Erik Sondhy launches new band, “Vaha”

There’s a new band in town, and they’re adding a lot of flair & talent to the local musical scene. 
There’s nothing better than a good live music performance to move your body or engage in an impromptu sing-along session. And then there’s jazz—the enabler of the spontaneous and combustible — with solo sessions from individual band members to bring the house down. As seen by their performance at The Orchard the other night, the band Vaha certainly radiates that invisible and sometimes hard to find, intangible quality.
But, to be clear, Vaha’s mastermind, pianist Erik Sondhy, said that he doesn’t want his band to be pigeonholed into one particular genre. “We want to be like our namesake—Vaha—which means ‘Open Sea’ in Sanskrit,” he said. “We want to have the freedom in creating music and be open to various musical influences. For sure we want to create something easy listening but not easy playing, and one that has weight to it.”
Vaha was born in December 2016 and comprises of seven musically-gifted individuals: Sondhy (keyboard); Dewa Agung Perdana (guitar), Andro Yopi (bass), Arie Kurniawan (sax), Jonathan Dangawa (drums), and the lovely Damaris De Fretes and Tia Muller supplying the vocals.
In terms of music-making, everyone is bringing their own distinctive groove to the table. “It’s an ‘old-school’ way of making music,” Sondhy said. “I might create three intros and then have the other members contribute to the song.” A far cry, added the Indonesian Institute of the Arts-graduate Dangawa, “from today’s tendency of writing music through a computer program.”
“And I think it’s good that we all have a base in jazz music because now it’s part of our lifestyle,” said Perdana, a seasoned session player who started his career with Balawan. “We have that improvisational spirit.”
Though some of the band members are new to the game they certainly possess the poise to have a go: Dangawa is a firecracker drummer; De Fretes and Muller have a sultry presence, as well as a knack for lyric-writing and vocals to boot; while Kurniawan, Yopi, and Perdana have that prerequisite showmanship fit for the stage.
And, of course, there’s Erik Sondhy (nicknamed Mister Finger), a veteran of the Bali music scene and a regular in Ryoshi’s House of Jazz as part of the Rio Sidik Quartet. His imprint in music dates back more than a decade, and in 2016, he released his solo piano album titled London Blues which he recorded at the legendary Abbey Road studio—the place where his all-time favorite band, The Beatles, churned out all those iconic records.
He assured that Vaha will be consistent in creating original music. “We don’t want to fall into the trap of a ‘café band’, where they rarely make something original,” he said. “We want to be 80 percent original, and 20 percent cover songs. And we hope that we could follow the route of indie bands in Bali who are able to tour across Indonesia playing their music.”
Next up: into the studio they go to create their first single in June. And each of them can’t wait for the creative process to start pouring in.
“I think we all have strong characters that complement each other,” said Muller.
“And we can build ‘soul’ with it,” added Maluku-born De Fretes.
“But the most important thing is it’s all about chemistry,” said Sondhy. “When you form a band, you’re also creating a family.”
Can’t wait for the next family gathering.
You can catch Vaha live at Ryoshi on June 16 but follow their social media account (@vaha_band) to check out where Vaha will perform next.

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