Sunday, March 4, 2012

Festival Leaves Indonesian Fans Jazzed

Despite the forecast of rain, jazz lovers flocked to Kemayoran, North Jakarta, to celebrate the final day of the country’s largest annual musical event, the International Java Jazz Festival, on Sunday night. The eighth annual celebration kicked off on Friday afternoon and involved about 1,500 local and foreign musicians.

During each day’s shows, thousands of visitors could enjoy an average of 80 performances held on 18 stages across the sprawling exhibition complex. Visitors praised the event as the best in terms of highlights and lineups.

Titis Sapto Raharjo is a jazz enthusiast who hasn’t missed the festival since it debuted in 2005.

“I think Java did the best job this year for returning highlighted musicians from previous years and even making it free of charge now,” he said.

Some of the special shows in this year’s Java Jazz included Laura Fygi, who also performed in 2005, and The Manhattan Transfer.

Titis said his favorite lineup was on Saturday, when he saw The Manhattan Transfer, Fygi, Frank McComb, Maurice Brown and Mayer Hawthorne, who had come to Jakarta last year for an invitation-only event.

“If you are a real jazz lover of all genres, I think you will be most likely pleased with the event,” he said.

Many performers from the third day’s lineup had played earlier. Bobby McFerrin performed all three days. He collaborated with other musicians, including his beat-boxer son Taylor McFerrin and Indonesian jazz pianist and composer Dwiki Dharmawan. McFerrin’s show began an hour late but satisfied his audience by singing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” his best-known song.

The founder of jazz news portal Jazzuality, Riandy Kurniawan, called this year’s lineup “special.” Acts like Pat Metheny and Medeski Martin & Wood may not appeal to the mass market but are huge favorites for the jazz audience in Indonesia, he said.

“I’m glad that Medeski Martin & Wood finally came to Indonesia for Java Jazz,” he said. “They are an inspiration for Indonesian jazz musicians.”

Some local jazz talents, such as the Tomorrow People Ensemble, Notturno and Fanny Kuncoro, have been hugely influenced by Medeski Martin & Wood’s performance style.

This year, Java Jazz managed to cover 80 percent of the most talented local jazz musicians, Riandy said. The star-studded local list included young jazz diva Dira Sugandi.

Bob Tutupoly, who paid tribute to Bing Slamet and Sam Salmun on Sunday, said the event used to not be very jazzy and would highlight pop and rock musicians.

“I have played three times at Java Jazz, and I remember this festival once had Slank in the lineup,” he said. Even this year, the festival also had Indonesian legendary rock band God Bless on opening day.

For Bob, as a musician, that strategy can be discouraging because most people come to see only the highlights and not the real jazz acts.

“Only by getting people to come into the festival can they finally get used to the taste and sound of jazz,” Bob said.

The last day was nicely wrapped up by Stevie Wonder as the final highlight. Wonder, who first came to Indonesia to celebrate his 25-year career anniversary back in 1988, has sold more than 100 million records worldwide and has 22 Grammy Awards under his belt. His performance at the festival was notable considering that he was not on a world tour at the time.


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