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by Farah 'Fairy' Mahdzan (2 Feb 2006)

During the long Chinese/Islamic New Year holidays, quartet MOCCA of Bandung played Singapore and Kuala Lumpur in a series of non-stop road shows. They spent a week literally ‘ping-ponging’ between the two neighboring countries to play at various venues to promote their debut album, My Diary, which was independently released in Indonesia in 2003. Yes, indeed we are three years behind.

MOCCA’s music is heavily influenced by swing, liberally doused in a harmonic weave of creative melodies. We later find out that Arina the lead vocalist is an avid fan of the swing maestro, Frank Sinatra. Occasionally you'll hear a bit of jazz, bossa nova and samba strewn neatly around MOCCA's tunes. Their lyrics are in English and are simple yet meaningful. The music is so feel-good and chirpy that it’ll turn even the most sour of killjoys silly happy.

I attended two MOCCA gigs performed in KL:

1. At Jalan Telawi’s LaBodega café in Bangsar on Wednesday (25 Jan 2006) on official business

2. At Kuala Lumpur City Center, Petronas Twin Towers (1 Feb 2006) on a lazy whim with some Indonesian friends

MOCCA’s gig at LaBodega was a low-profiled affair in a very intimate café setting. Initially set to start at 9PM, the performance was delayed to 10PM. The short and succinct gig lasted just over 30 minutes, quickly making fans lust for more.

The band performed the following songs, pooling them from albums My Diary (2003) and Friends (2004):

1. I Would Never
2. What If
3. Lucky Man
4. I Remember
5. It’s Over Now
6. Buddy Zeus
7. Secret Admirer
8. Life Keeps on Turning (my favorite number)
9. Me and My Boyfriend

After listening to MOCCA performed, it is easy to agree that they sound vastly better ‘live’ then recorded - the experience is more sonically engaging and pleasant. Their recorded albums do not hold a candle to what the band actually sounds like 'live' - for some artists, this is indeed a rare and underrated trait.

A note to MOCCA: please record a 'live' album. People will love you for it!

I also liked that Indra (the drummer) played using brush techniques on a single drum barrel, lulling us all deeper into the lushness that is MOCCA music. A thundering full set drum would have been overkill for the small space that we were in.

Arina played the flute in the beginning of ‘What If,’ and at some point later broke into a bit of Malay speaking which I always find endearing when Indonesians do it.

“OK, sekarang saya nak cakap Melayu sikit, ya!” she cheekily says while locking her hands around her waist. “Karena sangat sulit sekali untuk saya ngomong Melayu!”

The petite vocalist also corrected the management of the café for mislabeling them as Jakartan band on their promotional chalk board downstairs: “We are not from Jakar-da, we are from Bandung! The capital city of West Java, just two hours away from Jakar-da,” drawled Arina amiably to the audience in near-perfect American accent.

(Iya deh, teh. :-))

Thirty minutes breezed by and it was time to close the curtains on MOCCA. They ended with 'Me and My Boyfriend,' but sadly did (or could?) not entertain the crowd’s plea for an encore. I was actually sorry to see them stop playing.

As people moved along and hurriedly dispersed (it was after all a working night), the band and their additional player retreated to their corner of the café for some drinks and to entertain queries from people who were smitten by their music and were growing rapidly interested in them.

It was now our time to meet MOCCA for a pre-arranged interview.


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