Home » Events » Reak: Trance Music & Possession in West Java with performance by Arrington de Dionyso & Pezhham Akhavass | Second Act

Reak: Trance Music & Possession in West Java with performance by Arrington de Dionyso & Pezhham Akhavass | Second Act

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Date(s) - 03/30/2016
8:00 PM - 10:00 PM

Second Act


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More Information | $10 Advance, $12 Door | Beer & Wine available

  • A screening of Reak: Trance Music & Possession in West Java, 60min.
  • Directed by Arrington de Dionyso, 2016

A Very Special Live Performance

  • Arrington de Dionyso — voice, invented winds, flute
  • Pezhham Akhavass — tombak, daf

Filmed in November 2015 in a small village near Bandung, Indonesia, Reak brings the viewer immediately to the center of a Reak trance ceremony as it unfolds. The drums pound without pause as a group of adolescent boys dance, twist, and thrash about the inside circle, a strange integration of movements from “Pencak Silat” (Javanese Kung Fu style) and a punk rock mosh pit. They believe they are possessed by the spirits of natural forces. The intensity of the possession rises and falls throughout the ceremony as elders acting as “shamans” give exorcisms to heal the boys of their afflictions, while a smiling woman weaves in and out of the dancing youths, passing out snacks and water like a cheering Soccer Mom.

The film documents a rarely researched phenomenon within Indonesian culture, unknown even to many Indonesians. It also features a unique international collaboration between the artists of Reak Sanca Birawa and American self-taught musician Arrington de Dionyso (also of the groups Old Time Relijun, Malaikat dan Singa) bringing his free jazz-inspired bass clarinet playing to the ritual space in a way that is surprisingly seamless and natural, as if the guttural growls of his instrument only belonged there all along, providing the low-end counterpoint to the higher-pitched wail of the double reed Javanese “tarompet”.

Special thanks to the community of Reak Sanca Birawa without whose enthusiastic participation this work would not have been possible.

Pezhham Akhavass is a master percussionist, Global Music Director of San Francisco World Music Festival, and modern day virtuoso of the Persian percussive instruments Tombak — goblet drum, daf — frame drum. Known for a unique ability to grasp the technicalities of the tombak and for bringing a new approach to rhythm, he has been termed one of the most distinguished musicians of his generation.

Born in Iran, Pezhham began learning music theory and tombak at the age of 5 under the guidance of Ostad Naser Farhanghfar. He then continued his studies under Mr. Saeid Roudbary.

Since 2000, Pezhham has toured extensively, performing at most of the world’s prestigious festivals, events and concert halls – examples include: sold-out Silk Road project with YoYo Ma at Hollywood Bowl (LA), Kennedy Center (DC), Festival del Popolo (Italy), Théâtre de la Ville and Théâtre du Soleil (Paris), Fes Festival (Morocco) and featured percussionist of the massive Masters of Persian Music US Tour. Additionally, Pezhham has recorded with some of the giants in Persian music including Shahram Nazeri, Hossein Alizadeh, Aliakbar Moradi, Saeid Farajpouri, Hosein Omoumi and Masoud Shoari.

Stoker of psychic fire and punk-lifer Arrington de Dionyso has expanded rock and ethnomusic forms as leader of Old Time Relijun and Malakat Dan Singa. But most recently his obsession and devotion to low register wind instruments, circular breathing, throat singing and channelling human hum has taken him on a journey of instrument building and collecting, culminating in a string of performances and recording sessions in Indonesia late last year. Dig this cat who gigs in Java and blows jazz free with gamelans!

“Old Time Relijun’s front-man channels true folk sounds thru bass clarinet, snare drum, shruti box, and multiphonic voice. Arrington de Dionyso’s grand textural experiments are inspired by Indian classical music, Tuvan throat-singing, and free jazz.”
— Free Music Archive

Tonight’s performance will proudly present the debut duo exchange between these two virtuoso and dynamic improvisors – Pezhham creating endless cascades of rhythmic complexity on his bewildering tombak and hypnotic daf; Arrington throat-singing and blowing through his arsenal of bass clarinet, rare flutes from Sulawesi, Java, and Bali, as well as the “bromiophone” – a reed instrument of his own invention fashioned from PVC pipes.

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