dMasiv: Massive on the Indo music scene

dMasiv: Massive on the Indo music scene

Jakarta's d'Masiv are rightly regarded as being at the forefront of the Indonesian rock scene, along with bands such as Nidji and Noah. Formed in 2003, D'massiv consist of vocalist Rian Ekky Pradipta, guitarists Nurul Damar Ramadan and Aditya Marsall, drummer Wahyu Piadji and bassist Rayyi Kurniawan Iskandar Dinata. Their unassuming name comes from the English translation (which is almost identical) – massive. They are obviously setting their sights high.

d'Masiv are another Indonesian band who were given a step up the ladder thanks to that country's love of talent-spotting shows on national television. They won a contest in 2007 – A Music Live Wanted, leading to the release of their first album, 'Perubahan'. This album included the track 'Cinta Ini Membunuhku'.

Testament to this song's enduring popularity can be witness by navigating to the video hosted in YouTube. Here you will see that when you click on the action you are joining a line of viewers that is already standing at 1.38 million. Not bad for a young band that first got thrust into the public eye on a talent show!

The song is fairly anthemic, starting with a rousing chimed guitar intro that is not a million miles away from an early song called 'Yellow' by English global rock superstars Coldplay. As the plaintive vocal line comes in, two guitar tracks meander over one another in the background, eschewing power chords until the incredibly catchy chorus. As this comes in, the strident vocal rises and dips with passion.

A lot of bands attempt to do this contrast between a soft verse building into an anthemic chorus, but few pull it off with such aplomb. At 2:36 the music rises to a powerful guitar solo and a harmonising string accompaniment, while the rhythm guitar keeps the rest of the track guiding along. As the song heads towards its finale, the strings come in again, along with some subtle changes in the key.

For such a young band, d'Masiv are past masters at channelling heartfelt rock music with more laid-back balladry. This makes them come across as sincere commentators and musicians, with something that will connect with their audiences, as opposed to a lot of rock bands who are only interested in trying to impress their listeners with ear-shredding chords!

Another terrific example of their work can be seen online in their track 'Cinta Sampai Disini'. Here the narrative appears to be telling the story of a fragmenting relationship. Against a backdrop of an anguished female, and objects falling in slow motion, the band perform the song with gusto – leaping into the air and allowing the power chords to fairly rattle the speaker stacks. Predictably enough the music eventually subsides into basic notes on the guitar – but in creating a dramatic atmosphere that is just as poignant as ending the proceedings with a screeching guitar solo or a sudden stop.

Indonesian Jazz Festival

Indonesian Jazz Festival

When considering the name of the country featuring the globe's largest jazz festival, many people would most likely suggest America? Or somewhere in Western Europe? But the answer is somewhat more surprising. Believe it or not, the world's largest annual jazz festival actually takes place in Indonesia. And it's getting bigger every year.

The Bali Live International Jazz Festival has become the largest of its kind anywhere on the planet. This year marked the tenth anniversary since its inception, with the Java Jazz Festival expanding into the Bali Live International event, taking place between the 5th and 8th March 2014.

The festival is a truly cosmopolitan and international affair, featuring top jazz artists from many different countries. Indonesia's home-grown talent also has pride-of-place.

This year the festival got off to a toe-tapping start when several of the main acts performed in a series of 'pre events', designed to showcase some examples of the performers. Various venues on Java were utilised for these impromptu gigs, including the Hard Rock Café in Kuta, the Jazz Café and Uma Cucina in Ubud, the Mozaic Beach Club in Kerobokan, the Le Meridien Hotel in Jimbaran, and many others.

Saturday 8th March saw the main festival event, with an open-air concert running from two in the afternoon until eleven at night. This took place at Taman Bhagawan, the perfect location for hours of full-blooded jazz performers, set against the beautiful backdrop of the blue ocean beyond. The atmosphere of gently lapping waves created a visual feast as successive trombonists, trumpeters, double bassists and several other gifted performers ran through their paces.

Few jazz venues anywhere can compete with a 100-metre stretch of white sands, running by the idyllic village of Tanjung Benoa. Another plus for this location is the fact that the area where the musicians perform is so handy for amenities. This is particularly the case if you are stopping over at the Nusa Dua resorts – 20 minutes from the airport, and a mere 30-minutes from Kuta, Denpasar or Seminyak. For visitors coming into this part of the world, the fantastic array of jazz exponents on offer is simply one part of the overall experience. Fans who have made the trip on previous occasions enthusiastically describe the warm welcome they receive on the island, as well as the beautiful sights and sounds to behold in the Balinese setting.

As for the musicians who formed the main part of the festival entertainment this year, the line-up read like a who's who of the Far Eastern jazz world – the Earth, Wind and Fire Experience featuring Al Mckay, Kevin Briggs and Sandy Winarta, Nita Aartsen, Israel Varela and Yeppy Romero, the Rio Sidik Quarter, Nancy Ponto and the Soul Brothers, Massive Soul featuring Dee Rice, and many more.

The annual festival is also hugely popular with local audiences because it provides home-grown talent with an enviable opportunity to demonstrate their talents to a far wider audience than they are normally used to. The finest jazz musicians in Bali and Indonesia can hone their craft here, prior to performers from many different parts of the globe demonstrating why they have become so successful.

J Rocks – Rocking the Indo music scene

J Rocks – Rocking the Indo music scene

Since forming in Indonesia over a decade ago, J-Rocks have been wowing an army of devoted fans with their energetic brand of Japanese-influenced rock n roll. Lead vocalist Taufik Rachman, together with guitarist Sony Ismail Robbayani, bassist Swara Wima Yoga and drummer Anton Rudi Kelces, began their meteoric rise with an appearance at a music contest. Jakarta was playing host to the 'Nescafe Get Started' competition, aimed at uncovering new talent. Sponsored by the record label, Aquarius Musikindo, J-Rocks succeeded in coming top, winning the opportunity of a lifetime for any ambitious young band – the chance to take part in a compilation album.

Topeng Sahabat was the name of the band's debut album, released in 2005. As things started coming together for J-Rocks, they also contributed two songs for the Dealova soundtrack album – 'Into the Silent' and 'Serba Salah'.

With the release of their follow-up album, Spirit, two years later, the band really stared to attract a powerful fan base (known in the Indonesian media as J-Rockstars). This covered a variety of bases, including classical music and rock n roll, guaranteeing that it would have widespread appeal in Indonesia and beyond. A single that came from this album, 'Kau Curi Lagi' was notable for featuring the talented Japanese guitarist Prisa Rianzi as a guest musician. Sticking with that connection, around this time the band also made a video for their single 'Juwita Hati', filmed in Japan, and directed by Hedy Suryawan. With Japanese locations forming an eyecatching backdrop, the video was to considerably widen the young Indonesian band's audience – in Japan the young fans have really lapped up J-Rocks.

J-Rocks have one huge claim to fame. They are the first ever band from this Far Eastern nation to have recorded in the Abbey Road studios, most famously used by The Beatles for their album of that name, recorded in 1969. J-Rocks used the session in the London studio to record five songs, which made their way onto their Road to Abbey EP, released in 2009 – exactly forty years on from those Beatles recordings. The J-Rocks EP contains two versions of a song called 'Fallin in Love', one recorded with Indonesian vocals, the other with vocals translated into English. In addition, there ara three other songs – 'Road to Abbety', 'Hanya Aku' and 'Meraih Mimpi'. The EP is also notable for its picture sleeve, which features the young Indonesians aping the world-famous zebra crossing shot that was originally posed by The Beatles back in 1969.

While this may have been a cunning publicity stunt, J-Rocks are in no need of self-promotion – they have a huge number of followers in any case. Not only does their eclectic musical performances ensure maximum coverage, their individual styles are always guaranteed to put them at the centre of attention. J-Rocks are famous for their towering hairstyles and dramatic stage gear. But neither are they 'teenybopper' rock exponents. At the 2008 festival A Mild Live Soundrenaline, they were voted 'Best band to free their voice', pipping established rock bands such as Gigi and Nidji. (It was winning this accolade that led them to being booked into the Abbey Road studio).

Power Slaves – Rich Rock n Roll

Power Slaves – Rich Rock n Roll

Their website might state '100% rock n roll', and they might take their name from an album by English heavy metal giants Iron Maiden, but there is far more to this Indonesian band than just bombastic loud guitars. Indonesian music fans are known for their appreciation of energetic music, but they also like subtlety.

A classic example of what Power Slaves are capable of can be seen by tapping into YouTube, where there are many examples of their excellent songs. Impian has attracted almost a quarter of a million hits.

It commences with a drum intro, leading to a soft but insistent section of acoustic guitar, the output layered through effects pedals to give a soothing melodic introduction. As the verse unfolds, the video complements the soft rock background, introducing an attractive female who appears to be re-arranging a collection of Disney miniatures (or could a quirky game of chess be in progress?) The viewer's attention is captured by close-ups of this stunning model, filmed in soft focus and highlights. Shortly afterwards two females brandish fireworks. After a cut back to the 'toy chess', the chorus really kicks in, with keyboards and power chords colliding while the vocalist reaches his hands out imploringly towards the camera.

There is nothing original in this soft hard approach – it was pioneered by US proto-grunge rockers Pixies in the late 80s, and brought to the fore by Nirvana. Nevertheless the technique is just as effective now as it has ever been. Just as the verse lulls the listener into a false sense of security, along come the crunching guitar to rouse you from your state of relaxation! While the verse is all wistful shots of the singer and the model, playing chess, then holding hands seductively as they linger over their next tactical move, the chorus is more conventionally rock n roll, showing the Power Slaves on stage, plugged into their amplifier stacks.

By the second chorus the camera is panning over the model lying back, her beauty illuminated by flickering candles. The film cuts to a shot of the girl apparently involved in an argument while hunched over a pool table.

The song approaches a climax at 3:25, when a close-up of the pool balls breaking cuts to a guitar (and the sub-titles state 'Wow'!) The solo is layered with effects, so that a punchy rock n roll lead is tempered with melody. The guitars continue feeding over the vocals, propelling the song towards its finale. At 4:38 a minor chord change drops in, and the piece slowly unravels towards a majestic fade-out.

All in all, Impian is a triumphant example of how a rock band can alter tone, pace and volume, reaching a whole new audience in the process. This is a classic song that would work well in any setting where you were hoping to create am atmosphere – such as a romantic evening in, featuring candles and a sumptuous meal. But the song would work equally well in a live setting, with those powerful guitar lines erupting from speaker stacks.