Jaya Suprana takes Brisbane crowd on musical tour
Cynthia Webb, Contributor, Brisbane

Last Saturday night I was lucky to be in an audience who were escorted on a musical journey around Indonesia, right here in Brisbane. The music was played by the one and only Jaya Suprana and his group, Kwartet Punakawan, from Jakarta.

As is well known in Indonesia, Jaya is a classically trained pianist who got together with this particular group only a year ago. The band recently completed a tour in Indonesia that included prisons on their schedule.
Brisbane was their first stop in Australia before continuing on to Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

Jaya has absorbed the group’s performance expenses in Australia, raising money for various charities, since he is also a successful businessman of the well-known and established traditional medicine company Jamu Jago. Valuable travel assistance was also contributed by flag-carrier Garuda.

Music always comes first for Jaya, since he knows that he can hire managers for business, but he cannot hire anyone to love and play music for him.

The recipient of the approximately A$6,000 raised by the Brisbane concert is the Mt. Carmel Foundation, an Indonesia-based foundation run by Mavis Pardede, who operates several orphanages in Indonesia. The particular focus is a new orphanage to be built close to Bogor for orphans from Nias who lost their parents in the earthquake and tsunami of 2004-05.

Kwartet Punakan’s other concerts here will raise funds for recovery efforts in Yogyakarta following the May 27 earthquake. The group is also set to celebrate Indonesia’s Independence Day on Aug. 17.

The joy of music was communicated vividly by Jaya to the rapt audience as he guided us from Aceh to Batak lands, to Padang and to Sunda, and on to Central Java and Ambon — by which time our own allotted time on this special Saturday night was running out.

The beautiful themes of Indonesia’s most beloved traditional tunes flowed from his fingers like sparkling jewels. Fellow musicians complimented Jaya’s musical tribute to his country.

“Kwartet Punakawan have adopted wayang names, and Jaya is of course, Semar, and looks the part. On percussion — Junaidi Musliman (gareng) and the two guitarists, Heru Kusnadi (bagong, bass guitar) and the amazing guitarist Jubing Kristianto (petruk), who is a four-time winner of the national festival and who has received a Southeast Asian award for his musical talent.

Jaya brought his background in European classical music to his ountry and showed it to us all in a new and beautiful light.

He explained after the show, “When I returned to Indonesia after ten years in Europe, I said to myself: I am Indonesian so why not play the music of my own country?” He knew Indonesia possessed many beautiful melodies from its different cultures, and the different musical scales created a beautiful and surprising frisson for the ears of “others”.

Just at the moment when an ear tuned to the Western scale is expecting a certain note, a different, surprising and more exquisite note follows. This brings an indescribable experience for the Western-trained musical ear and sometimes a profound emotion — a shiver up the spine, or a tear in the eye.

Jaya demonstrated on the grand piano the various pentatonic musical scales of different indigenous cultures. He stressed that Central Java has a musical pattern unique in the world, and how the music of Sunda, West Java, sounds similar to the music of Japan.

Along with the very Indonesian traditional sounds, we enjoyed melodies with an Arabic influence called dangdut, some more romantic musical treatments that sounded like American arrangements from the 1950s and ’60s, and some Latin rhythms from South America — bossa nova and tango.

The concert was held in the Garden City Christian Church auditorium, located in a suburban area of Brisbane.

The church’s Pastor Steve J. Dixon, who comes from the United Kingdom, has had much experience in assisting victims of disaster around the world. He has worked in 65 different countries, and was sent 2.5 years ago to Brisbane — where he is Multi-Cultural Pastor — on the strength of this experience.

When he heard about the orphaned children of Nias, he committed himself to the aim of raising $290,000 to build a new orphanage for them. Later, he wondered what he had done and whether he could actually achieve this, but pressed on.

By the evening of the Jaya Suprana-Kwartet Punakawan concert, he had already raised $160,000. The concert added at least $6,000, and Pastor Dixon is determined not to give up until the Mt. Carmel Foundation raises the total funds needed.

In Indonesia, the foundation’s project is being assisted by property developer Herman Bunjamin, who is also its chairman.

A large proportion of the audience was made up of Chinese-Indonesian Christians living in Brisbane, and included Nugraha Suprana, cousin to Jaya, who organized the event.

Many of the Indonesians in the audience sang along with the familiar and beloved melodies, and some had tears running down their cheeks. I too shed tears, as I was transported by the inestimable sweetness of the music and the memories it brought back.

Source: The Jakarta Post, Monday 7 August 2006

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