He dreamt about his father, and the songs kept coming. Tony Stanton to talks jazz legend Indra Lesmana.
Hi Indra, what have you been up to lately?
I’m doing great, thanks. As usual I’ve been making and composing music every day, doing shows with my Trio Keytar Band and Krakatau Reunion Band around Indonesia, teaching at home and performing regularly at Sunday Mostly Jazz at Griya Santrian.
You’ve just released another album, About Jack, dedicated to your father. Tell us a bit about that … and about the man. What was he like on and off the guitar?
It was the anniversray of my dad’s birthday, and I had a dream that I was performing with him, playing all these songs that I had never heard before. The next day I picked up my keytar and tuned it to get that Jack Lesmana guitar sound, and I started writing all these tunes that I had heard in my dream. Within three days I had all the tunes down and ready to be recorded. So it’s an album dedicated to Jack Lesmana, an album about Jack, who was an incredible man, a great musician, a great father, a wonderful teacher and a man who has done so much for jazz in Indonesia.
You were a jazz prodigy from an early age were you not? When did you first pick up an instrument, and first perform live on stage?
I started playing the piano when I was nine, and started performing for the first time with my dad’s band when I was 10 and became his piano player until he passed away.
Do you believe musical talent is hard-wired into our DNA? Like it’s either there or it’s not?
Yes and no. I know some good musicians whose parents are also musicians, but then I also know a lot of great musicians whose ancestors had nothing to do with music. I believe it’s more about how you grow up and your surroundings. I think if you are born and bred surrounded by jazz musicians and jazz music, then somewhere along the line you will get influenced.
What was your experience like as a judge on Indonesian Idol, and what do you think about the music business today?
That was a fun experience. I really enjoyed it. We had great moments and I met some great new talents, some of whom are still performing with from me time to time.
The music business in Indonesia has evolved now, it’s not the same it was before. It’s easy to record an album now, and most musicians have their own studio at home and with the power of social media they can build their own fanbase and followers and sell directly to them, selling their music and promoting their own concerts and merchandise. So it’s an exciting time.
Who are the bright young jazz stars of today in Indonesia?
Indonesia has so many good young jazz talents, all it takes to find the best is to search on Instagram and YouTube. It’s pretty amazing what you will find.
What does jazz mean to you?
I was born with jazz, I live with jazz every second of my life. So I guess jazz is like the air that I breathe every day.
Tell us about your gorgeous wife, Honhon … where did you guys meet, and what does she give you as a person?
We met in Jakarta about 20 years ago. She is a super talented person, she writes good lyrics, she takes great photos, makes great designs, she paints, she cooks, she raises our children, she does our business, she loves jazz and she is my best friend.
So I’m a lucky guy 🙂
You’ve been performing and arranging Sunday Mostly Jazz at the Griya Santrian. How did that come about, and how has it been received?
I moved to Bali with my family two years ago. Together with my partner IDG Sidharta we are building “Sanggar Musik Indra Lesmana”, which is a community learning center for music.
It’s still in process now and hopefully will be ready next year.
Sunday Mostly Jazz is part of our activities to promote more jazz in Sanur and also to gather new young musical talents. We have done more than 30 performances in more than a year now and it’s going real great.
That’s good to hear. Indra, thanks so much for your time, and what you’ve done for the Indonesian music scene.