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Musical Safari to Indonesia – simakDialog – The 6th Story

Yesterday as I was surfing around the Internet, I came across a review at Jazz Archives for a band named simak Dialog and their latest album The 6th Story. As I read the following, I thought wow! This band really fits this blog…a musical safari to the far reaches of Indonesia:

More and more fusion fans around the world are beginning to realize that Indonesia has become a hotbed for fresh and original jazz fusion music. Along with the creativity and energy, there is also a lot of variety to the styles of these bands. Some Indonesian bands play in a style that could come from anywhere on the globe, while others tend to show more influence from their roots in Indonesian music and culture. With the release of their new CD, “The Sixth Story”, simak Dialog gladly shows that they are the band with the most roots culture as they mix gamelan rhythms and structure with a unique take on fusion to create one of the most original CDs to come out this year. Thanks to musical “borrowers” like Steve Reich and Robert Fripp, many people have a mistaken concept of what gamelan sounds like. There is nothing fake or borrowed on “6th Story”, this is the real gamelan; complicated, syncopated, earthy and not for amateurs to attempt. Read more

The highlighted part of the above caught my attention for two reasons the first was “gamelan” rhythms and structures and the second was that one of the borrowers was Robert Fripp! I knew nothing about gamelan music, but I did recognize the name of the leader of King Crimson.

My first stop then on my safari was to Wikipedia to find out about “gamelan rhythms and structures”  What I found was:

gamelan is a traditional musical ensemble from Indonesia, typically from the islands of Java and Bali, featuring a variety ofinstruments such as metallophonesxylophoneskendang (drums) and gongsbamboo flutes, bowed and plucked strings.Vocalists may also be included. For most Indonesians, gamelan music is an integral part of Indonesian culture.[1]

The term refers more to the set of instruments than to the players of those instruments. A gamelan is a set of instruments as a distinct entity, built and tuned to stay together – instruments from different gamelan are generally not interchangeable….

….In contemporary Indonesian music scene, some groups fuse contemporary westernized jazz fusion music with the legacy of traditional ethnic music traditions of their people. In the case of Krakatau and SambaSunda, the bands from West Java, the traditional Sundanese kacapi suling and gamelan degung Sunda orchestra is performed alongside drum set, keyboard and guitars. Other bands such as Bossanova Java were fused Javanese music with bossanova, while the Kulkul band fuse jazz with Balinese gamelan. Read More

After reading all the above I became very curious, so I headed to MOG and listened to the album. The unique sounds of the music were readily apparent and very enjoyable, I can certainly see this album being listened to when I just need to “Zone” out!!  So the last trip was to the simakDialog website where I read:

Keyboardist/composer Riza Arshad formed simakDialog in 1993. Living in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, this band couldn’t avoid being influenced by the traditional sound of the gamelan ensemble. As one of the culturally richest and diversified countries in the world, Indonesia treasures a vast variety of art and musical forms that have been a global inspiration. Along with his long time member in the band – guitarist Tohpati they develop certain color of their music to be part of world musical scene.

simakDialog are unique in having an understanding of the ancient rituals of temple music, as well as completely grasping the essence of those long-haired psychedelic sounds of slightly less ancient times. It’s crossover of a melting pod between western classic/jazz/rock and Javanese/Indonesian exotic rhythm riffs. Prior to Demi Masa, simakDialog have released four albums: Lukisan, Baur, Trance/Mission and Patahan. They have won two trophies from Anugerah Musik Indonesia (Indonesian Music Awards 2003), for Best Jazz/Contemporary Jazz Album (Trance/Mission), and Best Jazz/Contemporary Jazz Producer (Riza Arshad). Read More

The musician line-up for the album is:

Riza Arshad – Fender Rhodes Electric Piano, Acoustic Piano, Synth, Sounds-capes
Tohpati – Guitar
Adhithya Pratama - Bass
Endang Ramdan – Sundanese Kendang Percussion (Left)
Erlan Suwardana – Sundanese Kendang Percussion (Right)
Cucu Kurnia – Assorted Metal Percussion

The last stop on my safari was to YouTube, where I watched the band perform “Throwing Words” at the 2010 Java Jazz Festival!