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Java Jazz Festival – Indonesia take 2

Little did I know that the following month I would be back in Indonesia playing music with my dear friend and conducting workshops at the school.

I arrived on Monday, March 2nd and it was much hotter than I remembered. I was met at the airport by a representative from the Java Jazz Festival and as I went through the process of getting a visa for the two weeks that I would be there, I kept thinking what it must be like living in a place that was this hot and tropical most of the time. Once I got my bags and setteled into the car, we went straight to the school. The Institut Musik Daya Indonesia. Or IMDI as everyone refers to it. There I was introduced to some of the students and faculty and had a bite to eat at the cafe/restaurant located at the school. I was invited to stay at the home of Devi and Mayke’s for the duration of my trip and I was delighted to do so. Mayke is a well known web designer and designed the website for the school. She has been so successful at so many things. She is a very talented, intelligent, compassionate person who made me feel right at home. The first day was tiring but I was fascinated by the days that lay ahead.

On the second day of my trip I contracted a stomach virus that accompanied me for the entire trip. I will not go into details as it would definitely gross everyone out, besides it being inappropriate topic for conversation. Needless to say all of the wonderful exotic dishes that I loved in the states were now accessible to me in its original cuisine form and my palate would miss out on this delicious culinary experience this time around.

Despite the physical malady, I still had a wonderful mind expanding time. To discover ones limitations is as exciting as recognizing an innate gift that has been hidden. Three days into the visit was the first event, the Gala Opening. This night ushered the start of the Java Jazz Festival. Devi’s group and I performed two songs as part of the opening ceremony . Our group, the group that I would work with throughout the festival, consisted of several of the graduate students of IMDI. Mery Kasiman on keyboards, Lie Indra Perkasa on double bass and Titi Handayani Sjuman on drums and on piano was [Devi] Tjut Nyak Deviana Daudsjah, the head of IMDI. All of these young, brilliant musicians were the most sought after musician / composers in the country. And they were instructed and mentored by a great composer and pianist Devi.
For the event a friend of Devi and Mayke, a gifted and brilliant batik designer Carmanita designed the clothes for us to wear for the Gala. Batik by Carmanita world famous designs are eclectic, multicolored and wildly unique designs that and the addition of her use of flowing textured material made each piece a signature for the wearer. It was beautiful and it expressed the unity we felt playing with each other. We were the only band where the performers were American and Indonesian. A true representation of what Java Jazz festival was going for in terms of international exchange. I believe that all international festivals should really strive to make the musical experience a shared one not only through listening, but also through playing with different cultures.

The next day we went to check out the groups performing in the Festival. There were local musicians that were very well known in their country and of course the American musicians. The festival was mixed with all genres of music. There were all types of jazz, straight ahead, avant garde, contemporary jazz, big band. There was indigenous music as well as pop music, even avant garde rock. What was fascinating to me was the use the angklung, a popular traditional instrument made of parallel bamboo tubes tuned to specific frequencies with a hammer and is shaken to produce certain notes. The music is performed by a choir of angklung players, each of whom is responsible for sounding certain notes. It reminded me of the gamelan ensembles.

Then there was the day of the performance at the Festival. There were so many people there and it seemed like hundreds of perfromances were going on all at once. We performed in the 3rd auditorium and it was packed. They filmed it for television and what can I say, the people of Indonesia stole my heart. They were generous and warm and appreciative. It was incredible and the band were beyond exceptional. I was so proud of my friend Devi and all of her hard work and dedication to teaching jazz. I was proud of her graduates as they played with honesty and passion.

The next few days were spent exclusively at the school talking to the students, answering their questions learning about their life experiences, listening to their comments and feelings about playing all types of music.

I conducted a couple of workshops and sat in on 2 jam sessions.  The students of the school are wonderful musicians with a true heart for music.  There was a yearning, a passion to understand and play jazz. It was quite amazing to be in that environment for two weeks, but the real benefit was it really lit a fire under me to want to study more, practice more. Everyone and I mean everyone that I met at the school and talked with left an impression that has changed my life. I feel like I’m a better person, better musician, because I know them and have spent time with them.

The last 4 days were my relaxing days and even though I was not feeling that great, I did get in some sight seeing in. We took a two days trip to Bandung. 

[Some facts for the facts finders] Bandung is the capital of West Java, a province of which most of its residents are mainly Sundanese people. Sundanese language is spoken as the first language and is commonly used as informal language for communication in streets and markets, while Indonesian –  Indonesia’s national language and a lingua franca among its many ethnic units – is used as a second language and the language of government, businesses, and instruction at schools.

Bandung is the place where people who live in Jakarta go to get away for the weekends. The climate is cooler, there are more restaurants that serve a variety of foods and the best part is it is its factory outlets. Bandungâ’s nickname is (Kota Wisata Belanja)  “Tourist Shopping City”. You can get all of the famous name brand items here, because the factories that make them are here. And the price is ridiculously inexpensive.

Because I was not feeling completely up to snuff, I spent the last day and a half of my visit completely relaxing and doing nothing. Mayke and Devi and I had a mini film festival. We popped popcorn, popped the old fashioned way, in a pan with a little oil, lid covering, shaking it over the burner of a stove. I drank ginger ale to settle my stomach. We must have watched a least 6 movies in a row the first night of the marathon. The next evening Devi and I sat and talked for hours like we did when we were roommates. It was magical and I felt so grateful to know her and to be her friend. It’s funny how with some people you can pick up right where you left off.

The last day I missed my flight as the ticket wasn’t clear that I was flying out on another airline and at 6:00 am. It read that my flight was at 1:15 pm and I got to the airport at 9:00 am ready to get on board only to discover that the 1:15 pm was the connecting flight. There were three stops that included one change plane. The attendant for the airlines was not very helpful. She did manage to tell me that there was another flight I could take that day but I would have to stay in a hotel that night and I could grab the connecting flight the next day, but as it turned out there wasn’t a connecting flight to that one until 6 days later. I went with another airline and left the next day. This time I opted for staying up all night and sleeping on the plane, so I watched believe it or not even movies until the car came to pick me up the next morning.

All in all I had an incredible time and would like to make Indonesia a regular stop on my travels.  I took lots of photos but the shots turned out blurry and / or two dark. I’m on my way back to Jakarta in August and this time I will take better pictures. (see images of the trip in my photo gallery here.)

To close this blog I enlisted the help of my dear friend Devi  (which I don’t have a decent photograph of), to translate for me words that if you want to know what they mean, find someone from Indonesia and ask them.

Para Mahasiswa, Dosen dan staff IMDI dan

Indonesia, terima kasih atas hati dan jiwa kalian yang sangat terbuka,

Saya senantiasa bersyukur.

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