Abbhama - Alam Raya. 1979 Indonesia

I know very little about Indonesian prog rock pre-Discus, other than the outstanding Guruh Gipsy, but Abbhama seems to me the prototype of what to expect. At its core, Abbhama are a pop group with female vocals (oops they're male - they fooled me!) (Ed:  These notes are from when I first heard the album 5 years ago)  - darn near close to a lounge act. Then suddenly, when you least expect it, an obvious progressive rock segment will follow, perhaps something you might hear on a classic Yes or Genesis album. And while Abbhama wear their influences on their collective sleeves, it's all good fun. 

In addition to the Yes influence mentioned, the liner notes also point out Supertramp, which is very perceptive I think. Speaking of the liner notes, they are available online, so I'll publish them here with credits to Mr. Denny Sakrie:

"Abbhama were underrated progressive rock short-lived band from Jakarta Indonesia. If you asked what’s the meaning of Abbhama? The rest of the band  didn’t know the meaning yet. "I don’t know the meaning of Abbhama exactly. The word came suddenly when we prepared to recording our material at Tala & Co studio” said Iwan Madjid, leader of the band. But some says the band name was coined by Iwan Dharsono  the owner of Tala & Co 24 Tracks Studio. And still with no meaning.

Abbhama founded in 1977 by the music  students at Lembaga Pendidikan Kesenian Jakarta (Jakarta Art College).They’re Iwan Madjid (lead vocalist,piano,mellotron,flute ),Darwin B.Rachman (bass,keyboard),Cok Bagus (gitar),Hendro (oboe),Robin Simangunsong (drums),Oni (mini Moog synthesizers,keyboard),Dharma (flute) and Ivan (viola). Mostly the  songs in Abbhama’s one and only album called Alam Raya was written by Iwan Madjid with the lyrics by provided  the lyricist Tubagus Benny. Before Abbhama was formed, Iwan Madjid, a classically trained player  and Tubagus Benny a lyricist with some theater experience  had played together ini Operette Cikini with the  experience to create some rock opera adapted  from Mahabarata epic like “Ramayana” and “Mahabarata” in the mid 70s. When Abbhama formed, the music scene in Indonesia is a change in the trend of music that is the emergence of record albums-style progressive rock such as “Barong’s Band” – Barong’s Band (Nirwana Record, 1976), Titik Api – Harry Roesli (Aktuil Musicollection.1976), Guruh Gipsy – Guruh Gipsy  (Dela Rohita,1977), Giant On The Move – Giant Step (SM Recording, 1976), Putri Mohon Diri – Contrapunk (Pramaqua, 1977) and the film’s soundtrack album Badai Pasti Berlalu (1977) which brought Erros Djarot of Barongs Band, Chrisye of Guruh Gipsy  and Yockie Surjoprajogo from God Bless. Abbhama often appeared in several small performances on campus and arts venues such as the TIM Jakarta around their campus LPKJ in Cikini Raya Street Jakarta. The rest of  band members  love the classics repertoire such as Johann Sebastian Bach and Claude Debussy works.And of course, they were inspired by the works of progressive rock bands in 70s era like King Crimson, Yes, Genesis and Emerson,Lake and Palmer (ELP). Abbhama first appearance in front of an audience in as an opening act for  a Keenan Nasution concert called  Negeriku Cintaku held at Taman Ismail Marzuki, Jakarta November 1978. Keenan Nasution was one of  Guruh Gipsy’s mastermind. With the support of chamber music line up, Abbhama  played one long compositions by Vangelis, entitled Heaven and Hell Part 1 and 2  from Greek lectronic composer  Vangelis .Abbhama  did not played  the songs of their work for fear of the audience won’t recognised their own songs.  In 1979 Tala & Co was released Abbhama debut album titled “Alam Raya” (The Universe). Abbhama music core was based  on a format of eccentric pop songs and complex instrumentals with some pseudo classical flavor. Iwan Madjid has  a god enchantment .He does a very proficient work with the piano and mellotron including flute. And the most impressive fact is the angelic  voice of Iwan Madjid,, something like Jon Anderson (Yes) meets Roger Hodgson (Supertramp). Abbhama  have combined aspects of many musical forms to create a great work.The arrangements are very solid  and  enriched with  folk,classical and rock emphasis. Here listen for  an extremely beautiful folkie acoustic  tune guided by the flute,oboe  and  later viola in a surface of song called  Indonesia. There such a chamber music with easy poppy touches.  Dharma (flute),Hendro (oboe) and Ivan (viola) were presents a dazzling musical harmonization. Abbhama even experimented deliver the kind of order the sound of chamber music through the flute and oboe sounds in instrumental composition called Terlena. In some other songs featuring acoustic guitar and flute harmonization which overshadowed mellotron sound which is reminiscent of the heyday of prog rock music in the late 60s to 70s. One year after releasing their debut album,Abbhama disbanded.Iwan Madjid with bassist Darwin B Rachman  then formed a new band  Wow  with muliti instrumentalist Fariz RM in 1983. In  November 2007 Rolling Stone Indonesia was chosen Alam Raya Abbhama in 100 Greatest Indonesia Albums All Time. Alam Raya was at number 70. If you’re a fan of progressive rock music, then you must listening this rare album from Indonesia. Enjoy this reissue album.

Jakarta  February 5,2014.

Denny Sakrie
Rock Critics and Rolling Stone Indonesia contributor.

Personal collection
CD: 2014 Strawberry Rain (Canada)

Like yesterday's Leong Lau entry, Abbhama is an album I'd never even heard of until about 5 years ago. Like most (all?) Indonesian albums from the 70's, the only existing format is a cassette. The Strawberry Rain CD has just been released and is obviously the best way to own the album (and certainly my only copy). Comes with full liner notes, and utilizes the same digipak cover as the Lau album - this time they have added the lyrics (all in Indonesian). In general Strawberry Rain reissues albums in LP format as well, and I suspect this will be no different. But it's not released as of this writing. BTW, the historical notes do clarify the album was released in 1979, thus correcting the standard 1978 date appended on all current websites. The second photo is the CD cover, and is a bit different than the scans on the internet. As you can see from the photo of the original cassette, the cover we were used to seeing was the middle part of the cassette cover fold.

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