Sun, 05 Jan 2003

World number two DJ Sasha dazzles Jakarta at Stadium

Joseph Mangga, Contributor, Jakarta

It was 2.30 a.m. and the crowd was getting very restless at Stadium. They had already heard DJ Deny from Bandung, who opened the show at 10 p.m., followed by Ministry of Sound DJ Jan Carbon, who bombarded the hall with melodic swoops of spacey tribal grooves for nearly three hours.

But Sasha, the star attraction who was originally billed to start at 1 a.m., was nowhere in sight.

Sasha is the famed British DJ who's been ranked second in the world by DJ Magazine for the last two years. He won the Best DJ award at the 2001 MUZIK Magazine Dance Awards. He also produced remixes for top popular artists, including the Chemical Brothers and the Pet Shop Boys, not to mention his staggering rendition of Madonna's megahit Ray of Light.

Sasha is known as the man who has produced numerous critically acclaimed remix collections, both for Global Underground, and in collaboration with his close friend and fellow DJ magician, John Digweed.

Yes, Jakarta's clubbers were full of high expectations, especially since Sasha had supposedly once promised to play Indonesia back in 2001.

Unfortunately, those plans were scuttled following a car accident that left the DJ with a perforated left eardrum. But the spin-master finally made good on that promise on Dec. 27, or did he?

For everyone at Stadium was asking the same question, "Where's Sasha?"

The black T-shirt clad Indika Radio staff shifted nervously in the club's fourth floor foyer, as newly arriving clubbers mistook DJ Carbon for the belated superstar. The circulating rumor was that he had arrived from Singapore extremely tired and partied- out, and was still recharging his batteries at the Borobudur Hotel.

Although Carbon was giving his best, the fans were getting very edgy as they tweaked open their third bottle of Kratingdaeng. Just as the dreaded words "no-show" were crossing a few people's minds, a procession of security and black shirts muscled their way to the DJ booth with a skinny-looking dude lugging a couple of hefty record crates.

"Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Sasha has entered the building!"

Wearing what looked like an eagle-winged Harley-Davidson T- shirt, the master cued up his first record and the crowd responded handsomely!

Finally, there he was -- one of the greatest and most revered DJs to ever spin the planet -- performing live in Jakarta. By the time Sasha, dubbed a man whose sonic collages are so extraordinarily emotional and spiritually uplifting that Mixmag Magazine once bequeathed on him the saintly title of son of God, settled into his sixth track, a second wave of uncertainty gradually swept across the room.

The music was good, quite good, but just a little too noisy, harsh and bashing. The bass was also distorting, the treble was a bit tinny and the themes were all a bit atonal and dark.

What was going on? Could this be all the great Sasha -- the reputed king of cosmic flow -- has under his belt? Have we all been hoodwinked by media hype into believing this man to be something more? After a very unimpressive first hour, I was not the only one beginning to look about despairingly and mutter, "Is that all there is?"

Then suddenly, as if somebody had flicked a switch, a deep rich synthesized track with a warm soothing melody washed over the auditorium with awesome clarity. The mood instantly transformed, as magical swirls of lush, multicolored sound swept everyone into mindless bliss.

Sasha, the sly old dog, had been playing possum the entire first hour. It appears he intentionally pulled the crowd down from a cloud of overexpectation with lackluster tracks and mixing, before unleashing the full whack of his musical genius and very best vinyl.

What followed over the next two and a half hours can only be described as pure DJ-ing artistry -- smooth, roller-coastering sonic waves of emotion that unfurled and orchestrated the feeling of everyone into one huge collective soul. He covered all the musical bases, masterfully blending tracks of progressive trance, house and breakbeat, as well as a few teasing tidbits from Airdrawndagger, his recent down-tempo album of all original material.

If you've never heard him in person, it's hard to explain how Sasha's emotive DJ-ing skills are just a notch above most other top DJs.

By the time dawn was slowly breaking in Jakarta, any doubts about Sasha's purported greatness were fully put to rest. As he played his last track -- a blasting remix of Underworld's Rez -- he raised an LP high over his head and was greeted by a sea of enormous smiles.

After the set, Sasha was having so much fun hanging with the Jakarta crew that he managed to miss his mid-morning flight to Kuala Lumpur. He was able to catch a later flight, but he left a huge chunk of his heart right here in Indonesia.

I think the odds are very good that we'll all get a chance to hear his very special magic again next year.