Thursday, July 29, 2010

Trad Indonesian and Fusion Make Powerful Alliance on Tohpati's "Save The Planet"

The gamelan traditions of Indonesia are a source of some of the most amazing music the world has ever had the good fortune to experience. Indonesian electric guitar virtuoso Tohpati has imbibed that tradition as part of his upbringing and now he and his band present some extraordinary fusion music that puts that tradition in juxtaposition with the virtuoso style of electric jazz that has flourished off and on since the early '70s.

I wont say that the combination was inevitable. It took a musician with talent, familiarity and technical-musical largess to pull it off. That person is Tohpati. (One must also not forget a related band, simak DIALOG, whose excellent music I have reviewed on these pages and in Cadence.)

He plays a guitar style that has much in the way of notes but also a structural sense of melody and rhythm that brings a sense of rightness to all he does. This also applies on the whole to his complex and moving compositions.

Before we get much further, I should tell you that his first album, specifically Tohpati Ethnomission's Save the Planet (Moonjune 035), has just come out and any discussions to follow are based on that set of music.

So you have a excellent guitarist and his fusion-Indonesian pieces. Now for the band. It is a kickingly coherent assemblage of local musicians. Perhaps the most kicking and coherent part of that is the rhythm team. Idro Hardjodikoro plays a driving yet melodically sophisticated electric bass and forms an important part of the ensemble passages throughout. He also takes some hair-raising solos. Endang Ramdan plays excellent percussion in the Indonesian tradition and Demas Narawangsa combines the conventional trap set with Indonesian percussion. These two get a very driving rock-meets-gamelan groove happening that can not be resisted. Finally there Diki Suwarjiki, who sweetens the blend with a beautifully played traditional Suling flute and also constructs electro-acoustical soundscapes.

Save the Planet is one of the most innovative, interesting and moving fusion offerings I've heard in a long time.The combination of kicking percussion-drums, sophisticated Indonesian infused composition and Tohpati's most accomplished and distinctive guitar wielding make you want to hear the album many times in succession. It's a great example of why bringing your own roots into your music can be a great thing. Indonesian music is enriched in the process. And fusion too! Try not to miss this one.

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