Tohpati Ario Hutomo (a.k.a. Bontot) was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, on 25 July 1971. His musical journey, especially guitar, started when he was still in fourth grade. His interest in the instrument appeared when he played with his uncle Herri’s guitar for the first time. Shortly thereafter, he began studying classical guitar.
Young and inspired, Tohpati often played all around Jakarta. He had already won the title of "Best Guitarist" at a band festival in Jakarta when he was just 14 years old. Four years after that, in 1989, he won another notable award of the Best Guitarist in the Java Jazz Festival -- a great honor for one still in is teens. The notoriety accompanying this award was key in Tohpati's music experience and development -- as his name began to be recognized, with more people taking notice of his extraordinary talents. Later that same year, he won another Best Guitarist title at the "Yamaha Band Explosion" show (a national show).
Tohpati was a fan of many popular rock groups during that era, such as Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Genesis, Yes, and The Police. During these early years as a player, he met Didi AGP and Dian HP, two great Indonesian musicians, and his interest in music continued to expand. They formed Tohpati's first group, ‘Splash Band’.
From that point, Tohpati began receiving more opportunities to record, as well as performing in Jazz Music Corner, on TVRI.
Continuing to expand his musical palette, he began listening to modern jazz music -- idolizing the works of Mezzoforte, Uzeb, Spyro Gyra, Kazumi Watanabe, and others.
Leaving his indelible footprints in the Indonesian jazz industry, in 1993, Tohapti joined Simak Dialog -- with Riza Arshad, Ari Ayunir, and Indro Hardjodikoro. Simak Dialog has five albums to date (and a sixth is expected to see release within the next several months): Lukisan; Baur; Trance/Mission; Patahan, and Demi Masa. They have performed in the renowned Petronas Building in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and have toured throughout the world.
Simak Dialog's last two albums (and the upcoming release) were recorded for MoonJune Records, finally accessing a true worldwide market for their music. During this period, their music has come to be highly regarded by many noted jazz and progressive music critics.
Tohpati's musical journeys led him to befriend Aminoto Kossin, the keyboardist of Karimata, who later would serve as the producer of his first two solo albums: "Tohpati" (1998), and "Serampang Samba" (2002). They were produced under the Sony BMG label. Eric Marienthal, Indra Lesmana, Glenn Fredly, Shakila, and other notable musicians were featured on these two albums.
The self-titled first solo album includes guest appearances by Shakila and Glenn Fredly, both celebrated Indonesian pop singers. To expand the audience for the album, Tohpati released two video clips of one of the songs, "Lukisan Pagi" -- a collaboration with Shakila. The video clip was a success, being widely viewed and propelling the song onto the pop charts in Indonesia.
His second solo effort, Serampang Samba, offered more instrumental hits. Quite different from its predecessor, the album featured only one song with vocals on the album, "Jejak Langkah Yang Kau Tinggal". (This was also the only song with a video production.) Serampang Samba also contained more traditional Indonesian music, with more acoustic guitars and Balinese elements. This release was clearly more idealist and progressive.
Always searching for new avenues of musical expression, 2005 saw Tohpati form Trisum, together with celebrated Indonesian guitarists Dewa Budjana and Iwayan Balawan. This trio of guitars -- supported by Sandy Winata (drummer) and Indro Hardjodikoro(bass), Saat Syah (suling) and Jalu Pratidina (ethnic percussion) -- made a live album, which was also recorded as a DVD, for the Sony BMG Music Entertainment label. Whenever their busy schedules permit, the legendary trio still perform in Indonesia.
In a great honor and tribute to his mastery, the world renowned progressive jazz legends, The YellowJackets (from Los Angeles, CA), performed at the 2010 Jakarta Jazz Festival, and featured Tohpati sitting in on guitar with the band for several songs. (They did a one-song recording session, which should appear on Tohpati's next album!)
It was an incredible performance that wowed both the band and audience, alike. (To view a YouTube performance video of one of the songs from the event, click here.)
Later in 2010, Tohpati released his first international album for MoonJune Records (released in Indonesia on Demajors Records) with his new band, TOHPATI ETHNOMISSION's "Save The Planet." A five-piece ensemble, Tohpati Ethnomission perfomed at "Virada Cultural" in Sao Paolo, Brasil (in 2011), the "Tong Tong Festival," in Denhag, and also in Berlin, in 2010.
Still on the Indonesian label Demajors Records, late 2011 saw the release of another album, TOHPATI BERTIGA's "Riot." The album also received international distribution through MoonJune Records, being released in Spring of 2012.
This is a power trio lineup, with Tohpati on guitar, Indro Hardjodikoro on bass and Bowo on drums. The band showcases the rockier, more uninhibited side of Tohpati's playing style. Stripped down to the bear essentials, this band blazes with wreckless abandon -- venturing to places few trios would have the daring or potential to achieve.
Some of his other more recent activities include producing for some of Indonesia’s top recording singers, and also serving as music director for various high-profile music events or Indonesian televised music show specials.
His status in the annuls of Indonesian music already secured, Tohpati remains one of the busiest, most diverse and accomplished musicians anywhere in the world today. With more projects in the works and others looming on the horizon, he should remain on the jazz world's radar for a long time to come.