Tagged: introduction

What I Miss, pt. 1

I have been away from Bandung, my hometown, for almost two years now. Within the last three months, I have been having the most serious homesickness I have ever had. I’ll tell you what I am missing.

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This area around the city square

This is not exactly the city square, which is a sight of fake plastic grass and a smell of a million naked feet. The street next to it, the Dalem Kaum street, is my favorite weekdays destination but also my least favorite weekend destination. Go here on a free Tuesday; parking is a breeze, street food carts reduced to those whose snacks are actually delectable and affordable, and shops empty (although some were no more because of a great fire two years ago).

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Warung Tegal (Warteg) is a national institution. It is a simple, very affordable food stall with seats for very few number of people; you can find a warteg in almost every metropolitan city in Java and some other islands. The namesake comes from the small city of Tegal in Central Java, known for their people who venture into other areas of Indonesia to introduce and establish their culinary heritage. It sells a variety of traditional and signature Javanese dishes, lots of saucy curry-style dishes and deep-fried goodness, to be served alongside steamed rice. My favorite dish that is almost always available in every warteg is salt-cured skipjack tuna fillet cooked in red chili pepper sauce. This particular Braga Jaya Warung Tegal is located in downtown Bandung; its pricing is on the more expensive side but still affordable for people from almost every walk of life.

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S.14: this warm and cozy library and events venue

S.14 is an emerging intellectual institution in my city. It is an independent library and event space, often hosting talks and tiny acoustic concerts, such as the one pictured above, my buddy Oscar Lolang’s first ever concert featuring the amazing Jon Kastela (sitting, left)’s soothing voice. S.14 is currently on hiatus as the owners, spouses Aminuddin Siregar (a.k.a. Ucok) and Herra Pahlasari, are in the Netherlands where Ucok is taking his Ph.D. at the University of Leiden.

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Kupat Tahu, my go-to breakfast dish.

This particular one is from a stall in the neighborhood market, about 15 minutes walk from home. The dish originated from the regency of Tasikmalaya, about 110 kms to the southeast of Bandung; most people selling the dish throughout Indonesia hailed from the very same town where the dish was first concocted. The dish consists of slices (or dices) of a dense rice cake (the kupat) and pieces of flash-fried succulent yellow tofu (the tahu); mung bean sprouts are typically added before everything is doused in watery peanut sauce and sweet soy sauce. Another popular variation of the dish is tahu petis, which is similar to kupat tahu with the only difference being the addition of petis (smooth fermented shrimp paste) into the peanut sauce. This dish is particularly a breakfast fare, and most stalls or carts that sell this dish close down shop before noon.

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This second breakfast of chocolate milk and local doughnuts

Sometimes the kupat tahu just doesn’t cut it and when you’re in downtown area around 9 am, you feel like having a quick and sweet second breakfast. People on Java in general are not particularly fond of dairy products thus finding fresh dairy products is generally tricky. Luckily the dairy stalls downtown, just about a five-minute walk from the city square, serve fresh whole milk every morning delivered from Pangalengan, a small town just outside of my city known for its fresh milk and dairy products. The chocolate milk in the picture does not come flavored, and flavored syrups are added to the fresh milk right before it is served. Popular flavors include chocolate, strawberry, mocha, and vanilla. These stalls also serve cookies, cakes, and pastries, whose ingredients include the very same kind of milk they serve fresh. My favorites are the doughnuts, which are smaller yet denser than American-style doughnuts, with toppings and glazing that are not as sweet as their American counterparts.

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This particularly filling dessert called Pisang Ijo

Pisang Ijo (lit. Green Banana) comes from the province of South Sulawesi, but it is getting more popular in Java in the recent years. It is mainly a dessert, but it can also be quite filling considering the ingredients. The titular green banana is made with a particularly soft and sweet variety of banana, encased in a pancake-like dough made of rice flour colored green from pandan leaves extract. What gives the dessert its unique combination of flavor is the creamy and rich custard sauce. Sometimes sweet syrup is added, although the custard itself is already sweet enough, as well as chocolate sprinkles and crushed peanuts. It is served cold with ice cubes or shaved ice.

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This amazing hand-pulled noodles from Singapore

Okay, this is another food item not originally from my city, but this is the closest thing to having easy access to hand-pulled noodles whenever you want it. (And I always want it.) Mie Tarik King is a Singaporean chain that specializes in making their noodles hand-pulled and fresh on the counter. They offer a variety of soups and stir-fried noodles; all of which are good, but my favorite is the one pictured, which is the sweet-ish soy-sauce-based chicken broth with sweet stir-fried chicken, fried wonton bits, and kangkung (water spinach), an always welcome vegetable addition to any Chinese-style noodle soup. Kangkung may or may not be illegal in the US; if it is really illegal, then it is a crime committed to Southeast Asian Chinese food lovers in the US, who miss out on a vegetable that may be as addictive as weed.

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This simple yet delectable fried rice with crackers and pickled cucumbers (not pickles!)

Okay, this is not even in my city, but in Jatinangor, the college town where I worked in. This fried rice stall opens late in the afternoon and stays open well into the wee hours of the morning. It cannot get simpler than this: rice, pre-prepared spice mix (which the owners spend all morning mixing), scrambled eggs, and tiny pieces of pulled chicken. The wok taste, the smokiness is what makes the simplicity so delicious.

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This Tegal soto, which is my go-to sick dish

As mentioned above, Warung Tegal is a national institution, but few Warung Tegals actually serve the Tegal variety of soto, a national dish which invariably consists of a meat-based broth with rich spices, which includes at least one kind of meat, be it chicken, beef, or mutton. The Tegal soto is usually a chicken soto, with also a chicken-based broth enriched by thick coconut milk. The Tegal soto is perhaps comparable in appearance to the Jakartan Betawi soto, but the Betawi soto usually lacks turmeric; the Tegal soto is exactly characterized by its turmeric smell and taste which go hand-in-hand with the rich coconut milk. This particular Tegal soto from Jatinangor includes a healthy amount of pulled, stewed chicken, potato cubes, fresh scallions, and emping crackers. In this picture, it is served alongside a plate of steamed rice sprinkled with fried shallots and a piece of deep-fried tempe. Any kind of soto is typically comfort food, and the Tegal soto is one for when I feel a little under the weather.

As we roam further from my city, in part 2 I’ll include more things that I miss that do not come from or are not available in my city!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Live Album at the Moment: Various Chicago Bootleg Albums of Their Performance at Toronto Rock n’ Roll Revival 1969

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My cassette had the exact same photo on the cover. Interestingly, this photo couldn’t have been from 1969, as this stage design was clearly from their later world-touring days. The photo was taken from¬†http://rockasteria.blogspot.com/2012/02/chicago-live-in-toronto-1969-us.html, where you can also find the original liner note for this live album (that is sometimes missing in later releases).

As a fan of the music of Chicago the band, particularly their earlier outings in the late 1960s and early 1970s, early in my fandom days I had always wondered how they sounded on stage at that early age. Having read that they were a great improvisational/jamming unit, I had been genuinely curious. However in the early 2000s in Indonesia, finding out how the early Chicago sounded was nigh impossible. The internet only offered snippets of their performances, compressed in the lowest bit-rate possible to accommodate streaming through a dial-up connection. The band’s lavishly packaged Chicago Live at the Carnegie Hall was never officially released in Indonesia, and finding a copy was quite a tall order. I actually did locate a copy, but the exorbitant price was too much for a high school graduate who was penniless while waiting for the good news of enrollment at a public university.

A year prior, I had acquired a (pirated) copy of the concert film Chicago… and the Band Played on… It was an okay and somewhat exciting performance (despite the absence of founding member and trumpeter Lee Loughnane), but at the time of the performance in 1992, the original rhythm section left only Robert Lamm on keyboards. How fierce could Terry’s guitar playing be on stage early in his career? How did Peter Cetera’s voice hold up on stage at this point? Did Danny Seraphine get all his chops together on stage? These were the questions that popped up in my genuine curiosity.

Enter Chicago at Toronto Rock Festival 1969. Upon listening for the first time, it was clear that it was a bootleg-quality recording, although it might have only been a poor recording of what was happening at the soundboard. The quality of the sound was only marginally better than the streamed snippets online, but of course the cassette won out because it was the whole set that the band played at the festival which, many years later, I found to be actually named Toronto Rock and Roll Revival, at which Chicago shared the stage with, among others, John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band whose performance was released as Live Peace in Toronto and was perhaps the most popular among other releases by other artists from the same stage.

Despite the sub-par recording quality, the album did quench my thirst of early Chicago live performances. Years later, I found that the performance was released by many other questionably named labels using various titles, such as Chicago in Concert, Chicago Live ’69, Chicago Beginnings, and the latest was perhaps Chicago Best Alive. You can listen to the entire set on YouTube, as several users have already uploaded it under various titles. The cleanest sound so far can be listened to here:¬†https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGrni-S3NRA (no copyright infringement intended).

The track listing varies widely, but at that point Chicago would open any set with “Introduction.” But on most of these releases, “Introduction” is nowhere to be found. It was often mislabeled as “Beginnings” and the actual “Beginnings” song (the encore of the set) is sometimes not included in cassette and LP releases due to time constraint. The Beginnings and Best Alive (both originally released on CD) have the distinction of listing two “Beginnings”: one is the actual “Beginnings” and the other is “Introduction.” Some releases list “Introduction” as simply “The Intro Song.” Some songs have been mislabeled as well: “South California Purples” is usually listed as “The Purple Song” and “Questions 67&68″‘s numbers are sometimes missing. What a confusion!

Back to the set, the band started out song with “Introduction” and the Toronto version of “Introduction” was my first time listening to the full version the song. It was mind-blowing and life-changing. The band had so much energy on stage back then and Terry Kath was such a driving force. His voice soared and his solos ripped through at the midsection of the song. The song has many movements (an early Chicago quality that I learned upon listening to this live set) and the band transitioned smoothly from one movement to the next. Peter Cetera was clearly an unsung and underrated bass hero; his busy bass lines accompanied the songs, particularly “Introduction”, perfectly. The horn section’s set of lungs (Hendrix was right all along!) was nothing short of awesome, but they were recorded a bit thin here; this clearly was also the problem with recording horn instruments perfectly on stage at that time. Even in official releases such as At the Carnegie Hall and the recently released Live in ’75, the horn was hardly ever entirely justifiably represented.

Other highlights of the set include “25 or 6 to 4”, which at that point had not yet been released and “Liberation.” The highlight of “25 or 6 to 4” is certainly the solo, and Terry was famous (and infamous) of coming up with a different improvised solo every time the band performed the song on stage. The solo in this version does not sound as heroic as the final recorded version, but its melodic approach in this version showcases Terry’s improvisational prowess. I also dare say that I actually like the Toronto version of “Liberation” better than the album version. In this 16-minute jam track, Terry sounds more emotionally involved in his lengthy solo and the moment he finally burst into an improvised line to address the audience as the jam is over is truly a precious rock concert moment.

Chicago’s 1969 Toronto performance was the first widely available unofficial live album of the band. It is nowhere near as lavish as the Carnegie Hall set, but for financially challenged fans of the band (myself included) it certainly is more affordable. In recent years, live recordings of the band on stage early in their career have popped up on YouTube and in streaming sites such as Wolfgang’s Vault, and the Live in Tanglewood video is increasingly becoming the moving image of the band in their early days (Watch it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_oAoSZ2y1cw if you haven’t. The audio and video have been remastered to an excellent quality. I teared up when I first watched the video; it was that moving and beautiful). There is basically no reason to own their 1969 Toronto set now, except if you are an avid and devoted fan, but it really is worth it to stream on YouTube or any other streaming sites if what you are looking for is the band expressing their raw power early in their career, trying to make a good impression and win new fans in a neighboring country.

 

What I Did with a Guitar When I Was Young

When I was young and my heart was an open book… Okay, that was not it. I never was and never am a guitar player. I picked up guitar back in 2000 and, until today, I never managed to get past basic chords and scales. However, in 2003 and 2004, I had a very strong drive to create some guitar-driven music, which was mainly fueled by the surrounding experimental and noise music scene at that time, which circled around toying with a guitar or guitars, unusual instruments and electronic embellishments. Since I had almost no budget to afford a guitar, I borrowed two guitars on two separate occasions. The first one was borrowed from Dody (Hermayadi Ardisoma), my neighbor and senior at the university, some time in 2003. It was a generic-looking black Samick guitar, whose sound I have taken to like. The second was borrowed from a friend of mine (name classified) during KKN (field work) in 2004. It was a Japan-made ivory Fender Telecaster that had been sitting in his cupboard for almost a year. It was a bit rusty and dirty, but useable.

The recording process was amateurish at best: guitar directly plugged into computer soundcard without external DAC/pre-amp or interface. This accounts for some noise that was later reduced during editing and mixing process. Takes were recorded using SoundForge (back then it was SonicFoundry’s, not yet Sony’s), and synthesizer and drum tracks were created on Fruity Loops (now FL Studio). These were all finally mixed and mastered, if you can call them mixing and mastering, on SoundForge. So, voila, here are six tracks from a person who could not actually play guitar. The seventh track is a bonus track featuring my friend, Andy Dwi (a real guitarist) on guitar with me on piano and drum programming. Pardon the lack of melody and virtuosity. Consider you’ve been warned.

Fanfare for the Self
Sandya Maulana: synthesizer, guitar, drum programming

The Room Re-revisited (including the Madcaps) (2009 remix)
Sandya Maulana: guitar, ballpoint caps, synthesizer

After All
Sandya Maulana: guitars, synthesizer, drum programming

Dinosaurs in D
Sandya Maulana: guitar, vocals, treatment, drum programming
Contains performances of excerpts from “I Know What I Like” by Genesis and samples of “Closer to the Heart” by Rush

Is It?
Sandya Maulana: Synthesizer, TS808, guitar, drum programming

The Room Revisited (including the Schedule)
Sandya Maulana: guitar, treatment, computer keyboard

Self-Indulgent Blues
Sandya Maulana: piano, synthesizer, drum programming
Andy Dwi: guitar