Home > TheRest > Suarasama – Fajar Di Atas Awan

Suarasama – Fajar Di Atas Awan

Drag City Records, 2008

The trippy, nearly information-less cover art tells me this record could be either psychedelic or the lightest indie pop around.  I guess the latter inflection was gotten from all those flowers I see, which could make the music lying within one big skippy trip across a meadow.  Well, that’s my opinion of that light indie pop stuff, I guess.  I was sort of hoping for a psychedelic record, maybe, to give a soundtrack to these extremely hazy days across the nation.  However, with no track listing or, for that fact, much of anything on the back cover I had no idea what this was going to sound like.  I did know that I may need to pick up some 3-D glasses as the art had a double layer of different colored lines.  I should just be more prepared when music shopping, y’know?  Not only will I see the art for what it is immediately, but I would blend in immediately (or even start a new trend!) with the hipsters sifting through music around me.

Suarasama are a duo of musicians that tend to surround themselves with even more musicians.  Irwansyah Harahap and Rithaony Hutajulu have actually been together since 1995 and have released two records, including this one, nearly a decade ago.  It seems that Drag City thought that this album warranted a re-release, but that is up for debate.  As the liner notes discuss, Suarasama’s compositions are a combination of Indonesian music as well as many other world music backgrounds.  If you want to hear something that doesn’t sound like what you usually hear off the radio or IPod, this is it.

But do you want to hear it?  Much of music sounds like you might need a few pillows nearby just in case.  “San Hyang Guru” and “Merankai Warna” weave their soft, mystical guitar strums and Sudanese kendang taps while vocals float periodically throughout.  Speaking of vocals, much of the vocals in the songs consist of variations of “aaahs” between Harahap and Hutajulu.  I suppose you could say the vocals are mainly used as instruments versus trying to tell a story during most of the six or more minute songs.  Although the title track is certainly pretty, Hutajulu’s delicate vocals and sparse instrumentation from the band nearly knocks one out right away.

Thankfully, some of the songs have more energy to offer to break up all that serenity going on.  “Playing Gambus” is a nearly nine minute rousing number involving the fervent playing of a Malay gambus.  One could almost envision an Indiana Jones-like chase scene through an eastern set of streets while listening to the tune.  Like “Gambus”, “Zapin Rindu” is another spritely jam fest that features dueling vocals by Hanrahap, Hutajulu and Syainul Irwan.  It also features the gambus instrument, which has now carried two tracks in a row.  If these guys decide to go the edgy world music route, make sure it involves lots of gambuses.

That rippin' gambus! Turn it up!

There’s not a lot out there about Suarasama, but their Last.fm page at least gives you a chance to hear them.  Their label’s website for the band has a few interesting things to look at as well.

It is hard to really place how I feel about this record.  As with any album outside of one’s usual music realm, one has to have an open mind to give all music a chance no matter if it’s something one can’t stand or can’t understand.  This is one of those records, where I know it’s got a lot of talent emanating from the musicianship and singing, but I there’s no way I can say that I am a dedicated fan of Indonesian music.  However, I know through repeated spins that this is good, quality music and that treating it as anything other than a positive effort would likely be blasphemy.

I’m still rather bored by it, though.  There are only a few intermittent moments when it has an active groove as most of the songs could be observed as lullabies.  I imagine it is a more rewarding experience in public, as Suarasama has been known to attend many festivals with their music.  Since this record originally came out back in 1998, as well as their last original record having been released in 2002, it’s hard to say whether or not these guys are still performing.  I guess if Drag City felt the need to reissue the album, perhaps there’s still a chance you can go catch them live somewhere.  You may have travel a little farther than your downtown bar, though.

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