The yellow sun slowly hiding away in the horizon shimmering a glow of orange in the clouds with a pinkish hue that blends with the gradient of the blue sky as the planet Venus illuminates the coming of the night’s stars. There she was packing away her suitcase in preparation of her flight back home to Jakarta with the alluring whispers of a 42 years old Indonesian musician’s tropical rhythms playing in the background, reassuring us with his musical pilgrimage that carries the messages and wisdom of a life well lived.
It was love at first hear. Impossible not to fall in love with Mondo Gascaro’s perfect composition that captures the vibe of the Nusantara’s natural flow of musical expression with a wide-ranging styles that harmonizes in a Brian Wilson-esque manner of a cinematic proportions. So when he decided to have a show in Kuala Lumpur, I just had to row my boat down the stream to it.
On a Sunday evening, the 15th of July 2018. KL Live Fact. World Cup Final night. There is that certain “The French Connection” kind of feeling in the air. That “je ne sais quoi”. Like a classic jazzy film noir movie set in Kota Damansara instead of Casablanca. So it’s more of a “chek, nesi quah”.
The crowd was not as many as one would hope a musical marvel from across the straits should receive but larger than one would expect on this busy night with other happenings around town. But the crowd definitely didn’t disappoint with their own style of class supportive nature and fashionably in tuned with the performances of the night.
We were first taken onboard the funky psychedelic UFO of Haba’s gamelan chants and the experimental art of looping which under untrained ears could easily be mistaken for expressive performance improvisations done expertly. After hypnotized and tranced we were then treated to something sweet, spicy and everything nice about Atilia Haron. It was my first time listening to her but with that white Whitney Houston shirt and those denim jeans oozing that chilled out vibe got my eyes fixed on her as she stole my heart and placed it in a sangkar with her voice yang merdu as she sings our spirits up for kebebasan.
The cinematic opening of Mondo Gascaro left us “Naked” feeling vulnerable to every single different elements of the instruments in the band carrying us into a journey that would be his first performance in Malaysia after 10 years of absence from the stage but yet meddling about behind the scene with his fingers in a few productions of local musicians albums such as Noh Salleh.
His amazing “Komorebi” reminded us all why his daddy touch is much needed in our local industry. One of the first thing I noticed about Mondo was the fact he was as short and humble as I am which is actually reassuring to me to know that such greatness do come in small packages. I guess you can say we see things eye to eye. *badum tss tss*
“Dan Bila” was a dreamy call of nostalgic awakening and embracing the power of the band’s performance but the moment that truly made me teared up like a fan girl in The Beatles concert was when they decided to play their own arrangements of Orkes Sjaiful Bachri’s classic, “Senandung Lagu Lama” from the 1957 Indonesian rom-com, Tiga Dara.
Of course as expected the minute you hear the sound of Californian AOR by way of Japanese City-Pop in Mondo’s “A Deacon’s Summer”, you know the crowds gonna groove and dance on with it. This would be song you make your move on your date as you lean in closer vibing each other’s motion.
After a few more performance from his “RajaKelana” album and new single, “April”, the fans were left satisfactorily ecstatic but like a good shagging it leaves you wanting a bit more so he gave us one more kiss of a song for the road with “Butiran Angin”.
Now in all honesty, my cameraman didn’t show up on that day and I was slightly busy last week with my own art stuff so I forgot to do my research properly on Mondo Gascaro and didn’t had any questions planned. Everything I know about Mondo till that point was due to my lil indo sis. Also, I reached the venue a little too late for the press meeting allocated but he was nice enough to allow me to have a quick sit down after the show and even though I forgot to record the conversation but with a little help from a friend, the scene goes a little something like this.
So I live in Kelana Jaya and when I listen to the “RajaKelana” album, I was like “Yupe, you can be my Raja”. But what does “RajaKelana” actually mean?
“RajaKelana” is basically the lyric from the lagu wajib Indonesia, “Rayuan Pulau Kelapa” by Ismail Marzuki (1914-1958). It goes something like this “Melambai Lambai, Nyiur Di Pantai, Berbisik Bisik, Raja Kelana”. It is an old Indonesian idiom for the wind.
Your album sounds like a spring time or summer time vibe. I mean I know there is only one season in South East Asia but is there any other seasons you’re interested to write about? I don’t know maybe haze or durian season? And what would that sound like?
Hahaha. I don’t know about writing a song about durian season but yeah thanks for reminding me. **(he actually did eat durian in SS2 the day after)** I think if I was to write an album around a season after this would be Fall. After Spring and Summer comes Fall. So it’s a natural progression. I think it might be darker, sadder, more melancholic with sublime acceptance of changes but still hopeful cause music to me should be sending positivity around. The vibration and frequencies of the symphonies affects the environment you’re in and alters your perceptions and mood. And as a musician I want to spread goodness, purity and beauty of that positive aspects of life.
Who are some of your inspirations?
Well, I grow up listening to the Beatles and Pink Floyd, The Doors dan semua nya. So banyak jugak influences yang boleh dianggap inspirations. Lagu-lagu Bossa Nova and Brazilian.
Before your solo career took off. You were composing music for Nia Dinata’s classy depiction of inter-related love stories of “Berbagi Suami (2006)” and Joko Anwar’s grippingly well written psychological thriller “Pintu Terlarang (2009)”. As a movie composer, what are some of your favourite movie scoring?
Bernard Herrmann. The classic American composer. He did the movie score for “Taxi Driver (1976)”, “Psycho(1960)”, “Citizen Kane(1941)”, Vertigo(1958)” and “North by Northwest(1958)”. Also that Italian producer, Ennio Morricone for “Malèna (2000)”, “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly(1966)” and “The Untouchables(1987)”. I think recently he did “The Hateful Eight”.
Which one do you prefer? Producing other people’s album? Your album? Or making movie scores?
Both are amazing in it’s own way. Movie are always fun since you need to create the atmosphere and add on the the narrative of the story but of course it should compliment the plot. Helping others producing their albums is also a very good fun too but making my own album I get the freedom to do anything I want which is always the best.
Helping to produce the upcoming album for Ramayan.
France or Croatia?
Well I want the underdog to win but France this year is pretty strong too.
Mondo Gascaro’s album “RajaKelana” is out now in digital CD and 7-inch vinyl disc with 10 tracks; 4 songs in Indonesian, 4 in English, and 2 instrumental pieces. He made his early debut with the label Ivy League Music, a Jakarta-based music label which he co-founded with his wife and partnered with Production Dessinee in Japan. It has garnered critical acclaim from top publications: ranked #2 in Rolling Stone Indonesia’s “20 Best Albums of 2016” and voted as the “Best Album of 2016” by Tempo, the country’s largest news magazine.