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Dewa Budjana - Mahandini CD (album) cover


Dewa Budjana

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Review originally posted at

An album as wonderful as its lineup!

The name of Dewa Budjana has been spinning in my ears for over 4 years, since I was kindly introduced to his music by Mr. Moonjune. Since then, I've been quite fond of his music, mainly due to his guitar style, but also due to the different musical realms he shares and also due to the amazing line-ups he gathers for his albums. After two years of the amazing "Zentuary", the Indonesian maestro has returned with "Mahandini", an album that has the mandatory jazz fusion sound, with the also mandatory Balinese moments, but now with a sound more oriented to rock.

This might be because of the musicians recruited for this album. Dewa Budjana always knows how to choose great musicians and also how to adapt the music in order to take the best from them, and now, with the help of progressive rock masters Jordan Rudess and Marco Minnemann, along with Indian prodigy bass-woman Mohini Dey, Budjana has given us a great record. If that was not enough, here the acclaimed John Frusciante collaborates with the composition of two songs which are sung by him. Guitar expert and legend Mike Stern features on one of the tracks as well, while Indonesian artist Soimah Pancawati shares her voice on track three. An all-star line-up!

Frusciante might be mainly known for his work as guitar player of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but he also has a solo career in which his voice plays a main role. For this album he lends his voice for two songs. The first one is "Crowded", the one that opens this album. Here we can listen to a great piece that has a deeper orientation to the rock realm with even some heavier moments provided by the voice and the instruments. The jazz fusion element is a shadow here, and it is in fact a surprise because it is not so common to see a Budjana's album opening with a track like this one, that in spite of its delicate sounds on brief passages, it might be remembered more for its explosive moments and even its nice catchy lyrics.

"Queen Kanya" continues this journey. The first two minutes have a soft jazz fusion sound but later the music becomes more aggressive, with an evident wink to progressive rock. A piano solo first and then the music explodes, Budjana makes a great and rockin' guitar that prepares us to one of the albums highlights: the konnakol section. Minnemann and Dey share an amazing passage where percussion and vocals spit countless syllables creating an addictive rhythm, reminding me a bit of some Mahavishnu Orchestra sounds.

"Hyang Giri" has the guest voice from an Indonesian singer. This song is amazing, the voice is profound and the music hypnotic. There is an evident Balinese flavor wonderfully blended with progressive rock. I think my description could be short, but the words I chose I think definitely describe this wonderful tune. "Jung Oman" might be the softest and more delicate of the tracks here. It has a very melancholic sound, it is like an invitation to feel clean and relaxed, an invitation to a introspection.

The guest musicians continue, and now it's time for Mike Stern, renowned guitarist who has played with giants such as Miles or Jaco, among others. His career has been long and prolific as solo artist or in collaborations. This time he shares his talent in "Ilw", a terrific progressive / hard rock song in which his experimental guitar appears adding a great solo. "Zone" is the second and last song with lyrics and with Frusciante as guest singer. This song might belong to any of his solo albums, though the musicians add in moments a soft jazzy spirit, this is more a rock tune for the likes of alt rock fans.

"Mahandini" has that Dewa Budjana sound, I mean, when I listen to these arpeggios I already know who the guitar player is, I think it is good to have a own sound, it is very difficult to create it nowadays. Minnemann drums all over this track are fantastic, multi-colored, sharing endless figures, great! After three minutes we found Mohini Dey playing a great bass solo that is continued by Rudess' keyboard solo. Budjana is never egoist, he always let his musicians to show to the world how great they are.

As usual, Budjana has provided a top album. I beg you to discover this man's music, you will find colorful moments that will guide you to countless sensorial experiences.

Enjoy it!

Report this review (#2134146)
Posted Monday, February 4, 2019 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
5 stars We all recognise certain people within the music world who we respect and admire for one reason or another. These tend to be musicians themselves, but for more than twenty years one person I have been in awe of is Leonardo Pavkovic, who when he isn't touring with one of his bands is also discovering wonderful musicians and making them available to the wider world. Such is the case with Dewa Budjana, a guitarist who has sold millions of albums in Indonesia but wasn't recognised outside his home country until 'Dawal In Paradise' was released on Moonjune, since when many of us always look forward to the next album with real interest. One of the reasons for that is Dewa is always looking to expand, branch and change. It is rare that he will use the same group of musicians from one album to the next, and records very quickly indeed, capturing energy and then moving on. This album was recorded in one day in January 2018, postproduction and overdubs took place, and then it was mixed and mastered in the March.

This album sees Dewa working with Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment), drummer Marco Minnemann (The Aristocrats, Steven Wilson, Joe Satriani, Adrian Belew, Trey Gunn, The Mute Gods, Eddie Jobson UK) and bassist Mohini Dey (Steve Vai, Guthrie Govan). There are also guest appearances by John Frusciante (Red Hot Chilli Peppers), fusion guitar veteran Mike Stern (Miles Davis, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Billy Cobham, Jaco Pastorius) and by the haunting voice of Indonesian singer Soimah Pancawati.

I don't think I have previously come across 22-year-old Dey prior to this, and if she is playing like this at her age, I can't even imagine what she will be doing in the next 10 or 20 years. There are times when I found I was concentrating more on what she was doing than Budjana, such is her impact on this album. There is a section at the end of "Queen Kanya" where the interplay between her and Minnemann is incredible: I would happily keep playing that on repeat as it blows me away each and every time.

Rudess is one of the most important keyboard players in the scene, but due to the way the music has been arranged he is often more in the background but playing as perfectly as ever. This album starts with "Crowded", a song not written by Budjana, a first for one of his solo works, but instead it is by John Frusciante who also provides vocals (as well as on closing song "Zone"). Rudess gently provides the introduction which allows Budjana to pick up the theme before Frusciante comes in. Here we get the flashes of genius which only come when musicians are masters of their craft, and also here coming from different musical areas and joining together to create something special. In many ways this is one of the most commercial songs ever released by Budjana, and in itself it may well create interest from those who have yet to come across him as the rock elements blast, but the gentle sections trickle along like a babbling brook.

Later in the album we are treated to the vocals of Indonesian tradition singer Soimah Pancawati, and this mix of styles works incredibly well, as America meets Asia in a way which only makes sense due to the way the music has been arranged. Each of Budjana's albums is a delight from start to end, and this is no different. Regarding the title he says "The title Mahandini comes from two words, Maha & Nandini: Maha means means big, great and Nandini means 'the vehicle that carries the God Shiva' in indian. Using this word as the name for this great line-up resulted in a good sign, it sounded like I had a Great Vehicle for my music. I was lucky!" So are we.

Report this review (#2219379)
Posted Saturday, June 8, 2019 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
5 stars Where to start with this one. I discovered Dewa Budjana a couple of months ago through this highly rated album from 2018 called "Mahandini" and soon found myself wondering why I hadn't heard of this virtuoso guitarist before. He will be 60 next year so he's been around the music scene since the 80's gaining the attention of other World class guitarists and musicians in the process. I went back through some of his other recordings and I mean we get names like Gary Husband, Jack DeJohnette, Tony Levin and on and on guesting on his stuff. Obviously a well respected guitarist and he's from Indonesia. On this one we get the main 4 piece band of Budjana, Marco Minnemann, Jordan Rudess and Mohini Dey with guests John Frusciante, Mike Stern and Soimah Pancawati helping out. The album is dedicated to John McLaughlin who he calls his "guruji" and I smiled seeing him state "We are all in the hands of gods and goddesses". Wow Asia still believes in worshipping wood and stone still but the funny thing is that Dewa has released a Christmas album(haha). He thanks many guitarists like Allan Holdsworth, Jimmy Haslip, Steve Vai, Jason Becker and more. By the way Dewa named his two sons Mahavishnu and Shakti.

The packaging will go down as one of my favourites. The pictures of the beautiful bass player Mohini Dey(wow) and of course the other band members including John Frusciante who sings on the opener and closer and wrote the words and composed the songs. How talented is this man! The cover has an Indian theme with basically what is supposed to be the throne cart of one of their many gods carrying here Dewa's gold guitar. Pretty humerous and beautiful with the colours being a theme throughout the packaging. I had a lot of fun showing the many Indian girls I work with this cd cover. First listen revealed a guitarist who is taking a back seat to his band for the most part and I think his talent as a composer, arranger, producer can't be overlooked because he has blown me away on many levels with this album. This was actually recorded in LA except for Soimah's vocals which were recorded in Indonesia. She wrote the lyrics for the song she sings on.

One of the best songs I've heard in a while is the opener "Crowded" with Frusciante's character filled vocals and that melancholic sound. When John gets passionate vocally in that one section it's so good. It's hard to put this one into words because it just hits me emotionally everytime. Very meaningful. John composed and sings on the closer "Zone" as well and it's more jazzy sounding, lighter with piano but we do get some depth. A good way to end the record. A couple of other major highlights includes "Hyang Girl" with that Indonesian female singer blowing my mind. Such a high pitched voice yet not shrill. This third track is the first where we get some of the band members featured with their solos including a bass solo at 4 minutes. I like when we get the multi vocals before 2 1/2 minutes then Soimah comes vocally in over top. So cool. She has an otherworldly voice I'll say that.

The song "Queen Kanya" has this section called "kannakol" which is like an Indian rhythm language. Like scatting almost but different and arranged my Minnemann and Dey. Just one of many really interesting parts of this album. The first three songs are perfect so the rest is just gravy really. We get a guitar solo from Mike Stern on "ILW" in fact this might be the song to check out if your right into the guitar as it is featured prominently. The title track is a really good one and at over 8 minutes the longest. Marco is punchy and upfront here on the drums while Rudess really adds to this album with the atmosphere created by synths plus piano and more. "Jung Oman" is a pleasant and beautiful piece.

Nothing less than 5 stars will do. Just following along with the other two written 5 star reviews here. This has gone into my top Jazz and related section, it's that good.

Report this review (#2699745)
Posted Sunday, March 13, 2022 | Review Permalink
Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars Extraordinary Indonesian guitarist DEWA BUDJANA (formerly of the Indonesian band Gigi) has gathered a cast of virtuoso musicians around him and none other than Jimmy Haslip in the engineering/production studio to record some of his more recent compositions for, once again, Moonjune Records. Though Dewa's Balinese and Indonesian influences are often present, this is an album that comes off as far more Western J-R Fusion than anything he's done before.

1. "Crowded" (5:55) a laid-back John Frusciante rock composition on which John provides the vocals (and a little guitar). Marco Minnemann makes his skills and talents known from the start filling little spaces with incredibly subtle percussion work. The music ramps up into heavy rock territory with the second verse and chorus before any soli enter (John and Dewa's guitars). Not a real fan of this one. (8.25/10)

2. "Queen Kanya" (6:59) melodic modern jazz fusion with a speed and intensity that is over-the-top in skill and virtuosity. It takes a minute for the composition to establish the intro and moving the groundwork of the song's body, which is quite melodic, quite Western jazzy. Dewa's like the new ALLAN HOLDSWORTH or John Mitchell while his support crew of bassist Mohini Dey, keyboard artist Jordan Rudess and drummer Marco Minnemann are simply at the top of the skill charts--and this song really demands it! Mohini even adds some konnakol vocals (the drum- like vocalizations common to several Indian musical traditions that guitarist John McLaughlin has done so much to bring to light with his SHAKTI projects) in the fifth and sixth minutes. I love music that tries to explore a combination of East-meets-West traditions! I'm also reminded of the wonderful jazz fusion compositions that Canadian bass virtuoso ANTOINE FAFARD has produced over the past decade. (14.25/15)

3. "Hyang Giri" (7:44) opens with Gamelan percussion and drums with Indian vocals provided by Soimah Pancawaiti- -whose melodies and style drive the whole song. Between the vocal passages are some sick prog whole group instrumental passages in which Marco, Mohini, Jordan, and Dewa take no prisoners and astonish. Jordan's piano solo in the fourth minute is so LYLE MAYS-like but is then followed by otherworldly bass play by Mohini Dey and Dewa's majestic lead guitar before being then reprised in fifth before the band comes back together with astonishing machine gun speed runs before gelling again to support Soimah's beautiful vocal. Choral chants close it out. Wow! What a ride! I LOVE East-West fusions! (14.5/15)

4. "Jung Oman" (6:52) opening with rousing classical piano solo, guitar and piano arpeggi with soaring guitar notes flitting away above establish a slow, melodic, almost MAHVISHNU chord progression. Jordan Rudess is on fire with his classical piano play beneath the slow, steady melody being played by Dewa's guitar. At 2:57 we have a heavy rock bridge ushering us into a more sparsely-populated soundscape for Dewa's acoustic guitar solo. Beautiful. (14/15)

5. "ILW" (6:39) a rock jam featuring experimental guitarist Mike Stern in a guest starring role. Man! Marco and Mohini make one rock solid/extraordinary rhythm section. The guitar sound used by the first guitarist's solo is exactly the same one that John McLaughlin has been using (especially in live performances) for the past 20 years: muted saxophone-like. The two guitarists trade solos for the bulk of the song but this does nothing to mute the contributions of the rest of the band despite the fact that none of them are highlighted. Once again, I find myself thinking of and comparing this a lot with the music of Antoine Fafard from the past decade. (8.75/10)

6. "Mahandini" (8:17) a beautiful Pat Metheny (or Jean-Luc Ponty)-like melody from Dewa's guitar and Jordan's keys with comparatively laid-back play from Mohini and Marco, the order of solos is bass (Mohini), Fender Rhodes (Jordan), guitar (Dewa), and drums (Marco) with TFK-like bridges between each. A great jazz-rock fusion song explicitly contrived to show off the individual talents of its four extraordinary instrumentalists. And, boy! Does it succeed! (18/20)

7. "Zone" (5:56) the album's second John Frusciante song. Though basically a rock song, the softer verse sections are made a little pop-jazzy by Jordan Rudess's jazzy piano work. The vocal is, to my ears, much better, more nuanced and engaging, than the album's uponing song, while Dewa's guitar really gets to shine. Marco and Mohini are, of course, rock solid and so delightful to listen to for their idiosyncratic nuances. Better than the opener but still not in the same realm as the jazz-fusion songs. (8.5/10)

Total Time 48:22

A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of jazz-rock fusion-oriented rock music--some of it successfully crossing lines between and blending Eastern and Western musical traditions. Some people might even like the two John Frusciante songs more than I do--which would really propel this into full masterpiece status.

Report this review (#2853331)
Posted Sunday, November 20, 2022 | Review Permalink

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