Balinese Guitar Maestro
releases new studio album on MoonJune Records
with special guests

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by Marcello Nardi

When an artist takes an unexpected turn into new musical directions, it may cause stirring among fans. This is not the case of the increasingly global fanbase of progressive fusion maestro Dewa Budjana, who always come prepared to the perennial journeys through the world of their favored guitarist. With a list of collaborations that sums up the who is who of contemporary progressive rock and jazz scene (Jack DeJohnette, Peter Erskine, Vinnie Colaiuta, Antonio Sanchez, Chad Wackerman, Gary Husband, Tony Levin, Billy Sheehan, Jimmy Johnson, Jimmy Haslip, Dave Carpenter, Reggie Hamilton, Ben Williams, Joe Locke, Larry Goldings, Michael Landau, Howard Levy, Janis Siegel, Dwiki Dharmawan, Ron Thal 'Bumblefoot', Guthrie Govan, Tim Garland, Bob Mintzer, Wayne Krantz, Anthony Jackson, Nicolas Meier, Asaf Sirkis and many others), the Indonesian guitarist is getting his fans used at fearless sound travels.

For his 11th solo recording, Mahandini, he brings his trademark melodic sound imbued of mystic and delicate south-east asian music through even harder edged-progressive flights and raw contemporary rock stirrings. Whether he is moving in the realm of contemporary prog, highly crafted electric jazz or south-east asian traditional music, he never holds any fear that the earth under his feet can turn marshes.

Mahandini follows the unanimously acclaimed release of double album Zentuary in 2016 and it was recorded in a one-day session in Los Angeles. It is getting the usual for the guitarist to change his line-up each time and masterfully write music that always seems to perfectly adapt each musician in charge. This time he leads a powerful sounding quartet comprising the keyboard wizard Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment), the widely recognized drummer Marco Minnemann (The Aristocrats, Steven Wilson, Joe Satriani, Adrian Belew, Trey Gunn, The Mute Gods, Eddie Jobson UK) and the bassist rising star Mohini Dey (Steve Vai, Guthrie Govan). The record is gifted by the guest appearances of rock legend 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.

Dewa Budjana has a track of 30+ years career as main composer and member of the band Gigi, a best seller and rock icon act in his home country Indonesia, and has released 10 solo recordings that gained him an increasing praise by the progressive jazz critics. International album release of Mahandini comes under the supervision of the visionary MoonJune producer Leonardo Pavkovic, who acted as a mentor for Dewa during his explosion to a wider audience in last decade. "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!"

With his unparalleled virtuoso technique, Jordan Rudess is one of the most relevant keyboard icon in the progressive world. Graduated at Juilliard School in classical piano, after collaborating with Dixie Dregs, he joined progressive metal band Dream Theater in 1999. He brought his signature on 16 albums of the band, in addition to multiple solo album, which gave him a top class status in the keyboard world. He is also been very active in pushing the synth technologies to new boundaries, integrating the instrument with new tools, apps and guitar-like interfaces. He has already partnered in extra-Dream Theater adventures with German drummer Marco Minnemann, who is a most in-demand drum instructor and session musician. Mixing an incredible portfolio of techniques on the edge of extreme metal, zappian craziness and prog extravaganzas, Minnemann has released 14 albums at his own name. The indian born Mohini Dey is becoming an usual partner of the drummer and she has gained the highest level of hype for a 22 years old girl. Starting playing bass at the age or 3, she is now a busy scheduled musician, thanks to her impressive virtuoso east-meets-west techniques.

The band shows a powerful balance of technical precision mixed with a delicate sense of playfulness on Mahandini. For the first time Dewa Budjana plays a song composed by a guest musician on his albums: it is the opening Crowded, which has been written by the rock and guitar legend John Frusciante. The two became friends earlier than this recording. Dewa Budjana says: "The first time we met it was on 2015, my International manager Leonardo Pavkovic and guitarist and former edktor of Guitar Player Magazine, Barry Cleveland, introduced me to John. He is a great person, every time I went to Los Angeles, he always asked to meet up for dinner and we talked about music. On this album I re-arranged his songs, and he sang on Crowded and Zone." The dramatic piano and guitar opening supports Frusciante's tense singing until a passionate chorus driven by crunchy guitars bursts in. The band shuffles the cards with clever harmonic modulations into the tasteful prog bridge in the middle of the song.

Queen Kanya might be an honey pot for fans of Steven Wilson's contemporary prog acts: a bewildering opening arpeggio increasingly builds the tension until a trademark melody of Dewa Budjana takes the stage. The ending duo by Minneman's drums and Dey's voice is one of the highlights of the tracks. "Mohini did a konnakol duo with Marco and it is an unbelievable part, it really surprised me!" says Dewa Budjana. The song title comes from the 19th century queen of the Klungkung kingdom in Bali, Dewa Agung Ratu Kanya. Queen Kanya played a key role in the diffusion of poetry and in restoring the beautiful Klungkung palace. Seamlessly moving through the luxurious orchestrations and multiple changes of rhythms, this track is a masterful meeting between western prog and asian melodies, tracking avenues never crossed before.

Balinese atmosferes alternates with tight and intricate guitar and keyboard unisons, while we are uplifted in a world in between by Soimah Pancawati's haunting voice in Hyang Giri. The Indonesian traditional singer is a star in home country and she performs in TV programs viewed by million of people. Her high pitched voice adds a layer of mystery while the band incessantly explores new boundaries.

"The title Hyang Giri comes from Ring of Fire" - says Dewa Budjana. Those are the mountains surrounding the place we live. Lately we had frequent eruptions in Sumatra, Java, Bali also Lombok or Flores and I called this track after Hyang Giri, whom the God Shiva gives the responsibility to control the mountain.

Fierce arabesques at piano are the perfect opening for the tenuous ballad Jung Oman. Dewa alternates long prolonged guitar notes to well-balanced acoustic solos, showing his impressive capability to keep every melody unexpected even if moving through the boundaries of familiarity. Jordan Rudess, with his deep orchestrations mastery, amplifies delicately this sense of suspended melancholy. No wonder Jung Oman resembles another Dewa's masterpiece, Ruang Dialisis from Hasta Karma, as both of them were dedicated to the late father. "Jung Oman is the name every family member or close friend called my father with", says Dewa Budjana.

The high-octane riff opening ILW offers the perfect ground for the band going crazy. "The title of this song comes from Indra Lesmana Workshop, the place I learned music a long time ago. This song is dedicated to my guru and teacher, Indra Lesmana, who inspired many musicians in Indonesia. He’s the first Indonesian musician who recorded his album in United States around 1983, with players such as Vinnie Colaiuta, Charlie Haden, Mike Landau. This played an huge influence on me to record in United States with world class musicians." - says Budjana. Mike Stern unleashes a powerful solo, echoed by Dewa’s virtuoso effort. And yet the title track shows the band again at full force with each of the team members offering an highlight personal contribution.

The closure is again on Frusciante’s voice on the mysterious Zone: this time leaving the harshness of the initial track for a surprisingly melodic approach, zigzaging in a manner reminiscent of Jack Bruce and moving unexpectedly over the multiple modulations of the unusually long chorus. The Indonesian guitarist paints aggressive and yet tenuous colors during his solo exploring all the multiple facets of this labyrinth-like song.

Dewa Budjana continues to show how easily cultures meet and reveal nuances we could have never expected before. Whether he’s playing with a masterful musician or another, he never gets concerned: he always knows how to bring out the best of them and reveal something their fans did not expect, but they were secretly looking for.

Dewa Budjana is unquestionably one of Indonesia's most famous and beloved musicians. Throughout a career launched back in the late 1980's, Dewa Budjana has remained squarely in the public eye. His band Gigi has been going strong for twenty-five years; packing out huge venues, and releasing twenty albums to date which have sold millions of copies.

But Gigi represents only a single facet of an expansive musical persona. A master composer, arranger and producer, in the late 1990's, Dewa Budjana started down parallel musical career avenues: as a solo artist -- with the release of 1997's "Nusa Damai;" as a producer -- with the ambitious "Nyanyian Dharma" project; and, as a movie score composer -- sharing duties on his initial project, the 1998 movie, "Wanita, " with friend and frequent keyboards contributor, Indra Lesmana. More recently, Dewa Budjana decided to focus increased attention and effort to his solo career. In just a few short years since debuting on MoonJune Records in 2012, he has amassed a masterful collection of internationally-released progressive music albums as a solo artist; work which transcends genre, and in glorious fashion. During the course of this concentrated effort, Dewa has witnessed his fanbase grow from regional to worldwide. With each successive album, he stretches stylistic boundaries further: featuring unique lineups of modern jazz, rock and progressive music luminaries, producing works which continue to challenge convention. His newest release Mahandini is just such an album: the latest chapter of Dewa Budjana's unfolding story, providing further evidence of both his considerable musical reach and ambitions.

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