Thursday, November 17, 2011

In Yogya, jazz under the banyan tree

In Yogya, jazz under the banyan tree
Tarko Sudiarno, The Jakarta Post, Yogyakarta | Wed, 11/16/2011 10:00 AM
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Gliding: Umbrellas float up to the sky at a stage erected near the Ndalem Sopingen building at Ngayogjazz 2011.Gliding: Umbrellas float up to the sky at a stage erected near the Ndalem Sopingen building at Ngayogjazz 2011.Ismail Marzuki’s song “Indonesia Tanah Air Beta” (Indonesia My Motherland) was sung, serenely, by thousands who packed the yard of Kotagede Market in Yogyakarta at midnight on Sunday, Nov. 13.

With the jazz music accompaniment of Idang Rasjidi and Djaduk Ferianto, the song united the diverse audience, setting off a standing ovation at the end of the show.         

The patriotic song affirmed that this gig was truly a festival for the masses. This year’s Yogyakarta jazz festival, Ngayogjazz 2011, with the theme “Nandoer Jazzing Pakarti” (Cultivating the Character of Jazz), remained rooted in local culture while retaining a global outlook.         

Ngayogjazz, which started in 2007, took place in the Kotagede Heritage Zone, a historic area in the southeastern part of Yogyakarta where the Mataram Kingdom was once established – the forerunner of Yogyakarta and Surakarta. As Kotagede is also a cultural and tourism area, Ngayogjazz 2011 was thus gracefully combined with local traditional arts, culinary specialties and heritage buildings.         

For the festival, the organizing committee set up five stages, including near the market in the cemetery of the Mataram kings and amid old neighborhood buildings. The stage in the royal graveyard was built under an old banyan tree considered sacred by many. Pilgrims frequent the area to burn incense and pray on Monday and Thursday nights under the tree, which is believed to be centuries old.          

Crowded: The jazz festival also featured a Balinese dance from Mahagotra Ganesha Bandung.Crowded: The jazz festival also featured a Balinese dance from Mahagotra Ganesha Bandung.In the afternoon and evening of the festival, various jazz groups from across the country performed on the cemetery’s stage, acts such as the Everyday Band, daSoul featuring the Rapai Project, Gondo & Friends from Surabaya, the Muchi Choir from Komunitas Jazz Yogyakarta, Chick Yen, MmTD and the Streamline Quartet from the Solo Jazz Society.         

The southern area of Kotagede Market, normally occupied by chicken, firewood and charcoal vendors, was turned into a stage decorated with colorful lanterns. Appearing that evening were local musicians like Reko Neko, the Kutha Gedhe Jazz Society, Kampayo, Soul of Tradition and Kertas Lipat.         

The platform erected in the yard of the aged Ndalem Sopingen building amid neighborhood homes offered Orisinden, the Bear Project featuring Bawien & Dendang Banua, Jazz Ngisor Ringin from Semarang, Buzztard and Sierra.

Visitors sat under banana trees and watched the show while enjoying snacks and ginger tea, harkening to the way dusk-to-dawn wayang performances are experienced.

“My children don’t know jazz but they like spending the night relaxing,” said Dwi Prasetyo from Sleman, who attended with his kids, all under five years of age.         

Although it was a jazz festival, Ngayogjazz also offered other genres of music. The organizing committee provided two stages for Kotagede artists and musicians. The one in the yard of Toko Abang was especially for Portuguese-tinged keroncong pop music.         

The main stage was north of the market on a platform set against the background of an old power transmission station local people call “Babon Aniem”.

Every five days this corner of the market is crowded with bird and bird cage sellers. And every day in the afternoon it is the center for traditional cakes and typical Kotagede food.          

Alliance: A collaboration of Yogyakarta musicians entertained during the jazz festival.Alliance: A collaboration of Yogyakarta musicians entertained during the jazz festival.This main stand featured Blue Batik Replica from the Pekalongan Jazz Society, the Gubuk Jazz Project from Pekanbaru, Balik Papan Jazz Lovers from East Kalimantan and Rieka Roslan. The Yogyakarta musicians’ collaboration with Idang Rasjidi, Djaduk Ferianto and Tri Utami at the end of the festival demonstrated the uniqueness of Ngayogjazz, a manifestation of coexistence between traditional and modern elements, young and old musicians and the thousands of spectators from diverse backgrounds who witnessed the closing of the event at one in the morning.          

According to Ngayogjazz committee chair Djaduk Ferianto, this was the strength of Ngayogjazz. The collective spirit of the people of Yogyakarta was reflected in the festival, offered to whoever wished to join.

And this dialogue of life, noted Djaduk Ferianto, had been practiced through generations in Kotagede. “We can learn a great deal about life in Kotagede. It can be likened to a living library. And we’re jazzing while learning all about life here,” he said.

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