(by Peter Blamey)

On the 25th of March IBP heads for Surakarta, aka Solo, as Dale and myself are performing at Bukan Musik Biasa #39 at Pendopo Wisma Seni, Taman Budaya, thanks to Wukir who organised it for us. The title translates as “Not Ordinary Music”, so chances are we will both feel right at home. The event has been running bimonthly for over five years, and has a parallel dance event called (not surprisingly) “Not Ordinary Dance”. Most if not all of the performers are either internationals or Indonesian artists from outside of Solo as there is apparently no local scene, which given the history of the event seems unusual. Either way, it’s a great opportunity.

We arrive a bit later than expected due to traffic, but sound check is a fair way away yet. Half of the IBP crew head off to their homestay to swim, while Wukir, Rully, Iqbal, Dholy and Stufvani help Dale and I get our respective acts together. The stage is amazing – a beautiful raised outdoor platform, with tiled surfaces and leafy garden surrounds (the audience won’t fare so well as it turns out, having to sit on mats on what is more or less bitumen).


While the PA is being put together, Dale wanders the grounds looking for a suitable location to perform in, given that he is no fan of either stages or conventional speaker set ups. However, under advice from Rully who says the audience won’t be too keen to walk very far, plus the fact that we were bitten by mosquitos when we went back to his chosen spot, Dale decides to use a more conventional stage/PA/microphone deal for the first time with his current performance set up. My own combination of salvaged computer motherboards, copper wire and tiny amplifiers in a plastic container gets a laugh out of the sound engineer, who apart from that was remarkably stone-faced for the entire evening. Anyway, we both get through sound check, and all augurs well for later.


These folks know how to put on a show. We are well fed and looked after, and they even printed a massive banner just for this one gig. I feel a little embarrassed by it. We spend time meeting the other artists on the bill, who hail from Greece, Mexico, Poland and Spain. I think both Dale and I were disappointed that no Indonesian artists were included, but I guess it’s the luck of the draw. As the audience slowly arrives I take a stroll about the grouds, finding a water plant that weirdly seems to mimic Dale’s rig! Eventually I end up at the much larger formal stage up the hill, which has mind-blowing gigantic sculptured beams and a wooden floor. Next time we play Solo we play there, I reckon.


By the time I get back to our now much smaller-seeming stage there are 70-80 people in the audience – not bad for a Tuesday night. Also, the remaining IBPers (ie: Bagus, Caitlin, Joel and Helen) have now arrived, so it’s time to start.

Dale is up first. I’ve seen him perform literally hundreds of times, but I still get a kick out of it. So does the audience if the number of people taking photos of this beautifully sane man playing his crazy devices is any indication. Pumps are pumped, balloons are inflated, horns are honked and hoses are whirled around, but all with a calm and thoughtful approach that balances the novelty of the techniques with a serious aesthetic of listening, spatialisation and all-round sonic attentiveness. I might well be biased but it was, of course, totally killer.



What do you say about your own performance? I felt it went well. The start was bit quiet, but picked up after Dale got the sound guy to crank it up, which is not so much about making it loud as it is about bringing out the detail in the sound. It was all good and lively, and I wasn’t called upon to intervene very much at all, with the signals seemingly happy to course through the copper wire and circuit boards as they saw fit. Sometimes I feel more like an animal trainer or stage parent, kneeling proudly nearby while my charge (if you’ll excuse that terrible pun) performs. Even amongst all that chaotic sound the stage is often a calm and relaxing environment for me, and being in this particular context somehow seemed to make it doubly so. Eventually it all has to come to an end, so I rip off the copper wire and hope my legs haven’t gone to sleep as I go to stand up. People clap – it really is more than I could ask for.


After one more act the performers are asked to return to the stage for one of the key features of Bukan Musik Biasa – the dialogue, or Q&A. We had been ‘warned’ that when it came to the dialogue things could get quite critical, and even quite direct at times. Tonight the special guest commentator was composer Michael Asmara, who was asked to lead the discussion, after which each musician got to give an account of themselves, followed by questions from the audience. After such a long day I think I was beginning to flag towards the end of this almost hour-long session, but some good and pertinent stuff was said and seemingly well received by the largely still intact audience. Generally speaking there’s so few opportunities to discuss music, so the willingness of the organisers, audience and artists to do so is highly commendable.


As usual, one of the best things about doing gigs is chatting with new people after the show. Mostly I talked to 6-7 local undergrads, who asked me to explain some of the processes involved (feedback, more or less), where the computer parts come from (the streets of Newtown), what other music I do and so on. It seems to me that they totally get it. Once again it comes out that someone thought the copper wire was hair – if only! I’d really like to see these folks play the next Bukan Musik Biasa. By the way, if you guys are reading this, look me up and get in touch!


The night rolls on, with lots of hanging out and music. Eventually we crash, then get up at 6 to go to markets 10 mins or so away, after which we hit the road and head back to ICAN. When I get there I find a bag of stuff from Bagus’s electrician uncle Inu, filled with 20 old computer motherboards, plus a few miscellaneous cards and so on. Things are good.