I Know You Well Miss Clara (IKYWMC) is a four-piece jazz group from Yogya whose first album, Chapter One, has recently been released on the New York label MoonJune run by Leonardo Pavkovic. I profiled him in the Jakarta Globe last November because of his keen interest in and promotion of the Indonesian jazz-rock scene with a number of releases by simakDialog, Tohpati’s Ethnomission, Ligro and Dewa Budjana.
The four musicians of IKYWMC are graduates of Yogya ISI (Institute of Arts) and what they’ve produced owes little to anything previously heard in Indonesia or indeed elsewhere. Reza Ryan (32), the guitarist and main songwriter, describes their music as “progressive/ Canterbury/ classic-fusion.”
That is a fair summation, yet, as Leonardo says, “Their influences are unmistakable, but the end result is completely and uniquely their own.”
The facility with which Adi Wijiya (26) on keyboards, bassist Enriko Gultom (33), drummer Alfiah Akbar (31) and Reza change time signatures and offer calmness and a roller-coaster ride within one track is evidence of truly telepathic playing and a rare mutuality of musical vision.
Chapter One is a mature and astonishing debut which repays regular listening. In displaying a ‘can do, why not’ attitude, the group has a refreshing curiosity which augurs well for Chapter Two and beyond.
Reza, when did you become interested in making music?
I’ve never been interested in ‘school’ things but I remember that what I liked to do in elementary school was imitate the sound of drums using my desk. Then, when I was 10, my uncle taught me the guitar. After that, I played the guitar all the time and when my playing got better than my uncle’s, I learned by myself, through cassettes borrowed from my father and my uncles.
What did you listen to at home when growing up?
My mother listened to dangdut and old Indonesian pop songs, and my father liked the Beatles and ABBA. However, my uncles listened to groups like Sepultura and some Indonesian rock bands of the ’80s and early 90’s such as KLA Project, Power Metal, and God Bless.
Can you tell me about your studies at Yogya ISI (Institute of Arts)?
At that time I was in a period of saturation in music generally. I felt that I needed something new, but couldn’t find it until a friend played me a classical guitar piece. I don’t remember but I think it may have been by Giuliani. I just felt connected and I wanted to play music like his.
So I decided to learn music from its basics and to study classical guitar at ISI, where Royke Bobby Koapaha and Andre Indrawan were my tutors. But over time I got bored again just playing classical guitar. Although I thought it was cool playing written notations from great world composers, I thought it would be more cool if I was the one who wrote the compositions.
Then I watched a show on my campus by Dutch free jazzers Duo Geizzer Mazolla and jazz music began to steal my attention. At that time the internet was not as prevalent as it is now, but I knew someone who could provide all the albums I wanted. I looked for old jazz recordings from Wes Montgomery, Charlie Parker, Pat Martino, etc. I also bought cassettes of Soft Machine, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Miles Davis, and I started listening to Allan Holdsworth, Henry Cow, Frank Zappa and John Zorn.
And so that brings us to IKYWMC?
My classical guitar mentor Royke B Koapaha asked me to join his prog-rock band SAdA, all music teachers at ISI apart from me. We performed at several festivals in Bandung, Surabaya and Yogyakarta. But later, with SAdA not really active I started IKYWMC.
What binds you together and how do you all spend your time away from IKYWMC?
We all have different tastes in music. I mainly love 70’s British progressive music and psychedelic rock such as Jimi Hendrix, post-bop era jazz such as John Coltrane … ah, my music orientation continues to change! I still play with SAdA and also in other settings.
Enriko is into 90’s grunge and punk, but he also loves avant-garde classical music. He scores movies and is also studying karawitan (traditional music) at ISI.
Adi likes traditional jazz and classical music, and plays piano in the Yogya ISI Symphony Orchestra.
Alfiah loves punk bands, but also listens to a lot of fusion, and is a drums teacher at a music school in Jogja.
But what binds us together is jazz, and that is the attitude we bring to IKYWMC.
Thanks Reza, and good luck with this album, and the following Chapters ….
– This interview was first published in the Jakarta Globe on 12th October.
– Another interview with Reza which adds his thoughts about the process of making Clara’s music.