12.12.2011 10:08 PM
After a three-decade career as a composer, songwriter, solo musician and the lead guitarist of pop band Gigi, Dewa Budjana is showcasing his love for music in a new project. He is building the country’s first guitar museum, in Ubud.
"Apart from my personal collection, I will also showcase the guitars of other legendary musicians, complete with their biographies," he said.
Budjana, who is Hindu and whose first name means "God," is building the museum on 3,000 square meters of land in Bali’s cultural capital.
"My collection of 32 guitars, all painted by Indonesian master artists, will be showcased," he said. "I’ve never heard of a guitarist who has a collection as extensive as mine. This museum will be the first of its kind in Indonesia."
During the past year, Budjana said, he had visited numerous artists to ask them to turn his guitars into works of art.
Among those he tapped for the project were Jango Paramarta, Teguh Ostenrik Jeihan and Putu Sutawijaya, who are among the nearly 20 local artists whose guitar artwork will be featured in the museum. Although some of their works have been valued by collectors at billions of rupiah, each of the artists donated their time and effort to the project.
For Budjana, his relationship with the artists goes beyond money, and the artists echoed that sentiment.
"As he stared hard into my eyes, I felt a tremendous powerful energy transfer. It’s the other side of the spiritual journey of preparing for a guitar museum," said Jeihan, who painted one of Budjana’s guitars as the two discussed Sufism .
Ostenrik got involved in the project after being contacted by Efix Mulyadi, a veteran art journalist.
He had just finished creating some statues for a project and used some of the remaining material to create the guitar artwork.
"I wrapped the guitar with iron plates and named it ‘Tangan Dewa’ [‘The Hands of God’]," he said. "Since it is wrapped in metal plates, the guitar cannot be played anymore."
He sent the finished work to Budjana at his studio in Pamulang, Banten.
"I salute Dewa for asking the artists to paint his guitars," said Adib Hidayat, a music observer and chief editor of Rolling Stone Indonesia magazine. "I was amazed he was able to collaborate with [so many people]. He even worked with others outside his faith."
Born in August 1963 in Waikabubak, West Sumba, in East Nusa Tenggara, Budjana was introduced to the guitar in 1974 by construction workers in Lumajang, East Java.
"They were building the office of the Klungkung district head, which was near our house," Budjana said. "During the evening after their shift, the workers always caught my attention with the guitar. They played simple music and sang, and I began to learn from them."
He continued to practice and largely taught himself how to play.
"During my childhood, no one played guitar around where I lived except those construction workers," he said. "Later, some Klungkung civil servants formed a band and I would often watch them rehearse."
Knowing his parents would never give him the money to buy a guitar, Budjana stole Rp 10,000 ($1.10) from his grandmother when he was 11 years old and traveled to Denpasar to buy one.
After Budjana’s grandparents forgave him for stealing, they became very supportive of his desire to become a guitarist.
"I always thought that I got my artistic talent from my grandparents, who were respected local artists. They sang traditional Balinese songs, using lyrics written on dried palm leaves, which were then aired on the state-owned radio broadcaster Radio Republik Indonesia," he said.
Budjana’s parents opened a dormitory for international students, mostly from the United States and Australia, who wanted to study the language and art of Bali.
"My grandfather was a composer, but much of his work was copied and claimed by other parties because copyright and intellectual property rights were basically nonexistent then," he said.
From his grandparents, Budjana also learned to treat the guitar as a heirloom.
"My guitar is my beloved. My inheritance. To play it is my destiny. When I play the guitar for others, I feel uplifted spiritually," he said.
In 1984, Budjana’s band Squirrel was named the best band at the highly regarded Light Music Contest at Taman Ismail Marzuki, in Jakarta. After that, he moved from Surabaya, where he had completed high school, to Jakarta.
"I was tutored by an Indonesian jazz legend, the late Jack Lesmana, who introduced me to the principles and basics of jazz. Thanks to Indra Lesmana, Jack’s son, who suggested I become a session player. That’s how I started my first professional performances," Budjana said.
In 1994, he founded Gigi, which would go on to become one of the biggest bands in the country, releasing 23 albums to date. He has been with the band for 18 years as lead guitarist and songwriter.
Budjana’s devotion to God through Hindu music has colored his journey with Gigi and his solo career. His intrepid solo experimentations, which blend jazz with pop and the traditional sounds of Javanese and Balinese gamelan and Borneo’s flute, have produced some amazing music.
Budjana is currently preparing for a Christmas concert with singer Glenn Fredly. The concert, which is scheduled for this Friday at Gedung Kesenian Jakarta, will be the second time the two successful musicians have worked together.
Glenn said he admired Budjana’s dedication to music, particularly with his release of "Nyanyian Dharma," a collection of Hindus songs, and his commitment to opening a guitar museum. "He’s inspiring," Glenn said.
Budjana said he believed in harmony and interfaith collaboration through music, with his band and other artists. His vision for peace through the universal language of music led to the creation of the Nyanyian Dharma Foundation.
"Collaborating with numerous artists, I produced three albums of music and songs inspired by Hindu philosophies," Budjana said. But he said he was disappointed by the lack of support from the government and entrepreneurs, even from those who are Hindu.
Since pioneering Nyanyian Dharma as a religious and non-profit project, Budjana and his colleagues have given free concerts at different locations.
"We have also held concerts in San Francisco and New Delhi at our own expense," he said.
Budjana released "Home" as a tribute album for the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. He collaborated on the project with Peter Erskine, the late Dave Carpenter and Reggie Hamilton.
His latest album, his fifth project, "Dawai in Paradise," is scheduled for release on Dec. 21. He says it has eight tracks from four previous albums with new arrangements, as well as three new songs. "The three new songs are ‘Gangga,’ ‘Masa Kecil’ and ‘Dawaiku,’ " he said.
For Budjana, solo albums give him the chance to shed his ego and just play his music without compromise.
His wife, Putu Borrawati, calls her husband a family man. Although his various projects keep him busy, she said, he always takes his two sons, Mahavishnu, 8, and 3-year-oldShakti, to school.
Budjana says the secret to his success and happiness is simple and has been present all along: his love for the guitar.