Boi Akih
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Boi Akih

Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands | MAJOR

Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands | MAJOR
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"'European Jazz Nights Oslo, January 2009"

The Dutch duo 'Boi Akih' were of especially high artistic quality and a
stylish delight with the unique voice of vocalist Monica Akihary who
has roots and languages from the Moluccan Islands in Indonesia. With
her husband, guitarist and composer Niels Brouwer, she created a magic
hour with pure acoustic music based on a fascinating tapestry of folk
music, contemporary sounds and improvisation.
Most of the music can be found on the duo's cd 'Yalelol' from 2007,
which was reviewed in Jazznytt in February 2008. It was all
captivating, each minimalistic expression by either guitar or voice, or
wave in unison, every incomprehensible word, every sound variation in
Akihary's great vocal vocabulary from both nature and art, each crisp
or subtle phrase on Brouwers guitar, every gentle expression (such as
in ' Salo au') and every powerful discharge (such as in 'Potu lotu
Potu')from this perfectly attuned duo would make Charlie Parker long to
come back to life.

Through a movingly pure musical journey we experienced all the
essential element of being human. The Boi Akih duo are world-class and
an artistic antidote to the din with which we are surrounded in the
world of today.'
- Jazznytt april 2009 by Bjarne Søltoft

"Moluccan princess and her merry men enchant"

Jazz-loving Jakartans were treated to a truly magical evening at Erasmus Huis, Kuningan, on Thursday as Boi Akih filled the amphitheatre with vibrant melodies and rhythms.

The performance artfully blended singer Monica Akihary's soaring vocals with guitarist Neils Brouwer's elegantly daring compositions, and boasted a range of influences from Moluccan folk songs to European classical music.

The Netherlands-based band also included Eric Calmes on bass guitar, Owen Hart Jr on drums and Maarten Ornstein on saxophone and clarinet.

Akihary and Brouwer, who are partners in life as well as music, constitute the heart of Boi Akih (or "Princess Akih", in the language spoken on the Indonesian island of Haruku, part of the Moluccan archipelago), which, since 1996, has performed in a range of setups, from duo to six-piece band. Thursday's quintet was the debut of this particular incarnation of Boi Akih.

The free event was organized by Erasmus Huis, which also brought Boi Akih to Jakarta last year for the Jakarta Jazz Festival. Today they will be performing at Taman Budaya Provinsi Maluku in Ambon, a surprise gig for the city's birthday celebrations, followed by a workshop and concert in Bandung on Sept. 9.

"We felt it was time to bring them back to Ambon, where their music originated from," said Paul J. A. M. Peters, counselor for press and cultural affairs and director of Erasmus Huis.

While they are best known in their homeland, where they are regular performers at Amsterdam's legendary jazz hotspot Bimhuis, Boi Akih has a deeply intertwined history with Indonesia.

Akihary's father was born on Haruku, a small island next to Ambon, which led her to develop the rare ability to write and sing in the near-extinct Harukan language. Its soft vowels and melodic syllables complement her warm vocals, allowing her to showcase her magnificent range, the most distinct feature of Boi Akih's dynamic sound.

Twenty years ago, Akihary and Brouwer visited Indonesia for the first time, to study in Asri, Yogyakarta, which furthered their joint interest in traditional Indonesian music. Boi Akih's Moluccan heritage came full circle in 2006, when they performed for thousands at the New Year's Eve celebrations in Ambon, at the Lampangan Merdeka.

Over the course of Thursday's performance, Boi Akih relentlessly enthralled the crowd of hundreds, creating a colorful, emotionally diverse universe, featuring a dozen or so numbers from Boi Akih's three most recent albums, Uwai i (2004), Lagu Lagu (2005) and Yalelol (2007), which boasted Harukan, Moluccan-Malayan, Indonesian and English lyrics.

The set included traditional Moluccan folk songs from the 1920s to 1940s that were rearranged by Brouwer, as well as wholly original compositions, all of which reflected Boi Akih's fascination with Indonesian culture past and present, and desire to live harmoniously with the environment.

The barefoot Akihary, clad in a flowing dress, immediately beguiled the audience in Indonesian before opening the show with a soulful Harukan number. She used her voice as an instrument, smoothly traveling from husky tones to notes of dazzling clarity, chasing her sounds with her hands, as if to extend her range even further.

"Although I don't understand the words, the music touches my heart. It's something in *Monica's* voice, her personality," said Dirk de Jong, communications officer for the Netherland-based IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre based in the Netherlands, and Akihary and Brouwer's neighbor for 14 years.

He is traveling with the band and documenting the tour on

Despite the power of Akihary's vocals, she never overpowered her band mates. Her voice wrapped around the instruments, following some notes and elevating others. The romantic and musical chemistry between Akihary and Brouwer was in full force, as each intuitively responded to the other's stylings.

Although it was the first time for this particular lineup comprising Calmes, Hart Jr and Ornstein, the improvised interplay between the instruments was organic, and each performer had the opportunity to let loose and take center stage in thrilling solos. Drummer Hart Jr, the newest Boi Akih collaborator, drew particular admiration with his exuberant beats and outgoing manner, dousing himself with water after a particularly frenetic sequence.

Akihary never forgot the audience either, always responding to the mood, whether Boi Akih inspired delight, laughter or even tears. Many of the audience members found themselves unavoidably tapping and nodding to the funkier numbers, and took little encouragement to join in when Akihary extended an invitation to sing along on the final song.

When the night ended, the audience gave Boi Akih a standing ovation. Peters presented the band with Erasmus gifts and they responded in kind with a newly printed Boi Akih T-shirt.

The evening won Boi Akih new devotees. Wini Andreini, a Telco business analyst, first heard of Boi Akih when she learned of the event via a colleague's mailing list. After Googling them and watching their videos on YouTube, she knew she had to see them live.

"I never knew that there were such Indonesian songs that could be sung in this way," she said.

Boi Akih are likely to return to Indonesia in October, for the Ambon Jazz Plus Festival. They are also working on a new album, soon to be released by a German label. A special edition of their Lagu Lagu CD has recently been released in Indonesia and can be purchased from
- The Jakarta Post by Sara Veal 09/05/2009

"Wertung: "Genial""

Boi Akih Yalelol (Enja)

"Boi Akih", das heißt übersetzt "Prinzessin Akih". So nennt sich die
musikalische Formation von Sängerin Monica Akihary und Gitarrist Niels
Brouwer. Akihary kam in den Niederlanden zur Welt, ist molukkischer
Abstammung und singt in der Muttersprache ihres Vaters, der Sprache der
Insel Haruku. Diese gilt Sprachforschern als aussterbend und wird nur noch
von ein paar tausend Menschen gesprochen und verstanden. Niels Brouwer ist
Absolvent des Amsterdamer Konservatoriums. Beide studierten für ein Jahr
zusammen in Bangalore klassische südindische Musik. ,Yalelol', der Titel
ihres Albums, bezeichnet "das nichtkörperliche Wesen". Brouwer spielt eine
zuweilen präparierte Konzertgitarre von Ellio Martina. Und er macht das ohne
jeden überflüssigen Ton, begleitend, dann wieder unisono mit der Sängerin in
punktgenauen melodischen linien und ausgefallenen rhythmischen Strukturen.
Monica Akiharys Stimme ist ein dunkler Alt, der an glatt geschliffenes Holz
erinnert. Was beide musikalisch gemeinsam anstellen, ist eine so noch nie
gehörte Verbindung von Jazz, moderner klassischer Musik, Experimentalmusik,
indonesischer Gametanmusik und indischer Musik. Es braucht möglicherweise
ein wenig Zeit, sieh darauf einzustimmen. Was dann folgt, ist jedoch eine
ungewöhnliche Hörerfahrung von großer Schönheit: Avantgardeklänge von einem
fernen Inselstrand, Liedverse, deren uns nicht verständlichen Worten (im
Beiheften übersetzt) man dank ihres schönen Sprachklangs sehr gerne lauscht.
Thomas Kraus
- Akustik Gitarre, Thomas Kraus 2/2008


- 1997 Boi Akih (Invitation Records/ EMI 1997)
- 2000 Above the Clouds, Among the Roots (AL73205 A-Records 2000)
- 2003 Uwa i (ENJ-9472 2 Enja records 2004)
- 2005 Lagu Lagu (BROMO 0001 boiakih 2005)
- 2007 Yalelol (ENJ-9487 2 Enja Records 2007)




Guitarist and composer Niels Brouwer and vocalist Monica Akihary are the core of Boi Akih, which began in 1996. The duo has developed a distinctive repertoire for the ensemble, one in which cultural roots - musical traditions from the Moluccas, Sunda and Bali, Dutch (European) jazz and improvised music, classical Indian music and traditional African music - form the basis for composition, free improvisation and text. Boi Akih has grown into an ensemble with a striking sound and its very own unmistakable musical idiom.
The search for its ‘own’ roots has led to Boi Akih’s unique sound. Sound exploration, compositional forms, improvisation and performance have been essential facets from the very beginning. The development of Monica Akihary’s and Niels Brouwer’s distinctive vocal and guitar styles have given sounds and elements from various musical traditions a new meaning within the national an international music world. The French press, reviewing the CD Uwa I, wrote, ‘ The combination of European, Indian and Indonesian cultures on the one hand with jazz on the other, gives Boi Akih a sound and colour unique in the current musical landscape.’ The German press is also full of praise for the innovations: ‘four musical world views that groove convincingly, but also a new concept of cultural symbiosis through improvisation.’ No surprise then that in France Uwa I was chosen as the year’s best world jazz CD.

In 1998 the linguistic community hailed Brouwers and Akihary’s texts as a phenomenon. While Boi Akih’s music subtly refers to Moluccan roots, it is above all through language that Akihary honours her heritage. She writes and sings in her father’s native language, regarded as moribund by the scientific world. Since 1998 Brouwer and Akihary have been working with Dutch and Australian linguists who study Haruku. With their help and support, Boi Akih not only keeps the tradition alive, but also employs the language in its most authentic form, poetic self-expression.
Since the release of its first CD, Boi Akih has made a big impression nationally and internationally at such leading (jazz) festivals and venues as BerlinJazz Fest, Jazz Sous Les Pommier, North Sea Jazz, Jazzkaar, Kaunas Jazz Fest, European Jazz Nights Oslo, Bray Jazz, Awesome Africa Music Fest, Kilkenny Arts Fest, GlattundVerkehrt, Das Konzert Haus , Jazzclub Unterfahrt, Bimhuis, Jazzclub Sunset, Festival Radio France et Montpelier, Theater Musee Quai de Branly, Pole Sud (Jazz D’or ) and Jazz Grenoble. Boi Akih has also appeared on diverse radio and TV programmes - VPRO - Reiziger in Muziek, Vrije Geluiden, France2 - Les mots et minuit, Radio France- Equinox, BBC – Charlie Gillet Show, ORF- RTL4 Barend en Van Dorp, etc.

The ensemble’s debut CD, the self-titled Boi Akih, appeared in 1997 and was very well received by the Dutch press. The general public made Boi Akih’s acquaintance through the VPRO TV programme Reiziger in Muziek. Since then the ensemble has been a steady fixture on the Dutch scene.
Brouwer and Akihary continued to inspire each other and made their first international step with the release of Uwa I on the renowned German world jazz label ENJA Records. ENJA Records and Boi Akih have a very special relationship, witness the worldwide release of Uwa I and its successor Yalelol by ENJA. The CD’s have been enthusiastically received by public and press alike. Dutch newspapers The Volkskrant and the Parool, and the magazine Jazz, all chose Yalelol as best world jazz CD of 2007.

1997 Boi Akih (Invitation Records/ EMI 1997)
2000 Above the Clouds, Among the Roots (AL73205 A-Records 2000)
2003 Uwa i (ENJ-9472 2 Enja records 2004)
2005 Lagu Lagu (BROMO 0001 boiakih 2005)
2007 Yalelol (ENJ-9487 2 Enja Records 2007)

'duo 'Boi Akih' created a magic hour with pure acoustic music based on a fascinating tapestry of folk music, contemporary sounds and improvisation. Through a movingly pure musical journey we experienced all the essential elements of being human. The Boi Akih duo is world-class and an artistic antidote to the din with which we are surrounded in the world of today.' (Jazznytt 09 N)

'this is a trio in total control of its musical environment and its strength lies in the musical empathy between the three musicians.' (All About Jazz 09)

Boi Akih gave an earthy concert, alive and vibrating, complex and calming. You feel that the artists bring out the best in each other; it’s tangible, almost material. (DNA 09 F)

'Boi Akih relentlessly enthralled the crowd of hunderds, creating a colorful, emotionally diverse universe.The barefoot Akihary immediatly beguiled the audience. She used her voice as an instrument, smoothly traveling from husky tones to notes of dazzling clarity. Despite the power of Akihary’s vocals, she never overpowered her band mates. Her voice wrapped around the instruments, flowing some notes and elevating others.