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The journey to Java Jazz

Antoinette Clinton, an American beatboxer and singer performs at the Jakarta International Java Jazz gala party at the Borobudur Hotel, Jakarta on Thursday night. The festival will open this Friday and last until Sunday. Photo: Ricky Yudhistira/Jakarta Post

Publication Date : 01-03-2013


It's taken time, but Jakarta's Java Jazz fest has earned a much-deserved spot on the international jazz register


The big names in jazz and other genres visible in the line-up of the Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival guarantee a good time for music lovers in the upcoming three-day festival.

Jazz quartet Fourplay, Raisa, Balawan, Andien, Indra Lesmana, Yannick Bovy, Roy Hargrove and Joss Stone are among the musicians who will perform on the first day of the fiesta on Friday.

The festival was first organised in 2005, initiated by businessman Peter F Gontha with the idea of helping improve the image of Indonesia on the international stage through music, after being hit by disasters and terrorist acts.

From the beginning, Java Jazz was designed to be big in terms of the number of performers, the names and the audiences.

“We did not create it as a small event - we intentionally made it big with 16 stages and many international names,” Java Jazz programme coordinator Eki Puradiredja told The Jakarta Post.

In its first year, the festival featured big names like Earth Wind and Fire Experience, Incognito and James Brown and was able to attract more than 40,000 people to the then Jakarta Convention Centre in Senayan, Central Jakarta.

Despite the success, it was not an easy path, Eki said.

“The first three years were the hardest. Because we wanted it to be a music event that could last for a long time we needed to gain trust first from everyone - sponsors, musicians, audience and media,” he said.

But through all the struggles the team overcame each year, musicians, agents and others started to pay greater attention to Java Jazz.

“In our fifth year, we reached a point where we could finally breathe a sigh of relief because we’d lasted for five years.The International Jazz Festival Organisation finally recognised us as an established international jazz festival,” Eki said.

From that moment on, it was easier to approach musicians to come and perform at Java Jazz. Some musicians even asked to be invited again in the following year and also offered to help the organizsrs get other musicians to come.

“When you see the same names appearing on the line-up several times, they basically asked us to be invited to play here again,” Eki said, adding that Ron King, Tony Monaco and Michael Paulo were among international performers who had played in Java Jazz more than once.

Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Jamie Cullum, James Ingram, Santana, George Benson, Erykah Badu are some other famous names who have performed at the festival.

Young jazz musician Barry Likumahuwa said the festival had given him a place to develop his career. The bassist, who has never missed a festival since 2005, said when he first performed at the event, only a handful of people knew him.

“But in 2008, my album was released here. I also got the chance to perform with my own group for the first time,” he told the Post.

This year’s edition will feature Lisa Stansfield, Joss Stone, Basia, Craig David and Maurice Brown. Indonesian musicians Dwiki Dharmawan, Gilang Ramadhan and Balawan are among the local stars ready to entertain music lovers.

Meanwhile, for Nancy Gultom, a jazz enthusiast and a frequent Java Jazz goer, the festival has always been the event she looks forward to most every year.

“Because here, I can sing along with the singers I usually only hear on my music player.”


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