Dewa Budjana: Hasta Karma
  • Composition
  • Musicianship
  • Production
  • Originality
  • Individual Performances

Dewa Budjana has been on my radar for a couple of years now due to his extraordinary blend of Indonesian folk with jazz and his keen ability to produce songs which are always distinct, memorable, and gorgeously melodic. With the release of Hasta Karma, I was certainly in for more than I expected. As the title indicates, his karma must have been good on this one, because this collection of five new tracks represents, in my humble opinion, the strongest work of Dewa’s jazz career, and may very well be a benchmark album for others seeking to push and combine high levels of sensitivity, virtuosity, melody, and dynamic.

This time around Dewa decided to head out to the East Coast, New York City to be exact, and put together a crew of extradinary musicians. Budjana opted to adopt Metheny’s rhythm section of Antonio Sanchez and Ben Williams, a combination who deliver tons of voice from their instruments. Their tasteful interplay breathes huge life into the record. “Just Kidung” offers exemplary moments of Williams melodious lines featured on top of Sanchez’s brilliantly playful rhythms that know when to interject at unique moments, when to hold back, and when to be showy. The legendary Joe Locke brings in dynamic playing on the vibes; his presence is instantly notable on the album opener, “Saniscara,” where the deliberate sense of melody and atmosphere balances nicely with technicality. All in all, the combination of players on Dewa’s latest effort could not have worked more perfectly; this quartet comes of as if they were born and bred to play with each other. Truly this is a unit worthy or recognition for the intricate melding of delicate dyanimcs and musical prowess that they are capable of weaving in and out of each other’s playing through virtually every moment of Hasta Karma.

There’s no better time to grab the listener’s attention than INSTANTLY at the start of a record, and that’s precisely what “Saniscara” does. It’s a world where Dewa’s great melodic hooks link in and around Sanchez’s elaborate drumming to make for an impressive track that immediately shows that Budjawa and company can spin a memorable composition that is packed with each individual player’s voice. “Desember” showcases a distinct change in mood, hitting a much more somber spot than the upbeat opener. Once again Dewa’s melodies prove to be recognizeable and Sanchez’s drumming manages to be both technical and tasteful right from the start, knowing how to hang and be just as interesting on the quiet and subdued parts as when the band starts to get heavy. This piece has everything from mystery to pulverizing riffs, blazing solos over walking basslines, and a wonderfully intense climax of dissonance. “Just Kidung” features a nice ethnic Indonesian pentatonic motif that eventually morphs into the treat which is Williams emotional basswork and an impressive piano solo by Indra Lesmana. As “Jayaprana” gears up it delivers a unique blend of mystery and melancholy coupled with deep groove over multiple chord changes that move towards a melodic section that proggers of The Flower Kings variety will absolutely adore. Antonio Sanchez’s drum solo in the middle brought a huge grin to my face with the cool polyrhymic feel it brings to Dewa’s arpeggiations.

In the end, Hasta Karma is loaded with excellent tracks featuring performances that will make you want to listen to it again and again so you can hear all the details. Hasta Karma is all in the details. It’s an album full of nice melodies and nuanced performances. While the former is important, it’s the combination with the latter that really makes Dewa’s latest effort stand out.