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Putting the festive in music festivals

Photo: Novia D Rulistia/Jakarta Post

Publication Date : 19-03-2013


Dewi Gontha, the woman behind three of Indonesia's biggest music events, is riding high, thanks to a knack for numbers and a love of music


Dewi Gontha has always been a businesswoman at heart. And now, the president director of Java Festival Production (JFP) says she has finally found a place where she can combine her knack for business with her passion for something else.

“Working at JFP is a stressful job, but at least it deals with music -something I have always loved,” Gontha said.

Yes, JFP is the promoter of Indonesia's three big festivals: Java Jazz Festival, Java Rockin’ Land and Java Soulnation, and where Gontha finds herself at the helm of things.

But it wasn't an easy journey to this covetable position, and Dewi Allice Lydia Gontha has many experiences to share.

Gontha had tried a host of different jobs, that involved working with other people, setting up her own business, and even working with her father for a period of time.

After she graduated from Boston University in 1997, her father, businessman Peter F. Gontha, had offered her a vacant position in one of his companies, and she accepted.

“I knew that he was a good businessman and I could learn a lot from him. In addition, the job was similar to the one I did when I was in college,” Gontha said.

But she quit the job when she became pregnant with her first child, and tried to open her own business afterwards. It did not last long; the birth of her baby boy changed Gontha's priorities and she decided to become a stay-at-home mother.

This wasn't permanent either. And in 2004, when her father came up with the idea of a jazz festival to improve the image of Indonesia on the international stage, she teamed up with him again.

“This was a project about music, so I knew I would love it and I took the offer,” Gontha said.

It's been a good ride since. She has been involved in developing the company, setting up the team, arranging the program and making financial reports as the business has grown from only one festival to the three that are in operation today.

Three years ago, Gontha's father has gradually withdrawn himself from the company and entrusted her to lead it. She is now responsible for everything that goes on.

“His age is why he's pulling back this way. He has also other businesses to take care of, while here [JFP], this is more of a hobby for him,” she said.

Although he is not as active in JFP as before, Gontha says she still has to report to him regarding finances and performers for Java Jazz, while production and operational matters for all festivals are her responsibility.

Working with her father was not always easy or fun, though, she admits. He never gave her any special treatment just because she was his daughter. But it was that strong character she saw in him that inspired Gontha to be responsible and hardworking herself. “We share a lot of qualities - we're both quite stubborn but responsible, when we want something, we will and have to get it, we will say something is right when we know it is, but when we’re wrong, we’ll admit it too,” she said.

But Gontha reckons she is more flexible than her dad in some ways. While her father often used a more "dictatorial" approach - asking something to be done without explaining why - she prefers to talk and discuss things.

“I’m not saying that my dad’s approach is bad, that’s just his habit. Besides, in JFP, he is more experienced and older than the other people, so he must know what he is doing,” she said. “But I like to make decisions together with my team, maybe because our age gap is not that big, so we’re like friends,” she added.

After a decade of operation, JFP has met many of the goals Gontha's father set at the beginning. Now recognised as a world-class jazz event, the number of festival goers increases every year, and the many big names have performed there.

But they still have a lot to do, especially after the cancellation of Java Rockin’ Land last year.

“Having to cancel was awful. We won’t let that happen again. We’re working harder this year, making sure that all is set,” she said.

Under her leadership, Gontha also wants to share the company’s expertise with promoters from other countries.

“We have been discussing with someone from Singapore who asked us to help organise an event there. In the future, I want to have more of that, taking the expertise that we have outside,” she said.

She is looking forward to making her dream of organising music festivals in other cities outside Jakarta come true.

“We’d love to hold festivals in Surabaya, Medan or Batam, but we don’t know the market there yet. We’re still learning,” she said.

Gontha has always kept herself busy, but she dedicates her free time to her two sons. Taking them to the festival was a way to show them what she had been doing when she wasn’t home.

“My time is my work. When one festival is done, we continue working on the other festival, and it always goes on like that. So when I’m not working, I try to spend as much time as possible with my two sons and family,” she said.


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