JAVA JAZZ FESTIVAL 2016

Story By
Jim Gorjy

Jazz enthusiasts, music fanatics, crowd hipsters, all got together in the 3-day international jazz festival Java Jazz Festival 2016 in Kemayoran, Jakarta, Indonesia, 4-6 March 2016. Numerous local bands/musicians and about 300 international virtuosos performed in 11 different stages, including 7 stage-halls.

The festival featured Indonesia jazz musicians such as Tohpati, Dewa Budjana, Dwiki Dharmawan, Syahrani, Yance Manusama & Otti Jamalus, Barry Likumahuwa, Erwin Gutawa, Indro Hardjodikoro, and international line-up such as Ron King Big Band, Boney James, Candy Dulfer, Michelle Walker, Richard Galliano & New Musette Quartet, Till Bronner, Larry Coryel & David Garfield, Level 42, Robin Thicke, Chriss Botti & Sting and David Foster.

With those abundant bands and musicians on tight and extensive schedule, it was impossible to watch the entire shows on the venue. Most of the visitors came to watch a favourite or specific artists and bands they’ve been waiting for years. For some, it was an adventurous peek-a-show, leaping from one show to another without having a necessity to experience full concert. Or perhaps, some were just enjoying the crowd, an experience being one of the so-called “jazz people” for countless selfie pics on social media. Either, that didn’t matter, cause they were all having an absolut jazzy pleasure.

Spectacular Spectacle
Michelle Walker may not be a well-known for Indonesians, but her performance was stunning, as her soulful deep-jazz voice embarked the hall. Backed by three-piece skillful jazz band, her performance was as constant as the band. Most of the songs were filled with solo-interplay between instruments. As her excellent voice became center of the music, each instrument played both role as  a solo and as companion. Resulting in a very enjoyable perfomance with not one minute of boring moment throughout the show.

Nearby, Tohpati Ethnomission completed their show with long suite “Djanger” with extensive solo guitar and percussive war between drums and sundanese kendang. This Bali-tinged instrumental song awarded a full applause from audience. Meanwhile, a Polish bass master Woitek Pilijowski shows his enigmatic slap-bass technic on stage, from first to last note. He has played in the most important festival worldwide and won 16 award for best bass player in Poland. Watching him slapping his bass is a very fortunate moment.

On special show, a crazy queue was seen to see the David Foster show just to watch the legend behind his grand piano. David played twice with the same list, the Winter Games theme, and an excellent colaboration with Berget Lewis on Through The Fire (Chaka Khan) and Unbreak My Heart (Toni Braxton), and incidental guest vocal Kevin, an 11-year old boy, played a crowd’s favourite: You’re the Inspiration, Hard to Say I’m Sorry and The Glory of Love.

Magnificent Magnitude
Perhaps, every person in the venue is familiar with guitarist Dewa Budjana, but how many of them are familiar with his music? Dewa Budjana and friends performed as a jazz-fusion-progressive-rock outfit, performing five songs, including a exhausting four-song medley and jawdropping act on the closing repertoire, Jayaprana. He brought along a curved-shaped paralon-flute player claimed as the only one in the world. Budjana’s well-crafted dynamic music surely for mature music enthusiast or a higher level of jazz afficionado.

An hour later, a strange big band from Nigeria is on stage, Seun Kuti & Egypt 80. The band leader Seun Kuti (lead vocal and saxophone) is the son of African beat musician Fela Kuti. Wearing odd purple suit, Seun presented afrobeat psych music, ritual bop, equal rights lyrics and political speech turns into a voodoo spell that grows on every song. On the last song Higher Consciousness, audience were standing up and dancing closer to stage, the spell has been casted.

Of course, it will be incomplete without watching Level 42, who came up next. Mark King (bass, vocal) and Mike Lindup (keyboard, vocal) still had the power and the appeal to perform iconic songs like The Sun Goes Down, Something About You, Lesson in Love, and more that made the audience singalong and dance. Very magnetic. As the audience yell “We want more”, the band decided to give an encore:  Love Games and Chinese Way, closing the show in a perfect and memorable way. This UK jazz-fusion band is one of the act you would not want to miss. Great performance, dramatic lighting, great appreciation, yet too many camera overhead though.

On the special show, award-winner trumpeter David Botti showed his mastery and smoothness in jazz and pop. He opened the show with Deborah’s Theme and When I fall in Love. Then after five songs, invited Sting up on stage. Sting-Botti collaboration was marvelous and astonishing, playing a genius set of Sting/The Police songs like If I Ever Lose My Faith in You, Every Little She Does is Magic, Roxanne, Desert Love , The World is Running Down, to the closing song Fragile. Magnificent.

The Java Jazz Festival 2016 is over, yet I succeeded in spreading the seeds of jazz throughout the audiences. It will grow amongst those who believe in jazz, those who love music. It will blossom through until the next Java Jazz Festival.  Keep Jazzin’.