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From Dawn to Dusk 2: An Indonesian musical adventure

Carene Chong

Wed Aug 21 2013

from dawn to dusk_1

FOLLOWING the success of last year’s inaugural concert, a group of passionate musicians took to the stage again this year to celebrate the unique music, culture, and people of Indonesia with From Dawn to Dusk 2. Carene Chong has more.

The Indonesian Melbourne Musician Network (IMMN) doing what they do best on stage for From Dawn To Dusk 2. Photo: IMMN

The Indonesian Melbourne Musician Network (IMMN) doing what they do best on stage for From Dawn To Dusk 2. Photo: Supplied

On a chilly August evening in Melbourne, a group of about 250 people were brought on a little journey to explore every nook and cranny of Indonesia – across, around, in and out the country within two hours.

A musical journey, that is.

Last year, a group of like-minded musicians formed the Indonesian Melbourne Musician Network (IMMN) and came together to organise a night of music centered around Indonesian traditional music and culture. The aim was to spread a little bit of the beautiful country, and the culture steeped within it, to a wider audience.

The inaugural event From Dawn to Dusk was so well received that the musicians returned this year to play at a bigger venue – the Melbourne City Conference Centre – and to a considerable audience of young and old; local and international, no less.

The night started with a beautiful choral number by guest performer St. Francis Youth Choir, a non-audition group of vocalists who rehearse on a weekly basis and sing at the monthly Tertiary Student Mass. Led by choir director Rhys Arvidson, the choir went on to provide vocals for IMMN’s performances throughout the evening.

A man clad in a black batik (an iconic Indonesian pattern) shirt then stepped onstage and took his place behind the keyboard. He is Randy Enos Hallatu, the chief composer and music director. The brainchild behind the show is as passionate as he is talented, having written and composed most of the pieces that night.

However, when asked to introduce himself he simply said, “I’m just a simple guy who loves music.”

The concept of the show was to ferry the audience from one end of Indonesia to the other with different musical numbers showcasing the various regions of the country.

On top of giving the audience a clear picture of what the provinces represent or are famous for, the compositions also utilised traditional instruments symbolic of the regions.

The first number by the IMMN, “Komodo Dragon”, opened with a solo rendition on the sasando, a traditional bamboo string instrument native to the Rote Island in East Nusa Tenggara. A looping video accompanied the performance, showing the legendary yet peaceful creatures of Nusa Tenggara in their natural habitat.

From there, members of the audience were whisked away to the provinces of Kalimantan, Sunda, Sulawesi, Betawi, Aceh and Batak with compositions of varying genres and tempo.

For the region of Kalimantan for example, a calming piece reflecting the beautiful rainforests of Indonesia led to a thunderous rock anthem depicting the destruction of these woodlands due to excessive logging activities.

Another piece, titled “Angklung from Watsonia”, was inspired by a Sundanese ethnic group with a handful of students from Loyola College in Watsonia, Victoria participating with angklungs in their hands.

The angklung is another iconic Indonesian instrument made of bamboo tubes, which are attached to a bamboo frame, and sounds a distinctive resonant pitch when vibrated.

Following a 15 minute intermission and a lucky draw event, the audience was then treated to a unique tune with both modern and traditional Indonesian as well as a tinge of Chinese elements. In this piece, named “A Day in Batavia”, the iconic Chinese instrument, erhu, was played alongside the gamelan – arguably the most popular form of music from Indonesia. The gamelan is an ensemble of tuned percussion instruments unique to the country which includes metallophones, bamboo flutes, drums, gongs, and spike fiddles.

The combination of western and eastern; modern and traditional elements in this piece reflected the melting pot of people and culture that the region of Betawi is known for.

The mood in the venue changed dramatically with the next number, titled “Aceh 2004”. The melancholic composition was Enos’s musical interpretation of one of the worst natural disasters in recorded history – the 2004 tsunami that claimed more than 200,000 human lives. Combined with heart wrenching footage of the tragedy, it undoubtedly triggered some unpleasant memories within the audience, most of whom were predominantly Indonesian.

Enos said it only felt right that the incident be included in the concert agenda, given its significance in Indonesian history.

“It was like a big punch in the gut for Indonesia,” he said.

However, the sombre mood did not last long as the band dived into a much more upbeat tune by the name of “Sinanggar Tulo”. The number, enriched with sounds from the gamelan and soothing vocals reflected the celebratory mood of a village rejoicing a wedding happening within the community.

The most memorable performance of the night however, had to be credited to guest performer Paguyuban Pasundan Melbourne. Their performance, the “Rampak Kendang” originated from the Sundanese community and is a popular art form for the ethnic group.

The performance had three members of the organisation sit in a semi circle on the stage floor, kendangs (traditional Indonesian drums) in hand and drumming skillfully in harmony without the company of any other instruments. For comedic effect, the players poked fun at each other and tried to interfere with each other’s performances but the presentation altogether was a cultural masterpiece that planted big grins on the audience’s faces.

A couple more numbers later, the finale arrived with the performance of “Would You Dance With Me”, another one of Enos’s masterpieces that combined most elements of traditional Indonesian music.

With Balinese community group Mahindra Bali at the metallophone and ceng ceng (cymbals), Paguyuban Pasundan Melbourne on the kendangs, the rest of the band with their instruments and the audience armed with a party horn each, every single person in the room played a part in ending the night on a high note.

Audience member Diana, for one, was impressed with how the night went.

“It was very enjoyable, especially with the audience involvement at the end,” she said.

“I would say it’s 20 dollars well spent.”

Another event-goer William who attended the event with family said it had been a very different and enjoyable weekend experience for them.

“Everyone really enjoyed themselves. There wasn’t a dull moment throughout the show I have to say.”

“Most importantly I guess, this event was a much-needed medium to spread Indonesian music and culture to Australia, and perhaps to the rest of the world one day. I hope,” he added with a laugh.

Were you there at the event? What were your thoughts on the show? Share with us below.