I’d arranged to chat with the latest Indonesian guitarist to join the MoonJune stable after his gig last night at the Rolling Stone Café in Jakarta’s enclave of the wealthy. But apart from giving high fives and hugs to his many friends, he was still so full of nervous energy that he needed a while to come down from the high he’d left us all in that he needed a period of calm.
The occasion was a showcase of his album due for international release on MoonJune Records in November, A Man’s Relationship With His Fragile Area, an album I’ve been listening to for a couple of months. To say that this is unlike anything else you’re likely to hear would be an understatement, yet there are echoes of which keep you engrossed and returning to.
Tesla’s label for his musings is neo-classical; I’d accept that. Jazz, it isn’t, although senior jazz guitarist Agam Hamzah was there, as was Chico Hindarto, the promoter of such gigs as Pat Metheny’s first in Jakarta back in 1995, and the MoonJune artists I Know You Well Miss Clara next month.
Tesla’s group was kept under a tight rein, with every key and instrument change choreographed and synched so tightly so that the first number from the album Chin Up was note and tempo perfect.
The group is a four piece with drums played by Desal, bass by Khrishna and a variety of woodwind instruments by Hulhul. His main instrument is the clarinet, but variety was added with a bamboo flute, a descant recorder (which I learnt to play way back in elementary school), and for discord, a tarompet pencak, which is a double-reed woodwind instrument from the Sunda (Bandung) area of West Java generally used to accompany the martial art form of pencak silat .
I noted the following about The Sweetest Horn: it opened with a whistleable marching band nursery melody played on descant recorder with a drum beat, joined by skittering drums, then guitar and clarinet playing as children do, until they combine to build an echo of an express train which gradually comes towards a halt: a guitar lead pastoral theme takes over, but with underlying menace from the bass.
Time passed, surprisingly fast, and for this listener it all came together with the final number, Where Are We Now? (which is not on the album): ah, I thought, I now understand it. Where it all made sense was that I felt that the group was given freedom to play, to stretch themselves, albeit with a continued measure of synchronicity.
Tesla has carved a very interesting musical path, and I really look forward to trailing behind to discover where his muse takes him next, especially if he takes time to let his innate curiosity relax and enjoy the view. After all, it’s not the destination which is of importance, but the journey itself.