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One dollar for music

Trisha Sertori, Contributor, Sanur, Bali | Sat, 01/08/2011 11:17 AM | Entertainment

Music for all: A group made up of mainstream school dropouts create their own music on devised instruments. Courtesy of One Dollar For Music

Music for all: A group made up of mainstream school dropouts create their own music on devised instruments. Courtesy of One Dollar For MusicOn many a street corner young Indonesian kids strum out chords on rough cat-gut guitars, others tap out a beat on homemade drums while brave souls step up on vocals.

Rarely do any of these kids have formal musical training, but they do often have raw talent, according to One Dollar For Music (ODFM) founder in Holland, Raoul Wijffels, who wants to close the “gap”  between this  natural talent and careers in music.

“What I am seeing is a gap between this young talent and professional artists. The talent seems to get lost on the way,” said Raoul last Saturday during a gig at Indus Restaurant in Ubud, showcasing developing bands from ODFM in Bali.

Raoul, a former lecturer at Rotterdam’s Music Conservatory within the University of Rotterdam, established ODFM in 2007 as a center where young musicians could get that training.

“Since then, more than 15,000 people have visited our events and festivals and in July 2010 the foundation was awarded as ‘Best Movement’ by Rolling Stone magazine Indonesia,” says Raoul.

“ODFM started as an idea when I was lecturing at the Rotterdam University of Music. My philosophy was always to look ahead — there is no point educating kids of 12 years of age in the music of today, but instead of the music of the society of the future. As a classically trained pianist at high school I wanted to impress the girls, so I played pop and jazz, not classical music.”

In action: Lead singer for Emergency Exit, Zinith, (center front) sings her composition, Happy Sunday, during a gig for the young artists of One Dollar for Music at Indus restaurant in Ubud.JP/J.B. DjwanIn action: Lead singer for Emergency Exit, Zinith, (center front) sings her composition, Happy Sunday, during a gig for the young artists of One Dollar for Music at Indus restaurant in Ubud.JP/J.B. DjwanHe explains Holland has a long tradition of access to all who wish to study music and he found himself some years ago questioning access to musical education in developing nations.

“I thought it would be a good idea to start something in a country without a lot of music schools: Indonesia. I discovered in the first two weeks of being here a huge amount of talent, but I did not see that talent on stage. There was a gap between the potential of young talent and the outcome on the professional stage. These kids are very talented, but they don’t get a chance, so I set up this foundation to give these kids an opportunity to achieve something in their lives,” says Raoul.

ODFM has to date released four musical compilation CDs free of charge through ANTIDA Music Productions and has seen its earliest group No Stress go from a backyard band to regular work in the music industry.

Through ODFM, young musicians have access to qualified voice, instrumental and technical sound education, allowing them to have their raw talent mentored by professionals from the backyard to the big stage; an opportunity to build careers by exploring and developing their own creativity.

“We help establish infrastructure for their creative development, cultural identity through emphasizing young, hidden talent. This means young people can have access to musical education or at least guidance. They have these voices you hear today without professional voice coaching — with that coaching they can reach international level. Every professional needs a coach, so that’s what we do through a mentoring system,” says Raoul.

ODFM is already paying off for many of the 1,200 young musicians who have worked with the foundation.

The three bands playing Saturday, Ultra Men, D’Kantin and Emergency Exit were quite simply outstanding. Lead vocalist with Ultra Men, Apri, has a high tenor set of vocal chords that hit top notes flawlessly, but his voice has that gravel that informs the listener this is a young man, not a woman with a great voice at the microphone; there is an almost wailing quality that brings to the love songs written by the band a quality that rips at heartstrings.

“Yes he has a great voice, but it is still untrained. Voice comes from the stomach, the chest and the head. Apri is singing from the head at the moment,” explains Raoul.

From the band Emergency Exit, Zinith sings with a Billie Holliday swing — her singing is effortless, her vocals float out above the backing of a great band as she sings her own composition, Happy Sunday.

This writing of their own material is another dimension in ODFM’s philosophy and these young people are taking to this like ducks to water writing a finished song almost every week.

Future of music: Band members from D’Kantin, Ultra Men and Emergency Exit with Dutch founder of One Dollar for Music, former music lecturer at the Rotterdam University of Music, Raoul Wijffels (second from left).JP/J.B.DjwanFuture of music: Band members from D’Kantin, Ultra Men and Emergency Exit with Dutch founder of One Dollar for Music, former music lecturer at the Rotterdam University of Music, Raoul Wijffels (second from left).JP/J.B.Djwan“I have been with One Dollar for Music for three months now. I am the new baby to the group. I am discovering how to sing well, I am discovering the techniques behind singing. I am learning how to take a breath, I love the theory of singing,” says Zinith who has written poetry for some time and is now putting her words to music.

Members of D’Kantin, the third group in the lineup, met at Udayana University’s art school, ISI (Institute Seniman Indonesia) in Denpasar a couple of years ago and have been studying with ODFM for the past two years.

“They are like The Beatles – they have that same story. They met in the canteen of ISI. And when you look at their music you again see the same story. The Beatles wrote simple songs, but there is a deep meaning underneath. These boys have that same quality,” says Raoul.

D’Kantin writes most of their own music, working together on the melodies that are upbeat, often in Indonesian and truly great.

But these young musicians are not just studying and playing to develop their own careers; as part of ODFM they visit schools across Bali, hosting workshops and sharing their knowledge.

“All the bands do this. They visit any school that is interested in support for practical music lessons.

The Indonesian national curriculum for music and arts is based mainly in theory. ODFM’s coaches provide the practical workshops in music education,” Raoul explains.

Growing fame has not dampened No Stress’s desire to share musical knowledge. “They visit villages and will set up 30 bottles of liquid with different tunings for the kids to play. You can hear this on the third song by No Stress, Mau Apa? on our recent CD Young Sounds of Bali. It is incredible. And this is how all these bands are when it comes to sharing. When you ask are they ready to go into schools to host workshops — they all say yes! This is based on the idea of developing their professionalism and they all say ‘Yes!’ to being able to help out the next generation of musicians,” says Raoul.