Indonesia the Jazz Nation

Indonesia the Jazz Nation
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“Music is the universal language of mankind.” That’s the idea behind some of Indonesia’s most happening jazz festivals, held in the unlikeliest of venues; which are proof positive, if any were needed, that everybody understands music; understands its emotions; relates to it and loves it.


Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival

The Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival (JJF), since debuting 2005, has evolved into a massively monstrous musical carnival that has, by and large, captured the public’s imagination and become a firm fixture on the Jakarta calendar. The notion that jazz is a genre reserved only for those who get its complex, free-form stylings and the Quasimodo-like facial expressions often sported by musicians and singers performing on stage is clearly not evident at this festival. People of all ages and from all walks of life and backgrounds (both national and cultural) flock to an event which organisers predict will attract close to 100,000 people this year over the course of the festival’s three days. In 2010, Java Jazz broke the record for the largest jazz festival in the world, with an amazing 1,300 performers spread over 21 stages.

 The winning combination of the indomitable savvy of the organisers, who have persuaded heavy-hitters such as Santana to this year’s festival, and some shrewd marketing, has made Java Jazz a true world beater. One fact shines out above all others however: jazz is no longer the domain of an elite few and Jakartans have taken to the music in leaps and bounds. Moreover, the international community has also started to sit up and take notice and some top foreign artists have even claimed that Jakarta and Indonesia represents a new jazz centre equivalent to New Orleans, New York or Chicago. Others are simply amazed how the JJF manages to attract such large numbers of teenagers and young people. The JJF has now gone beyond being a simple music festival: it is a movement and an idea similar to the way that Woodstock was in the 1960s.

 This year, local musicians will again be working hand-in-hand with their foreign counterparts. Local talents such as Benny Likumahuwa, Maliq & D’Essentials, Glen Fredly, Sandhy Sondoro, as well as Indonesian groups such as Shadow Puppets, Notturno, Nu Progressive, Chamber Jazz and more will share 17 stages with international names such as Santana, George Benson, Corrine Bailey Rae, George Duke, Kenny Loggins, Rhoda Scott, the Robert Glasper Experience and groups such as Fourplay, Acoustic Alchemy and the Juan de Carlos Afro-Cuban All Stars. The Magenta Orchestra is due to collaborate with George Benson at a Special Show entitled “George Benson’s Tribute to Nat King Cole with Magenta Orchestra”. Santana, the legendary guitarist, will perform two special shows: on Friday, 4 March and Saturday, 5 March, and Santana’s first visit to Jakarta is as part of the group’s “Guitar Heaven 2011 Tour”.




Ambon Jazz Plus Festival

 Ambon, the provincial capital of Maluku, is famed for producing another commodity besides that made explicit in its alternative name, the Spice Island. International calibre musicians and singers such as Harvey Malaiholo, Utha Likumahuwa and Ruth Sahanaya are all Ambonese natives and have found fame in recent years. In this context, The Ambon Jazz Plus Festival is a great advertisement for Eastern Indonesia.

First held in October 2009, the Ambon Jazz Plus Festival was an instant success and featured 120 national and international performers showcasing music ranging from jazz to hip hop to R&B and soul, to world beat and even gospel. This led to the word “Plus” being added to the festival’s official title, to indicate that it’s more than just a jazz event. Ambon Jazz Plus aims to be culturally educating and celebrate art and culture to advance the younger generation in the province of Maluku. To this end, the federal government incorporated Ambon’s World Peace Day into the first festival (a 34th World Peace Gong Monument was unveiled in Ambon). The government is hopeful that the AJPF can bring other performance arts to the Maluku, as well as raise funds for the construction of the Amboina Art & Science Academy (AASA). The AJPF has now been designated an annual national event, to be held during the first week of every October.

 To date, several renowned musicians in their field, including Michael Sembello (USA), Nicky Manuputty, Benny Likumahuwa, Titi & Aksan Syuman, Saykoji, Soul ID, Berry Likumahuwa and the ROCK Ensemble have successfully enlivened the Taman Budaya (Cultural Park) in Ambon.


ASEAN Jazz Festival

The ASEAN Jazz Festival, or AJF, was first held in Batam in 2008 and was the brainchild of Indonesia’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, which believes that jazz can become a new tourist magnet for neighbouring countries such as Singapore and Malaysia. The island of Batam is relatively easy to reach for foreign tourists coming in through Singapore and for jazz fans from ASEAN countries.

It turns out, though, that in addition to foreign tourists, a sizable part of the festival’s audience has been domestic tourists from the Karimun Islands and other islands surrounding Batam. Enthusiastic audiences claim that the ASEAN Jazz Festival is the best event ever to come to the island of Batam. In a break from previous years, last year’s AJF was held in the Ferry Terminal Yard of Special Tours in Harbour Bay, as opposed to the usual venue of Batam Coastarina. “Foreign and local tourists alike now have an alternative to the island’s natural splendour and great food when they visit Batam,” explained Dwiki Dharmawan, frontman for one of the leading jazz groups in Indonesia.

 Renowned musicians who have performed at this popular festival include, Toninho Horta of Brazil; the Dwiki Dharmawan World Peace Orchestra and rising Indonesian jazz singing stars, Ivan Nestorman and Dira Sugandi. Krakatau, Marisa Luisa from the Philippines, BassGroove from Malaysia, Eugene Ang from Singapore, Natasha Patampongs from Thailand, Bandaneira (Lea Simanjuntak and Irsa Destiwi), Barry Likumahuwa’s BLP Project and many others have also rocked the festival. This year (2011), the ASEAN Jazz Festival is scheduled to be held in late May.


Jazz Gunung

For many years, people have visited Mount Bromo for a chance to witness its spectacular, if not downright otherworldly, sunrises. Tourists arrive in the morning, enjoy the sunrise, ride horses to the crater’s mouth, then leave the site and never come back. Well, that’s a sad fact, and something that the organisers of Jazz Gunung are seeking to address.

On 25 July, 2009, the first Jazz Gunung festival was held at the Java Banana Bromo Villa, an open space located 2,000 meters above sea level and only a few minutes away from Bromo itself. The concert was hosted and opened by the prominent Indonesian artist Butet Kartaredjasa, and this was followed by a performance from Surabaya’s youth jazz group, C-26 Jazz, and Yogyakarta’s legendary Kua Etnika. Renowned singer Trie Utami also payed a set, and sang some of her greatest hits.

The big idea behind Jazz Gunung (Mountain Jazz) is to provide a new excuse for people to visit Bromo every year. The annual jazz festival’s aim is to lure not only international nature lovers, but also music aficionados.

The second annual Jazz Gunung concert was held on 3 July, 2010, and featured some of Indonesia’s best jazz musicians, including I Wayan Balawan, Syaharani and Donny Suhendra, along with other hot talents such as Androginn and Monday Night Band. During the event, festival promoter and founder Sigit Pramono also launched his fifth photography book entitled “Bromo, A Perpetual Reminder” to further generate awareness of this magnificent mountain. This year’s festival will be held on 2 July and the organisers are promising to bring more exciting performers to Bromo, including the much celebrated Krakatau Band.



It’s close to midnight and the rain is falling hard. Everyone is drenched and the grassless soil has turned to mud and is treacherously slippery and heavy like quicksand. All the better for some jazz! The thousands of people that crowd a three-hectare area along the banks of the Bedok River sway and dance to the music of Glen Fredly, stomping their feet on the wet ground to the rhythm of the music. This is Ngayogjazz, an annual jazz festival which is held every November in a rural area of Yogyakarta. Ngayogjazz is as much a people’s event as it is a cultural event, in stark contrast to the widely held belief that jazz is an art form best enjoyed by those who understand its complexities. Just ask Djoko Pekik, the famous Indonesian painter, whose front yard was used as part of last year’s Ngayogjazz. “To be honest, I do not understand what jazz music is. All I know is Gamelan and Keroncong music. But tonight, I feel happy to enjoy this show,” the 72 year old explained as he jostled among the crowd.

Pekik’s statement certainly seemed to chime with the rest of his partying comrades and Ngayogjazz is still going strong as it enters its fourth year. As well as jazz, the festival also offers elements of Yogyakartan culture as alternative entertainment. In a break from previous years, this year’s Ngayogjazz does not feature international musicians. Instead, local and national musicians take to the festival’s three stages between 2pm and 1am, and in-between the music, traditional art performances such as a mask dance from the Topeng Ireng Art Group, who hail from the slopes of Mount Merapi, Calung Music from Purbalingga and a solo drum show by street artist Sujud Sutrisno, offer the audience some fascinating variety. The result is a proletarian jazz show that truly appeals to the masses.

According to Djaduk Ferianto, the chairman and organiser of Ngayogjazz 2011, this annual event embodies the Javanese philosophy of “Mangan Ora Mangan Kumpul”, which can be translated as, “Eat or no eat, gather”—in other words, whether or not you have food to share, you still gather to enjoy a good time. This traditional philosophy has been slightly twisted for this year’s Ngayogjazz to “Mangan Ora Mangan Ngejazz” (Eat or no eat, jazz).

 Photograph: reza idris, tarko sudiarno (teks & images in ngayogjazz), courtesy of ambon jazz plus, asean jazz, jazz gunung.

Source : Garuda Inflight Magazine

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