The Jakarta Post
Indonesian Grammy nominee pianist Joey Alexander was among the performers at the 2018 Asian Games opening ceremony on Saturday.
After flying in from New York, where he currently resides, the musician played “Gending Sriwijaya”, a well-known South Sumatra song, mesmerizing the audience at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, Central Jakarta, as well as TV viewers.
After the opening ceremony euphoria, The Jakarta Post sat down with Joey at The Dharmawangsa hotel in South Jakarta on Monday.
Wearing a pink shirt, Joey seemed relaxed when he met us, shaking hands with a smile. As we strolled down a hotel hallway, we could not help but praise his performance at the Games.
“It took me at least one week to really get used to the song and how to rearrange the music,” said Joey during the interview, admitting that he had never heard the song before.
Joey said it was not easy to turn “Gending Sriwijaya” into a jazz song. “It’s a bit different from traditional style,” said the Bali-born musician.
“I think the melody itself is beautiful. I just tried to make it connect with the people listening. I tried to stay close to the melody and have my own arrangement of the song,” he said.
When asked if he planned to do a similar thing to other Indonesian songs, Joey replied that he was currently focusing on playing his original compositions.
“This one was really important for me to play for my country. [They wanted me to play traditional music and] I was happy to do it,” he said.
The 15-year-old musician composed six out of the 11 songs on his new album Eclipse, which was released in May.
“Now I have more compositions to share, for people to listen to,” he said, explaining that every album he released was special as he had the opportunity to collaborate with amazing musicians.
Joey is no stranger to collaboration. For Eclipse, he collaborated with Reuben Rogers, Eric Harland and Joshua Redman.
Although the musicians are older than him, Joey felt that they could communicate through music.
“Because in music I believe there’s no age [it’s not how old you are], color or where you come from. Music is, for me, about speaking the language,” he said.
The album received positive reviews. Jazz Weekly mentioned that Eclipse was by far Joey’s best album yet.
Joey said although everything was important, he does not really pay much attention to reviews.
For Joey, the most important thing is that the audience feels joy upon hearing his music.
“It’s really a blessing to have people enjoy the music and [people] feel joy after listening to the music. For me that’s like a review. My friends and I are happy when we hear that people enjoy the music,” he said.
Following the release of his new album, Joey also shared that he has a few performances coming up.
“The big one [will be] in New York City, in Rose Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center,” he said, excitedly sharing that it would be the first time that strings would play his compositions.
“The [string part] will be written [and conducted] by Richard DeRosa, a Grammy-nominated arranger and conductor. I think it will be interesting to see that,” he said, adding that show will be in October. (kes)