Indonesia as an archipaelago country has a lots of traditional musics ranging from the wild-hard tempo, rhythmic-yet-trance to slowest-ambience tone of sound. There are some contemporary musicians who develop this music to the new form, a fusion. But usually they’re come from people who has traditional art background or music academy education. But it’s very rare for young people who grew up listening to popular music like pop, rock, or electronic to get into traditional music. It looks so old-fashion and not cool. So, it’s very surprising if they play this un-trendy music and yet infuse it with the anger of punk attitude.
Rully Shabara is a frontman and vocalist of Zoo, a math-rock/experimental band based in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. In Zoo’s latest trilogy album he develop the music direction with traditional music approach by using javanesse language and traditional instrument but still in the vein of punk music. Meanwhile, Wukir Suryadi devoted his life into traditional music even in his teen he also listening to rock and heavy metal (musical genre that very popular in Indonesia back in the ’80s). He is best known when he create his own instrument named Bambuwukir by himself. This self-made instrument constructed from bamboo, reminds of the Sasando from Rote, an island part of the East Nusa Tenggara province of the Lesser Sunda Islands. A couple of distinct differences though between Wukir and Sasando music. Firstly, besides plucking the strings on the circular harp, he also bows the strings.
They were met when Wukir played at Yes No Klub gig -a monthly event organized by Yes No Wave Music and Performance Klub in Yogyakarta. Both were found the same interest and strong chemistry, then they start to rehearse a few times and think forward to record their works. The result is a 6 piece of powerful contemporary tribal songs entitled Senyawa and released it for free download at Yes No Wave Music, a netlabel from Indonesia. Different from Zoo, this collaboration more into traditional music feel. Since then, Wukir now join in Zoo and the band begin to write the new album for next year. It will bring the traditional music to young popular music scene in Indonesia and so the rest of the world. Enjoy.
The Senyawa Australian Odyssey is a 3 city tour of Australia by Indonesian musicians Wukir Suryadi and Rully Shabara—focusing on performing at all the premiere experimental music events and with the heavy weights of the experimental music local and international.
The tour start in Brisbane with shows in collaboration with Andrew Mclennan, Yasukai Akai and Joel Stern. They will go on to perform in Sydney at GRUB with the well respected noise/glass eater Lucas Abela then onto Melbourne to form a trio with instrument maker Rod Cooper.
The highlight of the tour will be their performance at OVERGROUND ‘a festival within a festival’ at the Melbourne Jazz Fest collaborating and performing along side legends such as drone master Tony Conrad, Charlemagne Palestine, German Kraut rock band FAUST and also a possible collaboration between Rully and Japanese drummer and vocalist Tatsuya Yoshida (Ruins).
Senyawa were invited to tour Australia not only for their contemporary approach to traditional music styles but also for their unique ‘voice’ in the world of contemporary music today. A ‘voice’ that perfectly incorporates traditional Indonesian music styles and traditional instruments within a new and innovative framework.
BRISBANE 27 May The Mute Canary Project 29 May Bastard Theatre of Brisbane 1 June Spec Festival
Overground, Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2011 Sunday, June 12, 3pm-9pm, Melbourne Town Hall
Arresting: Rully Shabara on vocals
It was late in a solid afternoon of music when the Indonesians invaded. In a day of occasional confusion, with some patrons not quite sure who would be on next and which gigs were running late, musicians needed some drama to make their presence felt. A small but curious crowd had gathered to hear Rully Shabara(voice) and Wukir Suryadi (bamboo instruments) from Yogyakarta, but this soon became a large and intensely interested gathering which pressed forward as if forced by the ferocity of the vocal onslaught.
Ferocity: Rully Shabara
We had heard Chiri, in which Bae Il Dong had demonstrated the power and emotive impact of Korean p’ansori singing, so the idea of strong vocals was not new. But the forcefulness of this duo came as a surprise. Hearing Shabara at close range can be likened to having a steam train roaring towards you, though he did vary the dynamics and could move the audience as well as assail. But the main attribute of his voice seemed to be ferocity and the ability to deliver a sudden vocal onslaught that was awe-inspiring and even a little frightening.
According to a post by Marvin on Free Albums Galore, Rully Shabara is a member of the Indonesian avant-rock/punk group Zoo and Wukir Suryadi is an innovative musician who experiments within the boundaries of the traditional music of Indonesia using a musical instrument he built.
Amazing: Wukir Suryadi on bambuwukir
Suryadi played two instruments. His primary one — a bambuwukir, constructed (as the name suggests) from bamboo and producing sounds like an electric guitar with built-in percussion — was capable of amazing variation in his skilled hands.
Virtuosic: Wukir Suryadi on bambuwukir
Between Shabara’s vocals, Suryadi erupted into a rock-star-like frenzy that was virtuosic and compelling. It was if he could just touch the instrument to produce a band’s worth of sound. The audience showed appreciation with whoops and wild applause. An excellent description of a Sydney gig by these two musicians is atSydney Outsider — Java in Waterloo.
Wukir Suryadi on recorder-like flute
At the end of the set, Suryadi played a long recorder-style flute, which was ideal for the soulful lament delivered by Shabara. For Overground patrons who stayed, this gig must have been a highlight.
Soulful lament: Rully Shabara
Should it have been part of a jazz festival? I think so. In the lower town hall Will Guthrie & Cured Pink (if I’ve got the correct gig) had been doing some amazing things with a piece of meat, I’m told. And, Bae Il Dong was a big hit during the festival. Overground is meant to take us out of our comfort zones, which is also what the Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival is meant to do. I say, bring it on.
That said, I think Overground needs to work on some improvements. Because there are late changes to the order of gigs, and because concerts inevitably run over time, there ought to be a way for patrons in the main entrance foyer to see at a glance exactly which gigs are on at any moment in each venue — upstairs, downstairs and in the main hall. And I don’t mean gigs scheduled, but those actually on at that time. This would be a challenge to update, but really helpful.
As well, it would be good to have more information available about each band, so that if you have never heard its music you’d be able to make a judgment about where to head if there was a clash. With the crowds that turn up to Overground, it is hard to get into the smaller venues, so some planning is necessary. I do realise the concept is meant to allow patrons to try whatever pops up, but this often leads to a fragmentary experience if you have no idea what to expect.
What else was a highlight on the day? Well, I missed Yoshida Tatsuya andSatoko Fuji, Charlemagne Palestine with Oren Ambarchi, and Tony Conrad with Chris Abrahams. I felt for Matt Mitchell on solo piano, who came on between the Indonesian invasion and Sean Baxter with Jerome Noetinger and Faust (at which time I had to go to catch Paul Grabowsky‘s gig at the Forum).
James Rushford, Oscar Noriega and Scott Tinkler
The combination of viola, sax and trumpet worked well in the set by James Rushford, Oscar Noriega and Scott Tinkler, and it was a pleasure to hear Noriega again — I love his work. I also enjoyed hearing Anthony Pateras at the piano with Tim Berne on sax and Gareth Thompson on drums.
Sophia Brous with Tim O’Dwyer
It’s not often that the program director — and principal mover and shaker — at a major international festival is also on the program as a performer, so Sophia Brous’s outing with Judith Hamann on cello, Chris Abrahams on piano andTim O’Dwyer on sax was a must-see.
So, being honest, I preferred this vocal experimentation, especially with the cello, to other instances of what I call “vocal gymnastics”. And, though it may be following an established path, it was stretching my comfort zone, which is always good. But it’s still not really my cup of tea (I don’t drink much tea).
Out there: Alex Garsden
The other gig of particular interest was US drummer Ches Smith‘s outing withJim Denley on sax, Alex Garsden on guitar and Natasha Anderson on “recorder” (though it looked like a laptop to me). Garsden managed some pretty interesting sounds and did some pretty strange things to his guitar’s strings, and Denley had some amazing ways to play a sax and a wooden flute, but Smith’s input was not spectacular compared with his earlier work.
All we needed to know about sax: Jim Denley
To sum up, Overground was definitely worth doing, and worth attending. But this year I felt that we were missing a Han Bennink or Peter Brotzmann (the stars in 2010) to give the day some focus. Palestine and Conrad are undoubtedly characters, but their performances lacked the action-packed feel of Bennink or Brotzmann’s gigs. That said, I’m certain many punters went away happy — or deaf and happy.