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No quarantine blues: Making music in the time of COVID-19

Josa Lukman

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Thu, March 26, 2020  /  01:29 pm
No quarantine blues: Making music in the time of COVID-19

Bop at home: JOOX's new programs offer free Indonesian music and a series of covers performed by celebrities and influencers. (Courtesy of JOOX/-)

Self-isolating and working from home seem to be the new normal in this time of a widespread pandemic. But even as we practice social distance, music continues to unite us all.

By this time, you might have seen a few viral videos of Italians singing on their balconies, whether it is the opera tenor Maurizio Marchini filling the empty streets of Florence with his rendition of “Nessun Dorma” or an entire neighborhood in Rome singing “Volare”.


However, if you don’t fancy yourself a musician or your neighborhood frowns on impromptu concerts, the next best thing is probably going online.

Dozens of quarantine-themed playlists have popped up on music streaming service Spotify, with the most popular arguably being Quarantunes by actress Rita Wilson, created during her isolation with husband Tom Hanks after the couple tested positive for COVID-19.

For Indonesians, streaming service JOOX has prepared several programs to keep listeners from feeling the blues while staying home.

Like its name implies, 100% Free Music allows listeners to stream Indonesian songs for free. While some songs on JOOX are limited to subscribers of JOOX VIP, most Indonesian songs are now free to play through a collaboration with several record companies.

For those wanting some laughs, JOOX has brought radio programs Salah Sambung (Wrong Number) from Gen FM and Tawco from Jak FM into the lineup, allowing listeners to stream the programs without waiting for their airtimes.

Also of note is the JOOX Covers program, where influencers and celebrities cover nostalgic songs like Fatur and Nadilla’s 1990s hit “Akan Kulakukan Semua Untukmu” (I’ll Do Everything For You), as covered by celebrity couple Raffi Ahmad and Nagita Slavina.

If you feel like belting out some tunes on your own, JOOX also has a karaoke function built into the app, where you can record your own version complete with backing track and later share it online if you so desire.

By doing daily assignments from JOOX, users will also be able to receive in-app rewards that can be redeemed for a JOOX VIP subscription.

Peter May, head of Joox Indonesia, said the programs and playlists were curated according to the national situation, bringing programs that could be enjoyed at no charge.

“We understand that in times like this, everyone still needs entertainment that they can access from home, so we hope that JOOX can become a fun companion,” he said.


While the internet can provide some entertainment and distractions from the outside world, now is probably the time to pick up some new skills to stay productive.

Though online learning is certainly nothing new for students, global situations like these will probably make the method mandatory for some time.

Like university classes, music lessons are also affected by the social distancing policy, leading to many class cancellations.

Spirited: Pianist-composer Ananda Sukarlan is now delivering masterclasses through one-on-one teleconference sessions after regular classes were cancelled. 
Spirited: Pianist-composer Ananda Sukarlan is now delivering masterclasses through one-on-one teleconference sessions after regular classes were cancelled. (Courtesy of Ananda Sukarlan/-)

Pianist Ananda Sukarlan, for example, has moved his masterclasses online to make up for the cancellations, even throwing in a discount to sweeten the deal.

Ananda said he coordinated with IT staff from the Ananda Sukarlan Center to hold the masterclasses, carried out using the video conference app Zoom.

“This is the first time I’ve done my masterclass online because it is difficult to do so with classical music. We deal with what we feel and how we express it, and usually, it’s easier if we are doing it live,” he told The Jakarta Post via text message, adding that some techniques needed to be shown face-to-face.

The online version is not without its pitfalls, of course. Ananda noted that one challenge was that students did not always have a good quality piano, making it difficult for him to judge their performance.

Along with the classes, Ananda also received many requests to do videos on music education. However, he seems to have reservations on holding online concerts, such as what musical acts like Keith Urban and Coldplay’s Chris Martin have done on Instagram.

“Classical music in other countries are heavily subsidized as part of cultural and artistic promotion by their governments. Our government doesn’t do that. So, how do we artists, especially musicians, earn our money?”

The string of cancellations has hit some of Ananda’s scheduled appearances, too. His  Rapsodia Nusantara tour has been postponed and his chamber music competition in Arnuero, Spain, was canceled entirely for the year.

In the meantime, he will be focusing on teaching and writing his book on Asperger’s syndrome, which he said has been delayed for a long time.

“As an Aspie [person with Asperger’s], I am so used to social distancing anyway, so I am quite comfortable with this situation. It’s just a pity that I can’t be more useful to my students and fans.” (ste)

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