Friday, February 27, 2009

Global funk connections: Maliq N D'Essentials

Now let me get this out of the way first up. I like most things about South East Asia. Asian pop music is not one of them. And with my Indonesian heritage, I wish I could say I like Indonesian music. But as a general rule, I find Indo pop to be overly cheesy and guilty of trying a little too hard.

Indonesian band Maliq N D’Essentials are not immune to a little cheese now and then, but they make up for it with a well-crafted brand of neo-soul and jazz-inflected funk. Lead singer Angga has a smooth croon and falsetto that recalls Maxwell, and the band knows the value of a phat trumpet blast, a finely tuned rhythm section, fender rhodes keyboard, and jazzy guitar.

They sing in both Indonesian and English (sometimes on the same song), which makes me wonder what audience they’re aiming for; their English lyrics are generally ok but occasionally slip into a bizarre Asian take on black American slang. But that’s a small quibble; Indonesian pop, for all its cheesiness, relies on strong melodies and Maliq’s songs are no exception.

“Heaven” below is off their second album and has lyrics from both languages in the same song. A little odd perhaps. More important though is the fonky-ass bass-playing and wah-wah effects, which show that this band know their way around a groove better than most Asian outfits.

“Terdiam” is taken from Maliq’s debut, an album which was quite unlike anything previously heard in Indonesia (a lot of young Indonesians refer to this music as "jazz", and although it is slightly jazzy, it shows how little they know about soul music). This song is on a slightly more commercial tip – it kinda reminds me of boy-band pop, but not in a bad way.

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