Organizers will showcase more local talent at this year’s festival, along with global stars like Chaka Khan, below. (JG Photos/Sylviana Hamdani)

Java Jazz Returns to Its Roots in March

JANUARY 28, 2015

The Java Jazz Festival, the biggest music extravaganza in Southeast Asia, is set to return for its 11th edition in March, boasting yet another stellar lineup of international and local musical acts.

In the festival’s first 10 years, organizers brought over legendary musicians such as the late James Brown, Carlos Santana, Earth, Wind & Fire, Kool & the Gang, and Stevie Wonder.

The festival’s theme throughout its first decade was ostensibly “Bringing Indonesia to the World,” even as it brought in the big international stars, which it tried to balance out by promoting local acts such as Addie M.S., Agnez Mo, Dira Sugandhi, Sandhy Sondoro and many others.

This year, though, the organizers are placing even greater emphasis on local talent and culture, with a new mascot and theme of “Exploring Indonesia.”

“That’s because there’s so much to explore in Indonesia,” says Dewi Gontha, the director of Java Festival Production, which organizes the annual event.

“We have so many different cultures and traditions, as well as music that we will highlight in this year’s festival.”

The new mascot for the festival, which this year runs from March 6 to 8, is the Balinese barong, a mythical lion-like beast, which will be featured on all the promotional materials and venue decor. The mascot last year was the wayang character Arjuna, set against a batik background. The barong this year will take a markedly different stance from the more conservative look of the previous mascot, colored as it is in vibrant shades of pink, green, yellow and fuchsia.

“We intend to highlight Indonesian cultures, one by one, in a more interesting way that will attract the attention of our young audience,” Dewi says.

The festival, to be held at its usual venue of the JIExpo in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, will feature 17 stages, hosting a combined 60 performances by local and international acts each day.

“This year, we will have a slightly different highlight than the past 10 years,” says Eki Puradiredja, the program coordinator for the 2015 festival. “We will try to feature as many new names as possible.”

Among the up-and-coming names that festival goers can look forward this year is Laya Pesulima Putri.

“Laya is the daughter of the late Indonesian singer Broery Pesulima,” Eki says. “She’s an incredible talent worth watching out for.”

Another fresh-faced youngster making her debut at the festival is Dhira Bongs, who has won acclaim for her signing and her guitar performance.

Jazz, for a change

The festival has often been criticized for not actually featuring any genuine jazz acts, but the organizers hope to make good this time around with local jazz crooners Laidthis Night.

“They’re the most sought-after band for playing in bars and cafes in Jakarta these days,” Eki says.

Tulus, a rising young soul singer who also dabbles in jazz, will also perform.

The better-known Rinni Wulandari, winner of the TV talent show Indonesian Idol 4, will be making her debut at the festival this year.

“She will present songs from her new album,” Eki says. Rinni’s released her second album, “Oh Baby,” last October.

Besides the new names, there will be  a host of top starts also performing for the very first time at the showcase event. Among them is Reza Artamevia, celebrated for her tremendous alto voice and who was actually scheduled to perform at the first ever  Java Jazz Festival back in 2005.

But she had to cancel her appearance back them for unrelated personal reasons.

“I’ll make up for it at the JJF this year,” Reza said.

Pop divas Krisdayanti, Ruth Sahanaya and Titi D.J., who sing together in the prosaically named group 3 Divas, are also on the bill.

“As usual, we’ll combine jazz and other music genres in the festival,” Eki says. “We want everyone, including non-jazz lovers to enjoy themselves in the event. It’ll also be an opportunity for them to get to know, and probably, love jazz music.”

World-renowned Indonesian classical pianist Ananda Sukarlan will also make his debut performance in JJF 2015.

“The concept [of Ananda’s] performance will be ‘Rhapsody Nusantara’ [‘Rhapsody of the Archipelago’], in which he will present Indonesian traditional songs that have been rearranged to have both classical and jazz nuances,” Eki says.

Amadeus Choir, a classically trained choir from Maluku, rounds up the bill of exciting festival rookies from Indonesia.

International acts

The international lineup is just as mouth-watering. Both Christina Perri and Jessie J. have confirmed their participation at the event.

“I think they’re the sweethearts of many men, and also many girls, here,” says Paul Dankmeyer, executive director of the 2015 festival.

Also not to be missed is a performance by Italian-American trumpeter Chris Botti. Multi-talented US artist Meshell Ndegeocello has also promised a performance to remember.

“She’s a groundbreaking bass player and vocalist,” Dankmeyer says.

California kid Jarrod Lawson is also on the bill. “He’s a brand new singer and keyboard player who can sing like Stevie Wonder,” Dankmeyer says. “Do check him out.”

Top international stars who will be returning to festival are Bobby McFerrin, Chaka Khan, Incognito and Snarky Puppy. Highly talented Japanese organ player Akiko Tsuruga and bossanova singer Lisa Ono will also perform.The Blue Note Tokyo All-Star Jazz Orchestra has also promised to take part.

And now, a word from ...

All the international and local artists from outside Jakarta will be flown to the capital for by Garuda Indonesia, which is a sponsor of the festival.

The event’s official bank partner is Bank Negara Indonesia, which has supported the festival since it began. This year, the bank is issuing a special-edition stored-value card, part of its BNI TapCash Card series, featuring a barong motif.

Visitors can use the card throughout the festival venue to buy food, drinks and official merchandise. In addition, BNI is offering its debit and credit card holders the chance to get two tickets for the price of one, and to pay in installments.

For more info, Javajazzfestival.com

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