Sun, 06 Mar 2005

Multicultural band enlivens Jakarta nightlife

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Tigapuluh music bar at Le Meridien Hotel was deserted when I arrived at about 10:00 p.m. on a weekend. Only a few visitors could be seen -- several men chatting with their girlfriends and others conversing with colleagues.

While the stage hands of the featured band, Level 6, were preparing their musical instruments on the diamond-shaped stage, more and more visitors began to enter. Less than an hour later, the bar had filled to the brim with guests.

The 6-member band performed covers of various musical genres, including pop, rhythm and blues, reggae and jazz. A special touch was female vocalist Chantelle Johnson's sometimes breaking out into a salsa swing.

Bob Marley's No Woman, No Cry and Peter Andre's Mysterious Girl were among the cover songs performed that night, all-time favorites that had guests gyrating slowly to the beat.

"I come here almost every week to enjoy the music. I'm a regular visitor. I love this band," said Rini, who was sitting beside me.

Surely, Level 6 must be like many other bands booked by hotel bars in the capital -- but one thing that makes them different is that the band comprises six members representing five different countries: Canadian Chantelle Johnson (lead vocal) and Paul Bennett (drums), Columbian Jonathan Castillo (male lead vocal), Romeo Alexander of Trinidad and Tobago on keyboards, Frenchman Rom Zareski on bass and Jamaican Maurice Smith on guitar.

It is even more unique in that their manager is an Indonesian, Aida, .

"It's great being part of a unique band," said Romeo during a recent interview.

He was reluctant to speak of how the six musicians first met and formed the band.

"To keep it short, it's destiny that brought us together," he said.

According to Maurice, the band members met across several countries -- South Korea, the Philippines and Indonesia. He recalled first meeting Jonathan in Jakarta.

"Now, we're like family. We look out for each other. We can go have fun together. That's what keeps us together," he said.

The band said they liked to perform here because the Indonesian audience was appreciative. Before Jakarta, Level 6 had played gigs in China and Korea.

"The band's contract finishes on April 2, having performed in the music bar since Nov. 17. They will move on to Bangkok, where they plan to visit a music studio for recording," Aida said -- Level 6 plans to record their original songs.

"As soon as they step out on stage, they make people happy. It is rewarding. It's great to work with people from around the world. They bring together different elements of their cultures, and this makes our band different," she said.

Professional performers, Level 6 played to the Indonesian crowd with local songs like Ada Apa Denganmu (What's up with you) from Peterpan, Separuh Napas (Half a breath) from Dewa, and Setia (Loyal) from Jikustik.

"I think the club has been doing well since we came," Aida said.

Aside from entertaining the Tigapuluh audience -- most of whom were foreigners -- they are getting acquainted with Indonesian food.

They enjoy their short tour in each country, and feel sad every time they have to pack their bags and travel to another country on another contract.

"We have friends here, but we have to leave them," said Rom.

As I left the music bar that night, Maurice's voice singing Mysterious Girl followed me out.

I stop and stare at you

Walking on the shore

I try to concentrate

My mind wants to explore

The tropical scent of you

Takes me up above

And girl when I look at you

Oh I fall in love

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

Mysterious girl

I wanna get close to you

Oh, oh, oh, oh ,oh, oh

Mysterious girl...