DEWA BUDJANA — Joged Kahyangan (review)

DEWA BUDJANA — Joged Kahyangan album cover Album · 2013 · Post-Fusion Contemporary Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
Although Dewa Budjana has been putting out records in Indonesia since 1997, he did not receive much western exposure until 2011 when he released “Dawai in Paradise” on the MoonJune label. “Paradise” was a particularly ambitious recording for Budjana that created colorful cinematic soundscapes with a pan-Asian fusion backdrop. In 2013 Dewa has brought us his follow up recording, “Joged Kanyangan” , somewhat similar to its predecessor, but different too. Its probably no accident that Budjana has recorded his new CD with an all-star cast of western musicians (Larry Goldings, Bob Mintzer etc) because the Indonesian, Indian and other Asian influences that have always been Budjana’s trademark sound are still present, but they are much more subdued now. In fact, much of “Kahyangan” could easily play on contemporary jazz radio in the states and other western markets as well. Whether this is bad or good is a matter of personal taste, but you can’t blame Dewa for wanting to try different things and work with a new set of influences. No doubt, Goldings, Mintzer, Pete Erskine and the others on here are tops in their field.

The music on “Kahyangan” is more laid back and relaxed than the music on “Paradise”, the structures are less ambitious and there are fewer outbursts of energetic electric fusion. Although “Kahyangan” is not what you would call a pop-jazz album, some songs lean towards a “smooth” sound as Budjana is a master of the expressive nylon string playing that goes with that genre. Fans of Budjana’s aggressive electric shredding will find some good moments on “Dang Hyang Story” and “Majik Blue”. Larry Goldings gets to stretch out on the B3 on the jazzy “Erskoman” and Bob Mintzer contributes fine solos throughout. Budjana is a master of melodic development and his finest melody on here is the bitter sweet vocal number, “As You Leave My Nest”, about a woman who’s son is about to leave home and move on. Even better than the original is a instrumental reprise of the same melody on the album closer, “Borra’s Ballad”. Dewa’s expressive nylon string guitar playing on this one is an album highlight.

“Joged Kahyangan” is a good album and should make Dewa Budjana’s fans happy, but for the curious looking for a first buy, the preceding “Dawai in Paradise” is the stronger album.
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