A Conversation with Dewa Budjana
In tandem to playing in one of Indonesia’s biggest pop groups Gigi, guitarist Dewa Budjana boasts a sucessful solo career. With 8 solo albums under his own name, Budjana adds new flavor to the jazz fusion genre. With three albums in the past three years, the Indonesian guitarist tastefully pays respects to his musical influences while infusing the music of his culture into a beautifully unique and notable sound. His name and solo projects are finding international success and he begins to colaborate with fusion greats like Jimmy Johnson, Wayne Krantz, Peter Erakine, and Antonio Sanchez. Budjana is an artist through and through. With his involvment in the pop, fusion, and world genres, Budjana’s love for music and the guitar stretch far beyond the sonic potential. His guitars are always a work of art unto themsevles, sporting beatiful carvings and painting. The passion for the instrument is so deep he has opened a museum for the instrument, containing his own gutiars, as well as contributions from famous guitarists from around the world. Below Dewa Budjana takes a moment to discuss his upbringing in music, his current works, and how he works with music.
Abstract Logix: Growing up, what initially attached you to the guitar? Was the guitar a prevalent instrument in Bali?
Dewa Budjana: During that period of time, guitar was not really popular amongst kids in Bali. There was a builder that worked next to my house who introduced me into that instrument.
ABLX: Your music infuses Indonesian music like gamelan with western guitar. As a self-taught musician, what music influences help mold the melting pot that is your music?
DB: I love world music, and also experimental music. That helps me a lot with the blend.
ABLX: Do you feel your work as a session player helped you grow as a composer, seeing in a large ensemble what worked musically and what didn’t?
DB: Of course. I could explore the sounds of the guitar. I also learned to be patient as a sideman. In other words, I had to easily let go of things, or else I might be stuck in that position.
ABLX: Your albums are beautifully composed with synths and Indonesian music incorporated, as well as bass, drums and guitar. As a composer, were you trained in theory, writing out sheet music, or do you compose on the guitar to work out other parts?
DB: As a self-taught musician, I learn how to read and write music from book, on how to read and writing music. Sometimes I compose on guitar, and sometimes I write on Sibelius. When I get inspiration I record it on my cell phone.
ABLX: Your playing pays respect to and reflects your musical influences but offers a personal approach and perspective. How do you walk the line of displaying your roots, but retaining your own sound?
DB: I grew up in Bali and Java. The culture influenced my daily life, even tough I couldn’t play any traditional instruments. That might affect my guitar sounds.
ABLX: How would you say your solo records differ from your work with Gigi? What outlet does it offer?
DB: My solo is my personality, while GIGI were four people in one package. It gives me balance in music.
ABLX: What was it like to share the stage with Wayne Krantz at the Java Jazz Festival?
DB: I’m honor to sit in with Wayne, Cliff and Anthony … thanks to Souvik Dutta who has the idea.
ABLX: Talk a little about Museum Gitarku. The institution combines guitars from Indonesian players, your personal guitars, and international icons. What inspired bringing all these beautiful instruments under one roof?
DB: In earlier years, I was collecting my guitars that were painted by well-known painters in Indonesia. They represented my friendship with them. Then when that started happened, the idea about the museum came up. And the idea continued by collecting guitars from Indonesian guitarist from earlier history till now.
ABLX: You collected several of these guitars personally. As a guitar player and fan, what was it like to personally meet many of these players I’m sure inspired your playing?
DB: Previously I was collecting guitars from Indonesian guitarist, but after meeting Holdsworth and getting a guitar from him, my list extended to international guitarist. Of course it gave me the thrill of meeting them, and many of them were my idols.
ABLX: You’re guitars are beautiful sonically but always have an interesting and beautiful look. Do you feel a guitar’s appearance is an extension of what you are trying to express musically?
DB: Yes, I became so use to painted or carve guitars, that once I played without it I felt flat. It for sure gives an impact on my music
ABLX: You have recorded with Jimmy Johnson, Vinnie Colaiuta, and Peter Erakine. I’m sure in your early years of playing you were incredibly influenced by those Weather Report and Holdsworth albums. What was it like to compose, play and record with some of these incredible musicians?
DB: It’s more than dream comes true. Never imagined it before.
ABLX: How did you come in contact with these musicians? Was it as simple as picking up the phone?
DB: Starting in 2002 I stayed a few weeks in Santa Cruz and sent emails to several musicians. Among them, only Peter Erskine responded. Truly said, it was Peter who opened up the window to my international connections.
ABLX: With your solo work, and your albums with GIGI you have a large discography. Outside of music, what other interest do you have?
DB: Traveling and I always love art and culture.