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Ngayogjazz: More than just a jazz festival

Sri Wahyuni

The Jakarta Post

Bantul  /  Fri, November 30, 2018  /  08:05 am
Ngayogjazz: More than just a jazz festival

Into the night: French jazz group the Ozma Quintet perform a set during the 2018 Ngayogjazz Jazz Festival in Gilongharjo village, Bantul, Yogyakarta. (The Jakarta Post/Tarko Sudiarno)

The presence of six stages presenting over 100 domestic and foreign musicians gave the Gilangharjo subdistrict, Bantul regency, Yogyakarta, a distinct feel during the annual Ngayogjazz Jazz Festival, which was held on Nov. 17.

Stalls made of bamboo were visible everywhere, offering traditional food and beverages, as well as souvenirs and other local products.

Some terraces or other parts of people’s houses were turned into instant eateries or kiosks offering the same merchandise, while others offered toilet services.

Some spots were artistically constructed using bamboo and well engineered lighting systems to let visitors take pictures.

Others made use of what was already available, like the wall of a house or an abandoned public toilet, which were also lit up.

The usually serene countryside that evening was overrun as thousands of people from various destinations flocked to the free festival.

Warm welcome: The Garuda Pancasila march marks the opening of the 2018 Ngayogjazz Jazz Festival.Warm welcome: The Garuda Pancasila march marks the opening of the 2018 Ngayogjazz Jazz Festival. (The Jakarta Post/Tarko Sudiarno)

Many of the visitors were jazz lovers who came to enjoy the performances of their favorite bands and singers. Others, however, came just to do some sightseeing, to feel the ambience or eat the traditional food on offer.

They did not seem to mind walking from one stage to another, passing through village roads that had been beautifully decorated, or rambling through narrow paths in people’s yards, directed by lamps in decorative cages made of plaited bamboo.

“Our village has been very busy not only today, but since early this week,” Yuni, the owner of a local eatery whose yard was turned into a media center for the event, told The Jakarta Post.

She expressed her appreciation that Gilangharjo was chosen as the venue this year, saying that villagers needed to be introduced to jazz.

The domino effect, Yuni added, was enormous especially from an economic point of view. Almost every family in the village ran a stall offering souvenirs, food and beverages. Others turned their yards into parking lots or offered motorcycle taxi services from their lots to the performance venues.

“The transactional value on Saturday alone is predicted to reach up to Rp 300 million [US$20,657],” Yuni said.

Ngayogjazz has always chosen a rural village as its venue to bring jazz closer to the community, while at the same time creating a space for local traditional culture and performances to be seen by a wider audience.

We meet again: Musician Indah Laras is a regular performer during the Ngayogjazz Jazz Festival.We meet again: Musician Indah Laras is a regular performer during the Ngayogjazz Jazz Festival. (The Jakarta Post/Tarko Sudiarno)

“Integrating jazz music with a rural atmosphere creates a distinct color that has been Ngayogjazz’ special character,” said Vindra Diratara of the festival’s organizing committee.

The choice this year was Gilangharjo, a subdistrict known for the historical Watu Gilang site, which is a sacred rock believed to be the place where Panembahan Senopati the first king of Yogyakarta received a revelation about where to build his palace.

With over 100 musicians and singers from Indonesia and abroad, this year’s event was given the tagline “Negara Mawa Tata, Jazz Mawa Cara”, adapted from the proverb “Desa Mawa Cara, Negara Mawa Tata”, which states that each region has its own rules, customs and cultures.

The foreign performers participating were the Kika Spranger Quintet (the Netherlands), Ozma Quintet (France), Rodrigo Parejo Quartet (Spain), Jean Sebastian Simonoviez (France) and Mikele Montoli (Italy).

Among the local performers were Syaharani & Queenfireworks, Tohpati Bertiga, Idang Rasjidi and His Next Generation featuring Tompi and Margie Segers, Brayat Endah Laras, Purwanto and Kua Etnika, as well as Anteng Kitiran.

Also performing were Gilangharjo’s traditional dance, choir and music groups who performed, among other dances, the Reog traditional dance, the gejog lesung, which is danced to traditional music produced by rhythmically beating a big wooden mortar traditionally used to husk rice and the Javanese choir Panembrama.

For lecturer Kris Budiman of Gadjah Mada University’s (UGM) School of Cultural Sciences, who has been a regular Ngayogjazz visitor for several years, the festival was not just about the music.

Paint it black: Two men painted black stand near the VVIP section of the 2018 Ngayogjazz Jazz Festival.Paint it black: Two men painted black stand near the VVIP section of the 2018 Ngayogjazz Jazz Festival. (The Jakarta Post/Tarko Sudiarno)

“There are many things that we can enjoy there,” he said, adding that he had sent his students to the event over the last few years as part of his visual cultural studies course.

The French Institute in Indonesia’s (IFI) Yogyakarta director, Sarah Camara, concurred, saying that jazz was a representation of a community that supported its musicians through a symbiotic relationship.

At the event, she said, it was not only the artistic aspects that counted, but also the cultural and social ones.

“That accounts for why we support Ngayogjazz,” Camara added, referring to the IFI’s contribution in bringing French jazz musicians to participate in the event.