adi Wijaya, keyboards, and Alfiaj Akbar were joined by Pak Royke, bass, and for two numbers by Iwan Hasan on guitar.
All compositions by Reza Ryan, except 5 by Royke.
* from Chapter One
1. Conversation *
Very Canterbury, esp. National Health with Phil Miller (aka Reza Ryan) on guitar and Dave Stewart (aka Adi Wijaya) on Korg keyboard.
2. Dangerous Kitchen *
The four, Reza, Adi, Royke on bass and Alfiah Akbar on drums, went their separate ways together.
3. ABC Islands
Reza started playing some ‘toys’, one of which was a siter (a Javanese zither), which he played with his right hand while his left held his guitar. An ethereal track, with Royke’s bass leading, it reminded me of a Chinese melody.
4. Betapa Sulit Untuk Gembira (by Royke)
Iwan Hasan joined the group and seated in the middle played his harp guitar, with Reza on his right and Royke on his left.
The interplay was spellbinding. At the end came one of those very rare gig occasions when we, the audience, were left stunned into absolute silence for five? … ten? … seconds before applauding. My notes consist of just one word ‘Magic‘.
In the absence of an audio record, check out this video of Iwan playing his harp-guitar in 2006.
5. Reverie *
Twin guitar leads, with Iwan recapturing his rock star poses.
To see what I mean, watch this video from 1999.
6. The Sacred Circle Ritual Dance
A quieter number: Alfi played the drums with his hands
7. Love Letter From Canada *
Adi played the grand piano: a semi familiar, near ‘classical’ melody: very calming.
8. The Hunt For Zero Point
‘Reza goes wild, plays with toys, produces feedback‘
Royke and Alfi in synch … an express train awaiting derailment.
9. A Dancing Girl From The Planet Marsavishnu Named After The Love *
Reza had problems remembering the title of Clara’s perennial favourite.
Adi (finally) could be heard playing the intro, and then the different time signatures set off.
As I wrote above, I’ve seen Clara live a number of times. That’s because I like surprises in my live music listening. Clara surprise themselves at times, and that is the joy of their gigs. The three core members have known each other for years and support each other in their playing. Pak Royke was the extra ingredient, the third bassist I’ve heard in Clara, and for me the most interesting ‘musically’ in the sense that he wasn’t just part of the rhythm section.
I view Clara as one of the most interesting Indonesian progressive avant-garde jazz-prog-rock groups because their music has few boundaries: collectively they transcend their nationalism so their music cannot be called ‘Indonesian’.
Is it commercial? Yes, but not for those who like variations on what’s gone before. For those who appreciate true creativity, Chapter Two promises to be a ‘must have’ album.
A final note: In order to produce that album, a crowdfunding page has been set up. I’ve already contributed: will you?
A final final note: Reza has informed me that he was playing a siter on ABC Islands, not ‘an electric thumb piano’.