Ayu Lakshmi, Bali: A New Voice in World Music
November 25 was not just the date for the launch of the album “Svara Semesta” (Voice of the Universe) in Jakarta – it was also the birthday of the singer-composer-performer, Ayu Lakshmi of Bali!
I first attended her mesmerising performances at the Bali Spirit Festival, and was delighted to be invited for the launch of her debut album in Jakarta. The CD is superbly crafted (in an era which seems to have abandoned the fine concepts of album design!) and is structured in two parts: the human spirit and technology. The ten tracks make for a superb blend of Balinese and Western traditions of music, over an hour of acoustic delight.
Ayu Lakshmi is the consummate performer, and even had the media members at the Jakarta press conference participate in chanting during one of her songs! This was followed by a superb live two-hour performance with over a dozen musicians and dancers on stage. Percussionists included Malaysian-Indian Vigneswaren Rajaendran on tabla, as well as guest performances by Shangahi’s Wang Ying on pipa, electric guitarist Wayan “Magic Fingers” Balawan, and acoustic guitarist Riwin (I also picked up a review copy of his debut album intriguingly called “My Sexy Life!”)
Ayu sang in Sanskrit, Kawi, Balinese, Bahasa Indonesia and English, with powerful messages of unity, hope and peace. The stage was superbly decorated with flowers and burning incense, and trademark Balinese chequered designs in the fabrics and costumes. The presence of masked dancers add a unique theatrical feel to the performance, guaranteeing crowded turnouts for the troupe’s live gigs.
Ayu Lakshmi has also organised and participated in a number of concerts to appease the forces of nature which seem to wreak havoc in Indonesia through a series of earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. I left her spectacular performance wondering where knowledge and skills end, and where destiny and faith begin…
Jakarta has an amazing music scene, within just three nights I caught a live salsa band (with Latin American and Indonesian musicians) and the two acoustic jazz-funk bands Trias Acoustica and Ginda – as well as the 33rd annual Jazz Goes to Campus festival (www.JazzGoesToCampus.net) where established and emerging jazz bands play all day on the campus of the University of Indonesia in front of 15,000+ students for a ticket fee of a mere $4. No wonder Jakarta is called the Jazz Capital of Asia!
by Madanmohan Rao
World Music Editor, DJ