DEWA BUDJANA — Mahandini (review)

DEWA BUDJANA — Mahandini album cover Album · 2018 · Jazz Related Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
kev rowland
We all recognise certain people within the music world who we respect and admire for one reason or another. These tend to be musicians themselves, but for more than twenty years one person I have been in awe of is Leonardo Pavkovic, who when he isn’t touring with one of his bands is also discovering wonderful musicians and making them available to the wider world. Such is the case with Dewa Budjana, a guitarist who has sold millions of albums in Indonesia but wasn’t recognised outside his home country until ‘Dawal In Paradise’ was released on Moonjune, since when many of us always look forward to the next album with real interest. One of the reasons for that is Dewa is always looking to expand, branch and change. It is rare that he will use the same group of musicians from one album to the next, and records very quickly indeed, capturing energy and then moving on. This album was recorded in one day in January 2018, postproduction and overdubs took place, and then it was mixed and mastered in the March.

This album sees Dewa working with Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment), drummer Marco Minnemann (The Aristocrats, Steven Wilson, Joe Satriani, Adrian Belew, Trey Gunn, The Mute Gods, Eddie Jobson UK) and bassist Mohini Dey (Steve Vai, Guthrie Govan). There are also guest appearances by John Frusciante (Red Hot Chilli Peppers), fusion guitar veteran Mike Stern (Miles Davis, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Billy Cobham, Jaco Pastorius) and by the haunting voice of Indonesian singer Soimah Pancawati.

I don’t think I have previously come across 22-year-old Dey prior to this, and if she is playing like this at her age, I can’t even imagine what she will be doing in the next 10 or 20 years. There are times when I found I was concentrating more on what she was doing than Budjana, such is her impact on this album. There is a section at the end of “Queen Kanya” where the interplay between her and Minnemann is incredible: I would happily keep playing that on repeat as it blows me away each and every time. Rudess is one of the most important keyboard players in the scene, but due to the way the music has been arranged he is often more in the background but playing as perfectly as ever. This album starts with “Crowded”, a song not written by Budjana, a first for one of his solo works, but instead it is by John Frusciante who also provides vocals (as well as on closing song “Zone”). Rudess gently provides the introduction which allows Budjana to pick up the theme before Frusciante comes in. Here we get the flashes of genius which only come when musicians are masters of their craft, and also here coming from different musical areas and joining together to create something special. In many ways this is one of the most commercial songs ever released by Budjana, and in itself it may well create interest from those who have yet to come across him as the rock elements blast, but the gentle sections trickle along like a babbling brook.

Later in the album we are treated to the vocals of Indonesian tradition singer Soimah Pancawati, and this mix of styles works incredibly well, as America meets Asia in a way which only makes sense due to the way the music has been arranged. Each of Budjana’s albums is a delight from start to end, and this is no different. Regarding the title he says “The title Mahandini comes from two words, Maha & Nandini: Maha means means big, great and Nandini means ‘the vehicle that carries the God Shiva’ in indian. Using this word as the name for this great line-up resulted in a good sign, it sounded like I had a Great Vehicle for my music. I was lucky!” So are we.
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