IKYWMC

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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.

Tracks played.
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’.

Terry Collins

Apart from congratulating Dwiki Darmawan and his team for the organisation, it would not be kind (or politic) to single out any one performer at the Kota Tua Jazz Festival in Jakarta last Saturday: they catered for different tastes and moods. Held in the History Museum Garden rather than in the overcrowded Taman Fatihillah Square as last year courtesy of Ibu Enny Prihantini, the Museum Director, the overall vibe was of a family,  greeting each other, gossiping, playing and showing respect to members of all ages in this ever growing nationwide clan.

The music crossed boundaries of genre, local ethnicity and nationality, and truly reflected this statement by Herbie Hancock: “Jazz means Freedom and Openness.” Thus it also reflects a willingness to experiment, to change and grow.

It is an open secret that IndoJazzia has been following the growth of Yogyakarta group I Know You Well Miss Clara (IKYWMC) since before the release of their debut album Chapter One on MoonJune Records two years ago. They had a busy weekend in Jakarta.

On the Friday, the independent music distributor Demajors held a party to celebrate the signing of IKYWMC. Their set was preceded by Tesla Manaf from Bandung showcasing some new music and Kelakar who play an almost indescribable melange of thrash metal, prog-rock, jazz and whatever else takes their fancy. (That shouldn’t make sense, but they were so in synch with each other that  … well … this reviewer just had to buy a copy of their limited release CD. Check them out on YouTube.)

IKYWMC had to be at their very best to match what had come before, and so they were. The next day, their set at Kota Tua demonstrated their professionalism when a string on composer Reza Ryan’s guitar broke and he played on.

But the real surprise came on Monday on a live TV show broadcast by the state run channel TVRI: the unveiling of singer Tanya Ditaputri added a dimension to familiar tracks from the group’s album.

Surely Chapter Two is just around the corner …. judge for yourselves.

Toba Dream, Jakarta, 29.5.15

Van Java: a young band with bags of surprises; guitar and bass, backed with thunderous drums, took us out of our comfort zone. With Biondi on vocals for some tunes, faint echoes of Renaissance, yet distinctly unfamiliar. Worth watching them grow.

IKYWMC: Down to a trio for this gig, Adi on keyboards and Reza on guitar effortlessly shared the bass duties. Amazing synergy, sustained creativity. ‘Marsavishnu(video) has a life of its own, reflecting Reza’s “distorted reality”, with drummer Alfi ever quiet off stage, in the zone on it. Another “effing fantastic” set, guys!

Keenan Nasution: forty years after seminal album ‘Guruh Gypsy’, proved that good prog-rock lives on. For some, judging by the loud cheers, this was nostalgia. For younger progressive musicians, this was where your Indonesian rock heritage came from.

We are already looking forward to ProgNite 3.