This is actually a very late report from the Balawan’s concert in Brussels on last 30 May 2007. Organized by the Indonesian Embassy and Belgian-Indonesian Foundation for Cultural Promotion (BIFC Promotion), Balawan or I Wayan Balawan held concert with title “Balawan Ethnic Jazz” in Thon Hotel, Brussels City. Supported by Agung Dody (bass), Made Wardhana (kendang/drum), Nyoman Suida and Wayan Swastika (gamelan), Balawan, who also act as vocalist, dazed the audience and hit hard with Bali nuance in every session.
It is unnecessary to wait until the last performance to see Balawan hypnotized the audience with his double neck guitar. In the opening session Balawan played Bird Song then followed by others song such as “The Dance of Janger”, “Tari Kecak” “A Wonderful World”, “Bubuy Bulan”, “My Way” as well as “Semua Bisa Bilang”, taken from his album “Magic Fingers”.
The audience was surprised on how he harmonized gamelan as piano substitution and applied it into jazz harmony smoothly. He could also manage the absence of modern drum with Bali traditional kendang which was played by Made Wardhana. So it is not affluent when Made Wardhana spanked his Bali traditional kendang, we could considered it same as the professional drum player.
In “Tari Kecak”, he adopted kecak’s dance instruments and combined with duel guitar versus kendang. In this session, Balawan conjured his guitar to generate kendang tone. He asked Made to play his kendang, and then he imitated it with his guitar. Whatever tone from Made’s kendang, Balawan could respond with the same tone very well. Of course, this performance received big applause from the audiences.
Furthermore, when he played “A Wonderful World” and sings a duet with Ambassador of Indonesia, Nadjib Riphat Kesoema, he could present romantic – melancholies trumpet with his double neck guitar. Then when he accompanied Ambassador Datuk Kamal of Malaysia who sang “My Way”, he could resemble keyboard and piano clearly.
For the jazz fans in Indonesia, the name of Balawan has already well known. He is a musician who has ability to play a special and difficult form of tapping which involves chord and bass work with the left hand and tapped melody with the right hand, which resembles piano playing. He was born in Bali, Indonesia September 1973, grew up amongst Balinese gamelan music. At age of 8 he began to play guitar and start his first band in the age of 14. In 1993 he went to Sydney and got a scholarship to study jazz at the Australian Institute Of Music for two years. He went back to Bali in 1997 and forms Batuan Ethnic Fusion (A mix of Balinese Gamelan and Jazz) and released one album in 1999.
Related to concert in Brussels, this is the first concert for him. So no wonder if the audience majority were Indonesian who lives in Belgium. While the Belgian or foreign’s local residence who presents in those concert mostly come from people or travel agent who have ever visited Bali. For the next concert, I suggested to the Embassy and BIFC Promotion to arrange the possibilities for Balawan to participate in any other jazz activities in Belgium such as Brussels Summer Jazz Marathon, a yearly jazz concert held toward summer. So the name of Balawan could be more popular, not only in Indonesia but also in the world, particularly in Europe.
It is nice to hear that someday Indonesian jazz musician likes Balawan could go international and bring good image for Indonesia. I hope also that Indonesia will be more well-known, not only by Bali and its tourism, but also by his musicians.