Dalton Tanonaka: Heavenly Encores For Whitney, Bubi

By webadmin on 07:16 pm Feb 23, 2012
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Dalton Tanonaka

The generation gap opened wide in my face when one of my young staff members asked me if I was going to this year’s Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival, especially since Motown legend Stevie Wonder was performing.

“I want to, but it’s such a hassle to get there, and there are no seats at any venue,” I replied.

“Why would you want to sit?” he responded innocently.

Good point, as fun music always gets people on their feet. But for someone who admits to having seen Herman’s Hermits the first time around, I kinda want the option to collapse on a chair sweating and exhausted if need be.

Music has always been a way to bring generations, countries and cultures together. You may have forgotten your girlfriend’s birthday or what year you graduated from college. But you always remember the concerts you went to. They are major life events that are easy to recollect while strolling down memory lane.

“I was about 6 years old,” remembers IT executive Jonathan Kine. “My big brother worked as a stagehand for Led Zeppelin in Philadelphia. He took me backstage for the whole concert. I met Paige, Plant and Bonham. I will never forget that day. I have loved concerts from that day forward.”

Oil company employee Laila Sofianty remembers her first live music event clearly.

“It was Chrisye, the year was 1996 and he was at the Hard Rock Cafe,” she says. “It wasn’t as good as the record, but no one sings like him and he gave me goose bumps. His voice was buluh perindu [enchanting] … he sounded so beautiful.”

Public relations manager Nirmala Ratimanjari was in junior high school when she joined the crush heading into Bung Karno Stadium in 1995.

“To be able to go to Bon Jovi as my first concert ever and sing ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’ with my screaming kid’s voice was an unbelievable experience,” she recalls fondly.

The first concert Ade Hamzah remembers proudly as the first he was able to pay for himself inspired him to go into the business. “It was in 1984 at Balai Sidang Senayan and I was a second-year university student. The band was Casiopea from Japan and they played progressive fusion,” says the professional guitarist.

“They did instrumentals, no vocals, and influenced me to play music.”

The first concert I ever attended was the Young Rascals at the Honolulu International Center Arena in 1967. The pop quartet was huge in my home state with hits like “Groovin’ ” and “People Got to Be Free,” while never quite reaching supergroup status in the rest of the country.

I had most of their 45s (record singles), and could pluck out their hits on my ukulele.

Music also dominates the public consciousness whenever an icon passes on. I was on the golf course when I heard the news of the Feb. 11 death of US superstar Whitney Houston. I usually ignore texts and calls when playing, but this bulletin had me immediately asking the sender for details.

It made me recall my concert experience with “The Voice.” It was in September 1993 in Tokyo’s Budokan, an intimate arena built originally for Olympic judo. Houston was in the middle of her “Bodyguard” tour, and her tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown.

For some reason, she wasn’t hitting her high notes, and the astute Japanese audience knew it. She explained onstage that she “had a cold.” Perhaps it was a first sign of the beginning of her long spiral down.

When Indonesian jazz pioneer Bubi Chen passed away on Feb. 16, thoughts immediately turned to the upcoming festival that still lists his name as one of the scheduled artists. As was the case of the Grammy tributes to Houston, performers at Java Jazz will surely dedicate songs to the Surabaya native known as the “Pearl of the East.”

His impact was as important as Houston’s, in a country full of unsung musical treasures.

Hawaii native Dalton Tanonaka is the anchor of Metro TV’s “Indonesia Now” program on Saturday mornings at 6:30 a.m., and host of “TalkIndonesia” on Sundays at 6:30 a.m. He also co-anchors “ASEAN Today,” a monthly program that airs throughout Southeast Asia. He can be reached at dalton@metrotvnews.com.