Grammy-winning singer-songwriter H.E.R entertained the crowd at Java Jazz Festival 2019 on Friday (01/03) at JIEXpo Kemayoran in Central Jakarta. (B1 Photo/Emral)

Broadway Lights, Diverse Music at 15th Java Jazz Festival

BY : DHANIA SARAHTIKA

MARCH 04, 2019

Jakarta. Java Jazz Festival returned for its 15th edition last weekend from Friday (01/03) to Sunday (03/03) with “Music Unites Us All” as the theme. Presenting 100 music acts on 11 stages, Java Jazz continued to be a highly anticipated music festival, attracting not fans of various music genres. 

This year, the festival aimed to present a “Broadway” and “Motown” atmosphere. When we entered the festival venue, which as usual took place at Jakarta International Expo (JIEXpo) Kemayoran in Central Jakarta, we were greeted by neon lights plastered on the many stages and stalls. Decoration-wise, the festival lived up to its promise as we felt like walking down a makeshift Broadway in Jakarta. 

In terms of the music, the festival was still as diverse as the past few years with a touch of Broadway musicals here and there. 
On the first day, for instance, Bob James collaborated with Addie MS’ Twilite Orchestra to play some Broadway tunes, such as George Gershwin's “Someone to Watch Over Me.”

“It’s such a big honor to play such great music by George Gershwin with a wonderful orchestra at the Java Jazz Festival,” James said. 

They also collaborated with Lea Simanjuntak, who went on to sing “Guess Who I Saw Today,” written by Murray Grand and originally created for the musical “New Faces of 1952.” Lea dedicated the song to Nancy Wilson, who sang her version of the song in 1980 and whom Lea admired. 

Lea Simanjuntak collaborated with Bob James and Twilite Orchestra on Friday (01/03) at Java Jazz Festival 2019. (B1 Photo/Emral)
Lea Simanjuntak collaborated with Bob James and Twilite Orchestra on Friday (01/03) at Java Jazz Festival 2019. (B1 Photo/Emral)

As for the Motown part, Dira Sugandi and Harvey Mason collaborated for a tribute to Aretha Franklin, considered as an honorary member of the Motown family. “Freeway of Love” and “Respect” were among the songs performed. 

There are always new names at Java Jazz. Indonesian Idol alum Ahmad Abdul joined the festival for the first time. American guitarist Allen Hinds also did, collaborating with singer Maxayn Lewis and accompanied by L. A. Super Soul band to perform groovy renditions of songs such as “Real Mutha” and “Satisfaction.” 

One of the downsides of the festival was that it rained during the weekend, especially at night. But that didn’t dampen the festival goers’ enthusiasm to see their favorites artists. 

On Friday, for instance, the crowd still danced to Lucky Chops’ energetic funk songs at Java Jazz Stage, which was one of the outdoor stages. People swayed under their umbrellas and raincoats to the New York-based brass band’s songs. 

Java Jazz also featured one special show for each day, namely H.E.R. on Friday, Raveena on Saturday, and Toto on Sunday. 

H.E.R., known as the stage name of American singer-songwriter Gabriella Wilson, attracted a large crowd who enthusiastically sang to her songs. The 2018 Grammy Awards winner for Best R&B Performance and Best R&B Album sang her hits, such as “Best Part,” “Gone Away,” and “Hard Place.” 

Seats were available at BNI Hall, where H.E.R. performed, yet people mostly chose to stand and record her performance on their phones. H.E.R. even told the audience to turn on the phone flashlights, creating a sea of lights in the audience. 

“You sound so good. I didn’t know you could sing like that, Jakarta,” she said, praising the audience’s singing. 

Praised for Improvement

Overall, the festival seemed to leave a good impression on the visitors. The Jakarta Globe talked to forty-year-old Adi, for example, who had been to Java Jazz for the past 7 years. He said that the festival kept improving each year and he had no problem bringing his wife and daughter to a music festival. 

“Each year the event’s getting more festive. There are always new things prepared by the event organizer. This year we have Toto, a band which was formed in 1977, such a senior band. It’s really cool that they could perform in Indonesia now,” said Adi, who is a big fan of Toto. 

Toto guitarist Steve Lukather (left) and Joseph Williams (right) at Java Jazz Festival 2019 on Sunday (03/03). (Antara Photo/Yulius Satria Wijaya)
Toto guitarist Steve Lukather (left) and Joseph Williams (right) at Java Jazz Festival 2019 on Sunday (03/03). (Antara Photo/Yulius Satria Wijaya)

Aisyah Ananda, a visitor belonging to the generation Z age group, said it was her third time at the festival. Though jazz isn’t her favorite genre, she said that she liked to explore from stage to stage to see the available performances. 

“[Out of the three editions she visited] This is my favorite, but too bad it rained because just come for this one day,” she said on Sunday. 

Aisyah’s friend, Ade Fiera, who was visiting for the first time, said she enjoyed the performances. Monita Tahalea was the artist she looked forward to seeing the most. 

The festival continued to attract foreign visitors. Java Festival Production president director Dewi Gontha said on Wednesday that some of the countries with frequent visitors were Singapore, Malaysia Japan, the Netherlands, and the United States. 

Louise Thoreau, an American who lives in Hong Kong, has flown with her group of friends to Indonesia every year for the past seven years just for Java Jazz. Bob James, Tony Monaco, and Yura Yunita were among the artists she wanted to see. She said the festival kept getting better every year, though this year, she complained about the stability of the mobile application. 

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Java Jazz