'Gambus' music played for secular purposes

6/21/2005 4:03:15 PM

Trio Dingo proves music knows no boundaries

The greatest achievement for musicians in a live performance is their ability to build chemistry between themselves: Individual craft is employed purely to build a harmonious whole.

Australian genre-evading band Trio Dingo is an outfit of three dexterous musicians who excelled in demonstrating that their musical marriage is greater than the sum of its parts.

In their evening performance at Gedung Kesenian, Central Jakarta, last Saturday, music from the trio evolved into an organic entity that had a life of its own.

Combining traditional music from Southern India, Turkey, the Balkans, the Middle East, Java and Bali, the trio, wind instrument player Kim Sander, percussionist Ron Reeve and multi-instrumentalist Blair Greenberg, delivered flawless performances comprising free-form tunes suffused with drama.

The musical matrimony was so pervasive that the instruments from which it was built made little difference, be it the ney (traditional sufi flute), kaval (long wooden flute), tenor saxophone, tabla, Scottish bagpipes or more familiar acoustic guitar.

Such a marriage was perfectly captured, for instance, during Noam Chomsky Auto Focus Boogie Wooegie, the second item of the one hour-plus performance. During the tune's middle course, Greenberg's guitar strumming accompanied a sublime duet in which Sander's tenor sax playing was backed by Reeve's supple pounding on his traditional Javanese percussion kendang.

The trio lifted the audience to a higher transcendental plane with a Turkish tune titled Kermezuk Gul.

"We were in the eastern part of Turkey; the temperature was minus 40 degrees Celsius and we sat by a fire playing this music," said Sander, the tune's composer, as he talked about its germination.

Building its drama from the ney, the tune produced an eerie sense of despondency that gave it a funereal character. Reeve abandoned his kendang to play the kaval, which provided a haunting monotone throughout the number.

Contrary to routines in regular pop gigs -- where lengthy solos are often played as part of ego trips -- the protracted solo in Trio Dingo's performance was intended to enhance the dramatic atmosphere.

After taking the audience on a journey to exotic territories, Trio Dingo landed firmly on their feet with a number titled Burning.

Composed by Greenberg only six months before his Sydney apartment caught fire, this was the most accessible number on the trio's playlist that night: a conversational, yodeling piece backed by Greenberg's plucking on an acoustic guitar and occasional sax, barely audible in the midst of Reeve's percussion.

In the finale, a heavily percussive South African tune, the trio invited pop singer Oppie Andaresta and percussionist Jalu to join them on stage.

Apart from their impressive musicianship, the trio also had a good sense of humor, as shown in their frequent jokes thrown to the floor. Reeve who served as MC throughout the performance, regularly cracked jokes in fluent Indonesian.

Before a rendition of The Impossible Dream of Sonja, Sander gave an introduction that made the audience giggle. "This song was inspired by graffiti we found on a Sydney bus. It said 'Sonja, Sonja let me own ya.' Poetry doesn't get any better than that," Sander said.

Sander has studied and performed in Turkey, the West Balkans and China. He is a specialist in Turkish Sufi music.

Reeve lived for many years in Indonesia, studying traditional music from Bali, Java and Sumatra and specializing in Sundanese kendang.

Greenberg has played djembe, steel drums, marimba and guitar in Africa, Europe and Australia, including with an ensemble known as the Paranormal Music Society.