Guitarist, composer and producer Dewa Gede Budjana was born on 30 August 1963, in Waikabubak, West Sumba, Indonesia, in the region known as Bali. It is an area considered by those who know it to be a tropical paradise.
Dewa has established a solid body of work as a jazz artist on numerous solo albums (featuring a "who's who" list of current jazz luminaries), while also being the lead guitarist and songwriter of the Indonesian nationally-celebrated pop/rock band, Gigi. His fluidity and grace in both rock and jazz idioms has firmly established his position among the very elite guitarists in the world, as well, perhaps, Indonesia's most well-known and highly-regarded guitarist ever.
Dewa's journey as a musician started at the early age of eleven, when he bought his first guitar. His passion and talent for the instrument was further nurtured when the Balinese native moved to the city of Surabaya. During this period, his tendencies varied from jazz-rock to progressive music -- influenced by John McLaughlin of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Yes, Gentle Giant, ELP; and later by Keith Jarrett, Jan Garbarek, Chick Corea, Bill Frissell, Jeff Beck, Pat Metheny and Weather Report, as Dewa became steadily more drawn to jazz.
Both Dewa's intrepid experimentations -- blending jazz with traditional sounds -- and his hunger to pursue his gift were evident early on in his career. Upon graduation, Dewa aggressively pursued his dreams; making the decision to relocate to Jakarta, to further his musical ambitions and embark on a career. While there, Dewa met and was tutored by Indonesian jazz legend, Jack Lesmana, who introduced him to the principles and basics of jazz.
It was Jack Lesmana's son, Indra, who suggested to Dewa that he should become a session player. This period was the beginning of his first professional performances. It was a time which saw him become very busy, where Dewa was featured on "Isbandi in Telerama" -- a popular musical show broadcasted regularly on national TV.
Dewa Budjana first earned international fame and celebrity as the founding member of Gigi, in 1994. The band has released 24 albums to date, firmly establishing Gigi as one of the biggest, most successful pop rock bands in the region.
1997 marked the beginning of Budjana’s solo career with the release of "Nusa Damai," a recording of his early compositions from 1994 to 1997.
"Gitarku" (2000), with its meditative sounds, and "Samsara" (2003) -- in which Budjana collaborated with Grammy-awarding winning drummer, Peter Erskine, the late Dave Carpenter (bass) and Ernie Adams (drums) -- added to this body of work, with the latter of the two earning Dewa the "Best World Music Award," at Indonesia's Anugrah Music celebration, in 2002.
A tribute album to the Asian tsunami victims, "Home" (2006), was released in collaboration with Grammy-winning drummer Peter Erskine, the late Dave Carpenter, and Reggie Hamilton.
A deep belief in harmony through music is reflected in Budjana’s frequent interfaith collaborations with his band Gigi and other artists. His vision for peace through the universal language of music led to the creation of the Nyanyian Dharma Foundation. Through this foundation, and with the collaboration of numerous artists, Budjana produced three albums of music and song inspired by Hindu philosophies.
In addition to his considerable talents as a player and composer, Dewa is also an accomplished producer -- a role which began with the release of his first solo album, "Nusa Damai," in 1997, and continued with guitarist Balawan's album, "Globalism," the following year.
The common thread connecting his body of solo works is the merging of multiple musical elements: incorporating jazz, pop, rock and traditional sounds, producing music that is personal and intimate in its delivery -- beautifully melodic, rich in harmony, and universal in its appeal.
With the release of his solo fifth album, "Dawai in Paradise," Dewa introduced new compositions and revisited earlier ones, all in contemplation of his musical journey thus far. The album included collaborations with: Peter Erskine, once again; multi-instrumentalist Howard Levy; the renowned Indonesian jazz keyboardist and producer, Indra Lesmana; his Indonesian contemporary, celebrated pianist Ade Irawan, and; the late legendary jazz bassist, Dave Carpenter, among others.
With the aim of capturing original jazz interpretations of Dewa Budjana’s compositions by American jazz greats, his sixth solo album, "Joged Kahyangan" (translated: "Dances of Heaven") was recorded on June 7, 2012, at Firehouse Recording Studios, in Pasadena, CA. It was released in April of 2013. This was a "live in the studio" recording -- once again guided by the organic rhythms, graceful nuance and true musical artistry of modern jazz icons Peter Erskine (drums), Bob Mintzer (sax), Jimmy Johnson (bass), and Grammy-nominated Larry Goldings (piano).
Joged Kahyangan captures the colors, warmth and fluidity of Budjana's music in moments of open interpretation, free of mechanical structure. It is an intimate, honest rendering whose technical brilliance never imposes on the friendly chemistry evident with the group, and individual soloists carefully temper their efforts in subtle reverance and subordination to the beauty and sanctity of the corporate music moments being created. Among the many highlights featured on the album was a song recorded in June 2012, "As You Leave My Nest," with lyrics and vocals by Grammy-winning artist Janis Siegel, of the Manhattan Transfer.
In August 2013, Dewa Budjana applied his creative genius in a new direction -- releasing a book featuring his extensive collection of painted guitars, by various renowned Indonesian painters. These masterpieces will eventually be on display in his guitar museum, Museum Gitarku, the first in Indonesia. The museum will be located in Payogan Ubud, Bali. (For more information on the museum and its grand opening in 2015, please visit http://museumgitarku.com/)
In March of 2014, Dewa released his seventh solo album, "Surya Namaskar." The release was essentially a "power trio" album, uniting the renowned music legends Vinnie Colaiuta, on drums, and Jimmy Johnson, on bass. The collaboration was a true departure from all of his previous works, highlighting a more powerful, prominent role for Budjana's guitar work -- eschewing his previous album's 'group tapestry' approach for a more powerful, direct, "balls to the wall" delivery. The results were potent and dynamic, with Dewa's fretwork taking center stage and the freestyle freight train tandem of Colaiuta and Johnson pushing him to new heights. The album drew rave reviews from critics around the globe.
The year 2015 offers yet more revealing details of Budjana's complex musical persona. Late January saw the release of his eighth solo album, "Hasta Karma" -- an album which featured contributions from the Pat Metheny Unity Group battery of the uber-talented, prodigious Ben Williams on upright bass, and the otherworldly drumming of the great Antonio Sanchez, joined by the legendary NYC vibraphonist and veteran session man, Joe Locke, on vibes (with some wonderful contributions from Indonesian icon, Indra Lesmana, on keyboards, as well). The album is already drawing rave reviews, and has been hailed as a "modern jazz masterpiece."
This wonderful album's release coincided with Dewa's collaboration with yet more legendary musical figures, as that same month (January) saw Dewa return to the US to contribute to Dwiki Dharmawan's debut for MoonJune (to be released later in 2015), "Passion, Love, Life" -- a session that included fellow Indonesian guitar icon and MJR recording artist, Tohpati, supported by jazz / progressive greats, the magnificent Jimmy Haslip, on bass, and the phenomenal veteran drummer, Chad Wackerman. The recording took place in L.A. (The group reunitied in Indonesia in February, for a short but highly-touted series of dates, in support of the project.)
Immediately after the session in LA, Dewa flew to NY and headed to Woodstock, for two days of recordings at Jerry Marotta's Dreamland Studio, featuring: the incomparable jazz legend, Jack DeJohnette, on drums and piano; King Crimson alumnus, the great Tony Levin (on 5-string electric upright bass), and; Allan Holdsworth' and John McLaughlin's long-time iconic contributor, the ultra-talented Gary Husband (piano and drums). This monumental quartet was assembled for the first day's recordings; the second day saw Dewa streamline proceedings -- doing strictly trio work, with Tony remaining on his electric upright (and adding some Chapman Stick on several cuts, as well) and Gary Husband handling all of the duties on the drum kit.
The two days yielded two albums worth of fresh, invigorating material (to be release later in 2015, and early in 2016, respectively), and signaled still more new directions for Budjana as both a player and composer.
Never lacking in either ambition or vision, Dewa Budjana is a multi-talented artist who never sits still for very long!