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Tohpati Bertiga: Riot

Dave Wayne By

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Get used to thinking of Southeast Asia as the new hotbed of fascinating and original guitar players. Indigenous guitar- and mandolin-like stringed instruments and improvisation have played a pivotal role in the native music of the region for centuries. Adaptation and mastery of western styles was inevitable, and a cursory search of YouTube will reveal hundreds of contemporary videos featuring Southeast Asian guitar shredders of every musical persuasion.

One of the very finest guitarists in the region is Tohpati Ario Hutomo from Jakarta, Indonesia. Riot clearly shows that he's been soaking up all sorts of jazz, rock and funk influences. While his prior work with the groups simakDialog and Tohpati Ethnomission explores the interfaces between jazz, Indonesian, and Balinese ethnic musics, Bertiga is a heavy-hitting jazz-rock power trio. Tohpati's readily identifiable guitar style pulls together diverse influences, including Allan Holdsworth, Eric Johnson, Jeff Beck, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, into a highly personal and cohesive style. While he's certainly a jazz-oriented player, his work on Riot is gloriously impure and full of bluesy grit. Most refreshingly, he's not just about chops.

With extensive experience as a session man backing Indonesian pop stars, Tohpati is a seasoned performer who really knows how to pace and shape an interesting, dramatic guitar solo. A case in point is his solo on "Lost In Space," a lesson in spareness and stark emotion.

The other members of the trio are equally accomplished. Tohpati's been playing with the remarkable bassist Indro Hardjodikoro since his professional career began. Also a member of Ethnomission, Hardjodikoro is the James Jamerson of Indonesia— his grooves are deeper than the Marianas Trench and he can wail like Jaco Pastorius or Jeff Berlin. Drummer Adityo Wibowo also possesses some major-league fusion chops as well as an uncanny sense of where the pocket is in Tohpati's mercurial, ever-changing, odd-metered compositions.

What really comes across on Riot is the trio's happy-go- lucky, freewheeling nature. Tohpati doesn't take himself too seriously—he humorously threads snippets of classic rock songs throughout "Rock Camp." The CD was recorded live in the studio, and the informal, relaxed feel of the music is reinforced by occasional snippets of laughter and dialogue between the songs. Some may find this a distraction, but it lends a certain sort of "audio vérité" to the proceedings—as if you're there in the studio, hanging out. With its unassuming warmth and undeniable artistry, Riot is a breath of fresh air in the rarefied world of fusion music.

Track Listing: Upload; I Feel Great; Riot; Middle East; Pay Attention; Rock Camp; Absurd; Disco Robot; Lost In Space; Bertiga.

Personnel: Tohpati: guitars, guitar synth; Indro Hardjodikoro: bass; Adityo Wibowo: drums.

Title: Riot | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Moonjune Records


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