Massada (latin-rock band)

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Not to be confused with Masada (band).

Massada is a Dutch-Moluccan band named after the Jewish town long besieged by the Romans. The members combine their Moluccan heritage with Latin-percussion rhythms. The line-up has changed through the years with singer/percussionist Johny Manuhutu being the sole constant member.

Biography[edit]

Early years[edit]

Johnny Manuhutu (1949, Cirebon, Java) grew up with his brothers Eppy and Jopie in a converted deportation camp in Huizen, halfway Amsterdam and Hilversum. He was exposed to a musical diet of Nat King Cole, Perry Como, soul and Santana. In 1963 he formed a band with other boys from the camp including bass-player Usje Sabandar. The Eagles mainly performed at Moluccan weddings and discos. With the arrival of New Guinea-born guitarist Chris Latul, Johnny switched to vocals and percussion.

Name-change[edit]

In 1973, when their US-namesakes started having hits in Europe, the Eagles re-christened themselves to Massada; a well-chosen decision. Johnny told Aloha-magazine in 2004: "I looked to Israel as an example of a small country fighting the hostile neighbour; that's exactly how we felt". By this time Eppy Manuhutu (drums) and Zeth Mustamu (percussion) joined the band; Nino Latuny (guitar) and Frans Eschauzier (keys) were later additions.

The hard-gigging Massada (five to six times a week) invested their earnings in a PA-system, recruited Jopie as one of the roadcrew-members and took a manager. Johnny refers to Joke Zonneveld as "a B" due to her no nonsense-attitude. "She could be tough but she's been good to us".

Breakthrough[edit]

On 26 February 1975 music monthly Oor staged an unsigned bands' evening at the Amsterdam Paradiso. Massada, temporarily augmented by in-demand percussionist Nippy Noya, grabbed the most attention and were offered a record contract; they turned it down because "We're not ready yet". Noya left in 1976 but remained available for guest-appearances.

Massada's rise to the top coincided with rebellious actions by Moluccans who were disappointed that their independence from Indonesia failed to materialise after more than 25 years; hijacking trains, taking school children hostage. Pro-RMS though they were, Massada disapproved said actions but inevitably paid the price by seeing several gigs cancelled in case hell would break loose. But in other places they were given the opportunity to explain what was going on, even though the subject would haunt them for years to come.

First two albums[edit]

Finally Massada found a record company that respected their artistic freedom, and in 1978 they released their debut album. Astaganaga contained songs in English, Spanish and Indonesian and drew comparisons to Santana; however, critics regretted the "wafer-thin production". The band themselves dismissed the Latin rock-tag in favour of the more melodic percussion rock.

Astaganaga spawned the top 40 hits Latin Dance and Dansa (Don't Quit Dancing) and was certified gold. By now, Massada were pop-mag fixtures and on 28 December 1978 they appeared at the Hitkrant Awards to collect a trophy and to liven up the after-party

In May 1979 Massada released their second album. Pukul Tifa had a stronger Moluccan flavour (RMS-themed lyrics included) and a less commercial appeal. On the sleeve-cover the band posed as Native Americans, a recurring subject in their heyday photo-sessions. Three singles were lifted; the Latul-written instrumental Arumbai, Unknown Destination and Feeling Lonely (the one vocal track).

Highlight of the year was a performance at the Pinkpop Festival with a horn section and backing singers added to the mix. Backstage the boys found himself playing football with Mick Jagger who was flown in to make a guest-appearance during Peter Tosh' set but only to withdraw himself at the last minute due to broken promises. Massada themselves nearly did likewise because there was not enough space left on the revolving stage where headliner Rush had stored their instruments. "There we were bickering with the organisation and Rush's management to move their gear to the back ... but we managed to talk it out".

The same could not be said of Latul, Sabandar and Eschauzier who were evicted from the band. Confronted with this touchy subject Johnny told Aloha: "(It) wasn't a case of 'let's-kick-out-the-unwanted-players-and-move-on'. It really struck me, also because I'm viewed on as the bad guy. Every band has its weakest links; (verbally) lesser gifted musicians who bond together to get things done. And rather than single out the main offender we decided to drop them all". Replacements were found in Rudy de Queljoe (guitar; formerly of Brainbox), Turu Leerdam (bass: formerly of stable-mates Vitesse), Walter Sell (keys) and hornmen Peter Kuyt (trumpet) and Jan Stam (sax).

Number 1 hit[edit]

In 1980 Massada issued their third album Pusaka which included Sajang E, a collaboration with a women and children's choir recorded for a Veronica-broadcast documentary. By popular demand it was released on single and topped the Dutch charts for weeks; proceeds being donated to Oxfam Netherlands. Apart from a few television appearances (playback) it was never performed live because it didn't fit in with the band's trademark songs, and an offer to record an album full of Indonesian songs was turned down as well.

The success of Sajang E spread out to other countries, ensuring some European dates.

The lean years[edit]

Latuny left in June 1981, after the release of Massada Live; Rudy de Queljoe was now the sole guitarist. Because of the line-up changes, Massada headed for a new direction. This resulted in Baru (New Life; hence the sleeve portraying a pregnant woman's body), the first album without Indonesian songs. The Santana-comparisons were gone, but so did the fans who couldn't feel the funky Latin vibes, and even within the band there were confused faces. Mustamu (whose conga-playing was relegated to a supporting role), Kuyt, Stam and Sell left early 1982.

The 'Baru'-tour continued with Martino Latupeirissa (percussion) and Lino Emerencia (keys). The record company wanted to release Tomorrow Has Its Own Sorrow (sung by guest vocalist Lisa Boray) but this was quickly withdrawn as a non-Johnny-led Massada would cause further alienation.

1983 kickstarted a lean period; plans for a three-month tour of Indonesia were cancelled due to "dodgy bank-insurances" rather than a change of government. Instead of working on a new album, Massada recorded Surat Kaleng as the theme song for television series Briefgeheim (starring a 16-year-old Leontine Borsato). Having finally foud a new record-label, Massada released a cover-version of Loggins & Messina's hit Vahevala by late 1985. Its failure reach the top 40 meant that they weren't allowed to record a new album.

By now family-life and side-projects gradually took over from Massada. Latupeirissa left in 1988 and recorded a solo-single (Love Wave) before playing with other bands. New contract offers were turned down because there was no new material in the pipeline. With plans for a 1990 comeback-single not happening, Massada seemed to be laid to rest.

The comeback[edit]

In 1995 Johnny married his longtime girlfriend; live music was courtesy of a group of fans who did a set of Massada-classics, thus sowing the seeds for the Massada Revival Band fronted by the man himself. After a few months worth of gigging, Johnny decided to form a proper Massada again and asked Jopie to play percussion. They were joined by Jan Jeremias (guitar/vocals), Justian (keys/vocals) Richard Tamaela (bass), Njong Louhenapessy (drums/vocals) and Dwight Muskita (percussion).

The new semi-professional Massada played their first gig in 1997 at The Hague's Pasar Malam Besar (a major event celebrating Indonesian culture); two years later they made several television-appearances including RTL 4's live-music programme De Vrienden van Amstel. The band played their own songs as well as backing former Frizzle Sizzle-vocalist Laura Vlasblom.

In 2000 the Manuhutu brothers and Jeremias recruited James Sabandar (bass), Chanelsy Moniharipon (percussion) and Steven van Gestel (drums). Lino Emerencia temporarily returned. This line-up appeared in 2001 at a Moluccans' benefit following the islands' internal conflict (which prompted Johnny to cancel his first-ever homeland trip). Moniharipon left in 2003 due to other commitments.

On 27 June 2004 Massada (featuring Jan Peter Strater on drums) celebrated their netto 25th anniversary by taping a concert DVD at the Graaf Wichman, Huizen. Rudy de Queljoe and Nippy Noya (now teaching Latin and other percussion at the Conservatory of Enschede) came round for a couple of songs. The DVD was launched on 18 March 2005 at the local Club Silverdome with Alwin Manuhuwa as the new sticksman.

De Queljoe and Noya are full-time members again since 2006, the year Massada also welcomed keyboard-player Wolfgang Roggekamp. In March they finally went to Indonesia to play four shows in Jakarta, including the Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival (basically Indonesia's answer to North Sea Jazz) as part of a Moluccan showcase. Jeremias temporarily left in 2007; Roggekamp was replaced in 2008 by Emerencia.

In January 2009 Massada joined forces with (reformed) contemporaries New Adventures, Powerplay, Urban Heroes and Livin' Blues XPerience for the 'Dutch Rock Nights Tour' in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. In October they returned to Indonesia for two shows on Ambon.

On June 17, 2011 Massada staged a one-off Astaganaga-concert at the Paradiso.

On 25 August 2012 they'll be playing two shows, including an afternoon-slot at Pinkpop Classic.

Massiada: we're still here[edit]

Asked why he didn't reform the original line-up, Johny told Aloha: "It ain't no use looking back; let the bygones be the bygones. I'm glad to see the dust settled, but I'm not interested in going through the motions for a few gigs".

  • Chris Latul released a solo-album in 1981 with contributions from Eschauzier, Sabander and Noya. In the early '90s he enjoyed chart-success as part of De Groothandel.
  • Mustamu formed the short-lived Sambita with Kuy and Stam; he went on to pursue other projects (including Moluccan Moods) and a day-job as a preacher for the Moluccan Evangelical Church (following his social worker-years). Mustamu is still involved in music; in 2008 he launched Blue Pearl while a 2010 jam-session reunited him with Johnny and Noya.
  • Nino Latuny and Usje Sabander play(ed) in a variety of (Moluccan) cover-bands.

The four ex-members are now the core of Massiada (We're still here), a tribute-band playing songs by Massada and Santana as well as original material.