Dr. Lonnie Smith keeps playing live

Up to this day, the technology just keeps advancing and giving us further convenience including musical “experience”. The establishment of Youtube channel, Spotify, iTunes and so on, enables us to enjoy abundant of music materials. Not only that, the advancing internet streaming also gives us the option to watch “live” music performance anywhere in the world with the comfort at our own home. However, live streaming, even in real time, is still not real live. Virtual “live” music performance lacks of real connection between the audience and the performing artist(s), not to mention the live atmosphere that takes place during the performance.

Experiencing live musical voices, melody, rhythm and harmony could enhance our emotion, and elevate our sensibility; being there in the crowd could also give us the sense of commune. So no matter how advance the broadcasting or streaming technology is, real live performance still cannot be replaced.

In the recent Java Jazz concert, Listen to the World (LttW) had the opportunity to briefly interview Dr. Lonnie Smith, a prominent Afro American Hammond keyboardist. We incidently ran into him in the hall way right before his gig started. Although in a hectic situation, he kindly granted the interview. During his performance, we felt his glorious spirit through his mimic, keyboard playing, and his rhythm improvisation on electric pad drum. Obviously the emotion and power of his performance hits our vein at the time.

Dr. Lonnie Smith is an unparalleled musician, composer, performer and recording artist. An authentic master and guru of the Hammond B-3 organ for over five decades, he has been featured on over seventy albums, and has recorded and performed with a virtual “Who’s Who” of the greatest jazz, blues and R&B giants in the industry. Consequently, he has often been hailed as a “Legend,” a “Living Musical Icon,” and as the most creative jazz organist by a slew of music publications. Jazz Times magazine describes him as “a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a turban!” Always ahead of the curve, it is no surprise that Dr. Smith has a worldwide fan-base.
Taken from: drlonniesmith.com

Dr Smith, you seem like a very peaceful person, what’s the key to that?

Relax… Take life easy, because it goes so fast. People tend to do everything. So don’t rush doing it all.

You said Hammond B3 is your favorite organ that has all of the elements, like fire, rain. Is it the sound or the feeling?

It is the feel and also sounds, and when I was playing it was like electricity, it’s like a plane flying through my body. So it has everything that could happen; when it passes you can’t beat that.

Being in Jakarta, it’s really far from US; with the internet streaming, you can actually perform live for millions people from your home, why bother coming here?

If you play music, you should be playing live. Experience the live atmosphere that you have, instead of just notes, you know…

I want to play for people in different places and see other flavor of experiences and so on; being here it’s real, not fake. One on one with the people is worth it; it’s worth all the traveling. When you play for people, right there, nothing beats that. If you play bad, then you want to play more. It’s worth something that you always cherish in your life. Don’t have to worry about on and off or stuff.

I may fall when I didn’t finish what I had to do. When I said passed, I will return to complete my work. It’s nothing that real as far as I know. It’s special; I was brought to earth to play music. That’s why I want to [keep] playing ‘live’.


Arturo Sandoval, Life of Jazz

[Jakarta, LttW] “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”, is an Albert Einstein quote that, to us, describes Arturo Sandoval. We were fortunate enough to see his shows at the 2017 Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival.

The event almost served as a comparative study. We were able to move from one performance to the next at any time. Imagine watching at least five different concerts in less than a six-hour period. It was difficult not to compare among the musicians.

Arturo Sandoval had a quite late time slot for his first performance night. Though we were quite beat, our energy was lifted by his complete package of a show. The ten-time Grammy Award winner was definitely a musician in his own right, but, to our surprise, he also had proficient comedic timing. There was a point when he shared a story and unexpectedly transitioned to a song. It was such a flawless transition that the audience was caught off guard, making us unable to hold laughter, myself included. At the end of “A Night in Tunisia”, he kept hitting higher and higher pitch on the trumpet that, in fear of losing breath, he crossed himself before hitting the final notes, a gesture unlikely if one doesn’t have a good sense of humor.

This level of stage and audience control truly showed the years he dedicated to his craft. There was not one nervous muscle in his performances throughout the two days.

Arturo was trained in classical music. His native Cuba is home to one of the most respected classical music conservatories in the world. Like the rest of the Americas, Cuba domesticated classical music and gave birth to authentic pieces by the likes of Leo Brouwer. Arturo, however, fell in love with jazz, a music that originated in a country considered hostile by Cuba at the time. He was jailed for that love. Later, thanks to bebop legend Dizzy Gillespie, he was able to move to the country that gave birth to that very love.

Our friend, jazz bassist Christy Smith, once told us that an individual lives jazz. It’s not just music. Arturo didn’t only show us his comprehension of jazz; he was showing us his life. The expertise, the fun, and the control, were all reflections of jazz itself. Virtuosity by itself was too complicated an explanation for what jazz is. Arturo showed us a simpler explanation that was able to include all the details. It was simply himself.

The following are answers to some questions we had for him. [GP]

Arturo, when did it all start musically for you?

Although music entered my life when I was 10, it wasn’t the easiest of starts.  In Cuba it was practically impossible to get a hold on an instrument, but when I was 10 years old, my aunt brought me a small horn and I never stopped striving to get better, even now!

What made you fall in love with music?

I fell in love with music at a very young age, maybe 5 or 6 years old.  Of course it was initially Cuban music and I started playing percussion, or whatever I could find, as it was very hard to get your hands on an instrument in Cuba.  I used to do a little “circus act” when I was 6 or 7.  I would hang a rope from one end to the other of a chair, and put food on both side.  I would have my cat walk from one end to the other while I played the congas, and I would charge my friends one cent to watch the show! It was the start of my performance career, haha!

A lot of folks in the jazz world don’t know that you’re just as respected in the classical world. How long have you been playing classical music?

I started playing classical music when I was 14, and that is what I studied as a young man.  Later I was hooked on Jazz, but I still perform all around the world with symphony orchestras and I am very grateful for that, it is such a good time for me to play classical concerts too.  I actually just finished composing my second classical concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra, and I am very excited to begin playing it live.

You’ve played a lot of different instruments but you really fell in love with the trumpet, was it love at first sight?

Love at first sight? No! haha! It was very challenging.  The first trumpet teacher I went to in Cuba told me to play for him, and since I have never played before, he immediately told me to throw the horn away and give it up.  That day, at 10 years old, I walked all the way home crying the whole way.  That’s when I decided I wasn’t going to let him discourage me, and embarked on my journey as a trumpet player.  The trumpet is one of my loves, the piano is definitely up there too!

You are known to be a cigar smoker. Doesn’t it affect your performance as a trumpet player?

I have been smoking cigars for over 50 years and thankfully it has never affected my playing!  I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true.

You are a renowned Jazz and classical trumpeter, a brilliant pianist, a stellar composer and arranger – a fine vocalist in your own right, a band leader, and a tenured university professor of music. How do you manage all this? Is there a secret you can share with us?

Thank you, you are very kind.  You know, I just never stop practicing, that’s the secret!  I am truly a lover of music, so I try to express myself in every way I can.  Sometimes I just want to blow the horn, others I want to sit at the piano and compose, write a song, write lyrics, or teach.  As long as you have the inspiration, its about practicing and being consistent and determined to follow the passion.

One can’t mention the name Arturo Sandoval without mentioning Dizzy Gillespie. You had a life altering relationship with him, in a way. Explain to us how.

Yes, meeting Dizzy changed my life, just as music did.  It was with his help that I was able to get political asylum and move to the US with my family.  He afforded me the greatest freedom as well as more personal and professional opportunities that I could have ever wished for! I was very fortunate to meet and then play and tour with Dizzy.  It’s a truly marvelous thing to meet your hero, and then form a relationship and a bond with him.  He was my mentor, my friend, my teacher and is still an inspiration to me every day!

How difficult it is for a musician from Cuba to get a world wide recognition?

Well, it was very difficult while I lived in Cuba, because we weren’t allowed to listen to Jazz, it was considered the “music of the enemy”. I was so desperate to listen to Jazz and learn from the masters, that I actually got arrested for listening to the Voice of America.  I am forever thankful to Dizzy Gillespie, who helped me escape the dictatorship and allowed me to open my eyes to freedom both personally and professionally.

For a man jailed for three months in Cuba for listening to jazz on Voice of America, the thawing of relations between your homeland and your new land means a lot?

I appreciate President Obama’s efforts, I know it comes from a positive place and a desire to help Cuba and its people.  However, it’s hard for me to believe that the politics there will change easily.  It is so saddening to see how people really live there and the struggles they have been going through for so many decades.  I wish that one day Cuba can be rid of the dictatorship and that the people can finally enjoy freedom, one of the greatest gift in life.

You live in USA. Are you going to Cuba sometimes?

I am very thankful to live in the US, it has been the greatest gift! Unfortunately I will not go back to Cuba, as the dictatorship still goes on, communism is still very much alive, and the poor people of the island continue to suffer immeasurably.

For Love or Country has been critically acclaimed. Do you feel this film is your legacy?

I am very proud of this film.  I was very thankful that HBO asked to do the film and more-so, that they were willing to tell the real story of what I went through and what many have gone through (and still do) living in Cuba.  I was also so happy to write the underscore for the film, which I won an Emmy for Best Composer!  But my true legacy is what I leave behind, and 4 years ago I started the Arturo Sandoval Institute (ASI).  It is a 100% non-profit organization which provides instruments, master classes, music education and so much more, to underprivileged students throughout the country.  I want to be a part of making sure that our children and grandchildren have music in their lives, despite the fact that schools are cutting their music programs!

What is on the horizon? What is Arturo Sandoval up to?

Again, I am so grateful to be traveling around the world performing!  I am also working on my new album, which is my first Duets Album, and I have some really phenomenal artists confirmed including: Pharrell Williams, Josh Groban, Placido Domingo, Alejandro Sanz, Juan Luis Guerra, Stevie Wonder, Frida Lyngstad (Abba), Al Jarreau, and more!

You’re still as much on the move, you’re everywhere. You’re not tired of all the ripping and running?

I am very lucky that I get to travel around the world and do what I love.  Not only for me, but its such a wonderful thing to be able to bring my music to audiences world wide.  Yes, it’s tiring, I’m getting old! Haha! But no matter how old I get, I feed off of the energy of the people I play for, and that keeps me energized and excited for the next show.

How many gigs do you play per year now?

Wow so many.  I think I am home about one week a month! It’s a lot of traveling, but I am grateful for the opportunity.

Garcia Lorca said, “Arturo Sandoval’s greatest skill is the “duende”*. What does it mean exactly? Do you agree with him?

It’s hard to translate exactly, but having “duende” means having soul, a heightened state of emotion, expression and authenticity, it comes from a fairy-like creature in Spanish mythology.

Watch one of Arturo’s performances:

Arturo Sandoval ‘There Will Never Be Another You’ | Live Studio Session, uploaded by KNKX Public Radio.

*The “duende” is actually a connotation of characters mentioned by Arturo, and is often associated with flamenco.

Featured image attribution: By Frolzart (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Zap Mama, Movement by a Woman (and an Unreleased Single!)

Movements around the world and throughout history, unfortunately, have been dominated by men. In the United States, we hardly see faces of women in any movement, except feminism, objectivism, and, to a certain extent, the civil rights movement.

In Europe, for long, we thought about the absence of domestication of foreign cultures. Unlike the United States, for instance, African immigrants in Europe appears to assimilate completely with European culture. Never have we heard a European counterpart of African-American culture.

This was until recently, when we seemed to have been proven wrong.

The name Zap Mama, and its singer/front runner  Marie Daulne, is definitely not foreign to us. We’ve talked about her quite frequently within our internal meetings. Our sister web radio, Vox De Cultura, had also played her music. It’s hard not to, taking into account her interesting background and the diversity of sounds she has in her music and of people in her band.

Born in the jungles of Congo, her father was Belgian and her mother Congolese. Her father was assassinated by local rebels a mere few days after she was born, forcing her mother to bring her over to Europe, where they settled in Belgium. Later in life she traced her roots back to Congo to rediscover the land’s music. The beginning of the song ‘Rafiki’, for instance, has her playing a local Congolese instrument.

Zap Mama is a proponent of the so-called Afro-European or Afropean culture. Not only is she a proponent, she actually coined the term for the media.

We were fortunate enough to catch her intriguing performances during this year’s Java Jazz Festival in Jakarta. While we didn’t get a chance to interview her live, she was kind enough to give us an interview through email afterwards. Surely enough we took this opportunity to ask about Afro-European culture, along with her views on life and music.

In an interview with Music Vault, you mentioned that you, in a way, represent Afro-European culture. Does that exist?

Let me answer in English, but it’s not my native language, so sorry for any mistakes.

Yes, it does exist. You probably know about the Colonial history of Belgian Congo. As you know for Indonesia with the Netherlands and England, (then there is) France and West Africa, Nigeria and England, etc.

After the 60s, most of these African countries became independent. People merged and families were created. Artists exchanged and shared Ideas and creativity. Admiration on both sides of the culture created new genres.

  • The 70s
    Artists such Fela Kuti or Manu Dibango mixed Nigerian music and funk from the United States
  • The 80s had Salif Keita, Youssoundour, etc. I grew up in this environment. It’s why Zap Mama was born.
  • The 90s (was when) my first album became international and was called Adventure Afropean (African and European)

I named the movement for the media because nobody did it. I used my success for the media. We existed in European, especially France, England, the Netherlands, and Belgium. We sang in French, English, and Spanish, but at the same time loved our roots in African music. The Afro-European represents Afro-descendant Community.

I designed some fashion costumes and make up for Zap Mama, mixing African traditional accessories and fabrics with European. See the video for BRRRLAK and the attached Zap Mama’s first Afropean cover*.

At the same time, during the 90s, the Pan African culture started to become more prominent. The MEDIA started to talk about it. Intellectuals wanted it to be present in the international media. The Afro-American culture loved Zap Mama right away. It seemed that Zap Mama arrived naturally in the perfect time and place period. People started to discover a big movement of world music with plenty of artistry in music/books/fashion started to be released.

1994-6 Hip hop culture was interested to open their sound to the Pan African culture. The Roots (Hip hop music) produced the beat for Zap Mama ref: “Rafiki”, along plenty of other artists. We finally have a voice.

In 2000-2004, I made an album where Afro-American meets Afro-European called Ancestry in Progress.

In 2010, the Afro-European movement was fully accepted and it (evolved into) today’s Afropunk movement.

The song “For No One” talks about dealing with the moralities, or lack thereof, of city life. The song was released in 1994. Do you think the message of the song still applies today as it was when it was released? In other words, are we still living in an ‘illusion’, as mentioned in the song?

It is not, and illusion is a reality and people can be blind and lose the control of their mind. I kept myself away from It until I was strong enough!!! I kept a lot of my freedom. I sang ”for no one”.

It has been 20 years now since i recorded that song. I started my adult life in that period, the late 70s until mid 90s. The Multinational industries used plastic in all products. Consumption was everywhere!!!! Since that period, big alert was on the media as pollution made kids suffer from allergies. Conscience has changed people to become more concerned toward nature, but we still need to make sure that a maximum number of people hold such a conscience. Until then, we will have to keep singing this kind of lyrics, to fight poverty.

Communication modes today change people all over the world. We can now realize and communicate and help one another. We can (therefore) move to another level of consciousness.

As a musician with diverse background, both ethnically and in terms of living and learning experience, what is your take on the current wave of resistance toward a borderless world? Does it affect your music?

That is all the message of my music. I sang a song named “India” in my first album where I sang in Indonesian.

Do you think this will help in the search for the so-called 21st century sound?

It seems that my work still has an impact because it was pure voices. People recognize a soul, not a genre, and there is a longer life for that type of composition.

Are you interested in discovering this 21st century sound? Or do you have a different goal in music?

Human beings always for centuries sing the same message. It is only the sound that changes. I love it. I would collaborate with the new generation. I love it.

We want to connect this with the whole notion of world music. Many would consider you as being part of this genre. The 1980s and 90s saw the rise of world music, including the rise of WOMAD. Do you think this big break of world music will make a comeback soon, especially as a reaction to the current world situation?

I think a new genre will come and I’m very excited about it. I met some new generations and created a track with them. In the beat box world, there is a tendency to do some interesting new discovery influenced by polyphonic, polyrythmic, and electro. Listen to the attached track, it’s pure sound of breath control, no instrument!!!!  Purely voice and beatboxing.

Do you think world music can be a remedy for the current world situation?


So who inspired Zap Mama in the beginning? We know you are a mix of many different styles, from polyphonic singing, to jazz, hip hop, etc. But as a child of multicultural background, especially back in the 70s, to find a figure to relate to was probably more a challenge than today, as they were rare. So who were your first inspirations?

It is my social context that influences me the most. Everyone has a voice to be heard and I heard some voices that I recognized in me as a woman or a girl, as a human being who is part of western and third world countries. And I create the soundtrack of my everyday life like a bird starting the day on the first sun ray.

What is next for Zap Mama?

I took a break for seven years after serving the music business for 25 years.

I have plenty of new music. I will release single by single and the full album at the end of the year. It’s around beatbox, back to the new acapella genre. The dance acapella song attached is “Baby”.

Check out Zap Mama’s unreleased single “Baby” here:

*The image discussed:


Featured image at the top of the page is a derivative of “Marie Daulne en concert au Paris Jazz Festival, parc floral de Paris“, a work published on 12 July 2008 by Pkobel, uploaded to Wikimedia Commons where it was obtained, with slight crop, used under CC BY-SA 3.0. We therefore release this work under the same license.

Women at the Top: Cultural Change in Saudi Arabia and UAE

[Jakarta, LttW] Conservative Saudi Arabia, with its brand of what’s controversially known as Wahhabism, isn’t seldom referenced by Sunni Muslim leaders in policy making. Among the ongoing debates is the leadership of women in Islam.

Saudi Arabia has been notorious for banning certain rights for women. The most infamous of which is the right to drive.

Yet it appears change is taking place. In 2014, a woman by the name of Sarah al-Suhaimi extended the small club of women leaders in the country. She became the first female chief of NCB Capital, a Saudi investment bank. The year after was the first time Saudi women were allowed to vote. It was also the first time ever for at least 17 women to get elected to public office.

Not everything, however, has changed. Those elected public officials were not even allowed to speak to male voters. Even today, women are still obligated to cover up in public, and female drivers are yet to be approved.

But recent developments shine a new light. This past week, a woman by the name of Rania Nashar was named chief executive of Samba Financial Group, Saudi Arabia’s third largest bank by assets. The week prior, aforementioned Sarah al-Suhaimi took on the lead of Saudi Stock Exchange.

These developments came with an economic reform set out to bandage damages from low oil prices. Within the reform is a plan to increase the proportion of women in the workforce from current 22 percent to 30 percent by 2030.

Speaking of change in strict, male-dominated countries in the region, the Saudis are not the only ones opening up to women. Nearby United Arab Emirates (UAE) appointed 22-year-old Shamma Al Mazrui as Minister of State for Youth in 2016. Not only is she another woman leader in the region, she is also the youngest minister in the world.

This brings up a question on the ongoing debate about women leading in Islam. If the so-called model for Sunni Islam is able to adjust according to current context, perhaps it is a reminder for fellow Sunni leaders to also observe context when designing policies.

“Equality in Diversity”, A New Year Celebration by Sacred Bridge Foundation

A reportage by Rizky Aulia and Garry P. Poluan.

Our parent organization, Sacred Bridge Foundation (SBF), a Jakarta-based non-profit organization focused on culture, recently held a new year event themed “Equality in Diversity” with a subtheme of radicalization. The event’s objective was to respond to current waves of radicalism, explained through discussion, dance, visual art, and two sessions each of music and stand up comedy.

Amidst globalization, somehow the promise of a borderless world seems to not take off. Many prefer to retreat to their comfort zones and refuse any form of knowledge not already widely known. As such, radicalism can occur in various fields, ranging from religion to art. Artists’ struggle to argue the different values of art works is an example. Many still value art works as reflections of their production costs. Such valuation method would result in family and fancy cars priced not as far apart. This event, held on February 4th, 2017, at Taman Langsat, was meant to stimulate learning and thinking on this subject among the audience.

First in the event agenda was a discussion on radicalization. Moderated by our Managing Editor, Garry Poluan, the discussion engaged a diverse array of speakers, namely Al Chaidar (lecturer in political science at Universitas Malikussaleh in Aceh, speaking on anthropology), Bambang Marhaendra (cultural geography expert of Universitas Indonesia and SBF’s geography specialist), Denny Putra (lecturer at the Faculty of Psychology at Universitas Kristen Krida Wacana and SBF’s psychology specialist), and Budhy Munawar (Islamic intellectual and Program Officer at The Asia Foundation). Among the topics covered was an explanation of radicalism and fundamentalism in Indonesia. The speakers also discussed the importance of cultural identity, the role of positive psychology, and the part education plays in battling radicalization.

Discussion on Radicalization (Photo: Suprapto for Sacred Bridge Foundation)
Discussion on Radicalization. (Photo: Suprapto for Sacred Bridge Foundation)

As this went along, five artists continued painting at the back of the room, led by SBF’s visual art specialist, Adikara Rachman, who is also a graphic design lecturer from Trisakti University.

The discussions ended with a Maghrib* and dinner break that allowed everyone to mingle. Familiar faces included. Tony Rudyansjah, one of SBF’s founders and Head of Anthropology Department at Universitas Indonesia (UI), and Irwansyah Harahap, SBF’s music specialist and lecturer of ethnomusicology at Universitas Sumatera Utara (USU). There was also an old friend of SBF, Christy Smith, a Singapore-based American bassist who has performed along Stevie Wonder, Fela Kuti, Wynton Marsalis, and Pharcyde, among others. He has also performed in prominent venues such as SmallsLive in New York and the Esplanade in Singapore. Christy assisted SBF in a project in Bali long ago.

Onwards, the after-dinner show began with a gripping contemporary dance performance by Tri Prasetyaningtyas, Truly Rizki Ananda, and Kshanti Aisyah Kendana of Namarina, a Jakarta-based dance institution. It was a choreographed story of how three distinct characters united.

contemporary dance performance by Tri Prasetyaningtyas, Truly Rizki Ananda, and Kshanti Aisyah Kendana of Namarina
Performance by dancers from Namarina. (Photo: Suprapto for Sacred Bridge Foundation)

The stand up comedy sessions twisted our expectations. First up was our Managing Editor, Garry Poluan, whose contemplations took unexpected turns. The second session was done by Ario Kiswinar Teguh, paper artist and an art teacher, who expressed his reflections on the education sector through magic tricks and comedy.

Stand up comedy sessions by Garry Poluan and Ario Kiswinar Teguh
Ario Kiswinar Teguh holding a Rubik’s Cube as part of his act (left). The two stand-up comedy sessions. (Photo: Suprapto for Sacred Bridge Foundation)

Slipped along all the other shows was a collective painting session. Everyone was allowed to contribute their paint job on one large canvas. Bintang Perkasa, our Visual Designer, led the explanation of this and the various paintings created throughout the event.

Live painting session

Collective painting session
Muhammad Afrizal Aryanto, a graphic design student, painting his piece (above). Painters and guests working together on the shared canvas (below). (Photo: Suprapto for Sacred Bridge Foundation)

Last but not least was two live jamming sessions by inter-generational musicians. The more senior musicians were Irwansyah Harahap (guitar/vocals), Anes Guo (guitar), and Christy Smith (bass). Meanwhile, the younger folks were Pradiva S. (cello), Erlangga Utama (percussion), Rizky Aulia (synthesizer), Dwiki Yoenarso (guitar), Andry Brendley (guitar), and Baroka Ismail (Bass).

Live music
Live jamming session. (Photo: Suprapto for Sacred Bridge Foundation)

The event ended with enthusiasm among guests and people who contributed. SBF certainly hoped that the message of the event got across. Nonetheless, the event had proven to be a generator of new acquaintances. It also reacquainted old friends. Moreover, its decent setting did not falter prominent guests from attending and staying, proving the importance of a powerful message. It is difficult to sum up all the knowledge presented in this event. However, its message in short was, as many retreat to comfort zones and resist a changing world, to remember that we are equal in a diverse reality is all the more important.

*Maghrib is Muslims’ prayer during sunset.


Name of the painter pictured working alone is supposed to be Muhammad Afrizal Aryanto, a graphic design student, not Anis Syafiyullah, an interior design student, as previously reported.