the gentle grace of breathing out

traffic light ukelele kid - Jakarta, Indonesia

I’ve never been anywhere like Jakarta. Three hours from the airport to the little hotel around the corner from the studio – ten kilometres an hour through insane traffic. Thank God Reza met me at the airport, where I was awash in the heat, boys asking to shine my shoes, taxi drivers on the hustle. I feel like Paul Simon in ‘You can call me Al’.

The next morning we rehearse and write. It’s been ten years since we played together, though you wouldn’t know it. Reza’s timing is laid back, soulful and grooving – despite the fact he’s been playing in The Tomato – one of Indonesia’s legendary metal / stadium rock bands. Of course Didi locks in on bass. That’s when he’s not texting his ukelele playing girlfriend in Singapore. But always, his choices are strong, melodic, present. They both could have just come from a session with Roberta Flack.

Tiara arrives day two. She’s an alt-pop star in Indonesia with a voice somewhere between Billy Holiday, Zap Mama and Joni Mitchell. She’s uncertain, unknowing – having worked with Reza often, but never me, never Didi. We start singing together and writing – things will be just fine.

Days are punctuated with Indonesian coffee – Kopee susu – from the restaurant downstairs, bakery snacks, sudden ideas that we rush to sing into my Sony recorder. Nights are spent negotiating rain and dodging traffic, talking to studios in Jakarta. By the third day the chaos is even getting to the locals. We hatch a plan. There is a studio in Bandung, in the mountains a few hours out of Jakarta. We get the crazy hook up through a friend, find a house where we can stay, and the air is clearer there. It means more travel and juggling gear, but it also means space, some calm in the rush to get an album recorded in ten days.

Overwhelmed by beggars, cars, motorbikes, heat and squalling rain, I have the feeling that things will be ok if we can make it to the mountains. And I’m humbled by the fact we have a choice.

Get low f1 by eckleberg

Get Low – Yo Grabo¡

It’s hard to walk on the side of the streets
Broken pavement and scattered bones
I get low, I get low

I tied my laces together
but it made me move too slow
I get low, I get low

You can’t run away from everything
like a mangy yellow dog it follows
I get low, I get low

A mother with a wide eyed boy
fake plastic guitar for show
Walking through the traffic
with a lime green begging bowl
I get low, I get low
I get low, I get low

On the count of three I can jump,
I can jump clear

A cross dressing traffic light dancer
ukelele kid in dirty clothes
Kemang Bon Jovi covers band
a buzzing marketplace radio
I get low, I get low

Some inner rhythm in me
moves toward the mountains
the grace of breathing out
the relief of letting go
I get low, I get low
I get low, I get low

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