It’s always neat when a package from MoonJune Records is in the mail for me. I know my ear is always ringing for something exciting. One of those artists I’ve always championed is Dewa Budjana. With five albums now in the can, he never disappoints me with his virtuosic guitar playing. This year, he’s released his sixth album entitled, Zentuary. Released on Steve Vai’s label, Founded Nations Entertainment and produced by Dewa himself along with his company Museum Gitarku and MoonJune Asia, it’s a perfect combination to be on Vai’s label.
Dewa brought some helping hands including Bassist/Chapman Stick Tony Levin; Keyboardist, Pianist, and drummer Gary Husband, and Drummer/Pianist Jack DeJohnette. But there’s more. It’s not just a 2-CD set release, he has Danny Markovich (Marbin), Guthrie Govan (The Aristocrats, Steven Wilson), Risa Saraswati, and the Czech Symphony Orchestra to name a few. Dewa is lending a helping hand to show support and believe me, they got his back, big time.
The term, Zentuary came from combining the words “Zen” and “Sanctuary”. It’s a lifelong journey that Dewa has embarked on through his musical path. He’s come a long, long, long way from where he is. It’s an emotional adventure between the happiness, sadness, and rising up to the difficult challenges he’s come through. Listening to this album, you can just see that he’s been there from day one and as I’ve always say, there is no stop sign for Dewa Budjana.
I picked a few highlights on the album that I picked that showed Dewa is not doing this for himself, but he wants to give the artists creative freedom and do whatever they want throughout their improvisations. Rerengat Langit (Crack in the Sky) which is Dewa’s take of Stick Men’s composition based on poems by Tony Levin, sees Risa Saraswati going through spoken dialog in the styles of Jane Birkin.
The music itself it has a late ‘60s/early ‘70s touch with a Serge Gainsbourg feel in the vibes of Histoire De Melody Nelson. Uncle Jack gives DeJohnette, an intense acoustic piano work that you could have jaws-dropped at the right moment while Dear Yulman shows Dewa paying tribute to not just John McLaughlin, but paying tribute to the Mahavishnu Orchestra.
The melodies and sitar arrangements are realistic followed by the synth-spacey atmospheres contacting home from the outer limits in the styles of the Dance of the Maya. Danny Markovitch does a guest appearance on one of the tracks which is Ujung Galuh. His curved soprano sax is in full front as he takes the listener followed by Dewa, into a trip into the islands and filled with love as the immense and deep evocative composition of Suniakala featuring the Czech Symphony Orchestra and Guthrie Govan to the front, an awe-inspiring moment.
Guthrie is not showing off, he is taking you by the hand through his fret improvisational solos and going through each of the several doors he opens to the listener and finally seeing a giant light that is glowing brightly before an acoustic finale done by Dewa himself. Manhattan Temple is a trip down back to the Big Apple featuring Tim Garland’s sax journey through the streets of New York followed by the fast-revolving moog synth by Gary Husband. And near the end of the last few minutes of the composition, Budjana and Levin fade off into the nighttime sky between guitar and upright bass near the end of the composition.
Zentuary is a memorial, spiritual, and honorable release from Dewa Budjana. He’s never let me down through his guitar playing. He is still going on and I hope he continues to do more for the years and years to come. My top 30 albums of 2016 is really going to have some competition this mid-December and he’s definitely going to be on the list.