New Jakarta Ensemble
Siam (

Filtered through the multicultural mind of composer Tony Prabowo, Commonality explores Indonesian musical heritage as it is interpreted from a Western classical perspective. In the process, Prabowo captures the aural flavors of multiple cultural traditions. From djimbes, darbouka, Carribean steel drums, cymbals, and the ethereal gongs of Indonesian gamelan, to remarkable vocal harmonies reminiscent of Ladysmith Black Mambazo or Tuvan throat singers, familiar rhythmic textures and melodic phrasing unite more unusual indigenous impressions. Throughout the six lengthy tracks, the musical mood ranges from the soft soothing hum of flutes, singing bowls, crystal glasses, chanting, and Chinese zither, to the controlled chaos of avante-garde jazz violin. It is a successful combination of seemingly disparate elements and traditions, but Commonality does not depend upon its novelty. The compositions are purposeful, coherent, and sonorous. They also benefit from powerful vocal and instrumental performances, particularly by singer Nyak Inaa Raseukia.

"Kubang Berlemut"
The New Jakarta ensemble was created to support dancer Linda Hoemar for the Indonesian Dance Festival in July, 1996. The group includes five Minang musicians; Epi Martisan, Desmal Hendri, Anusirwan, Armen Suwandi, and Musliwarinal, Sumatran vocalist and ethnomusicologist Nyak Inaa Raseukia, and the accomplished Canadian violinist Stephanie Griffin. Although Commonality is composed, it was communicated to the musicians verbally. Prabowo explains that, "Western music is a world of composers, but the traditional Eastern one is of players." The union of these approaches gives the New Jakarta Ensemble the kind of spontaneous personal vitality that is not always maintained in composed music.

Commonality is a pleasure to listen to on its own, but the full impact of this creative work cannot be sufficiently appreciated without viewing the beautifully filmed digital video disk or VHS cassette that is also available. The video captures the extraordinary techniques and interaction of the ensamble. It is interspersed with dreamy montages of Indonesian culture and landscape, as well as all too short clips from simply breathtaking dance performances by Yin Mei and Kung Fu monk Shi Hengxin. Short of seeing them live and up close, The DVD and video provide the best access to this enchanting new music. - Joshua Levin

Buy it at

Audio sample is an excerpt from the recording, and is used with the express perission of the composers and Siam Records. © 1999. No reproduction of any part of this page or its associated files is permitted.

return to rootsworld