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Interviews

WartaJazz.com: An Indonesian Jazz Mission

By Published: August 11, 2010
"We've been working with around 70 radio stations across Indonesia," Setiawan explains. "We provide music and programs for them."

In addition to radio and publishing WartaJazz.com has also ventured into film production, partnering Toni Hauswith and Winston Marsh to make Teak Leaves at the Temple. "We did a documentary jazz movie in three temples—nobody has done that before. A movie in a temple—yes, but not jazz," Setiawan says proudly. The film, which played at international film festivals around the world, features Swiss improvising musicians, pianist Guerino Mazzola, percussionist Heinz Geisser and legendary American free-jazz bassist Sirone
Sirone
Sirone
1940 - 2009
bass, acoustic
.

The film features the group playing free jazz against the backdrop of some the world's most spectacular temple structures—the 8th century Buddhist temple Borobudur; Prambanan, the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia; and Boko in the mountains of Yogyakarta, joined by the Indonesian group Soni Seni Ensemble, as well as dancers.

"That was in August 2006," continues Setiawan. "We did it with a famous Indonesian director who is now appearing at many international film festivals; his name is Garin Nugroho."

It seems that there is no limit to the range of activities that WartaJazz.com is involved in, in its mission to promote jazz. "We do pretty much everything, but we want to move on," asserts Setiawan.

But what of jazz in Indonesia today? Setiawan is in no doubt.

"I would say it's in a very healthy state," he said. "Many things have changed in the last decade or two. Festivals have become commonplace; we used to have one festival for the whole country and now we have more than 10 festivals. There are a lot of talented young musicians now able to record their music independently and we support them not just by promoting them on the website but by actively promoting them at any festivals, mentioning their names.

"The Indonesian Jazz Meeting will give musicians like these a chance to be known to international jazz journalists and promote themselves to festivals," Setiawan added. "WartaJazz.com also sells their CDs at our website and we have more than 100 CDs in our catalog right now. We want to expand this service even more and give more exposure to Indonesian jazz musicians."

One example of the way WartaJazz.com helps promote Indonesian artists at home can be seen with Boi Akih, a duo, sometimes trio led by singer Monika Akihary and guitarist Niels Brouwer.

"Boi Akhi's album Lagu Lagu (Enja Records, 2005) was released on the Enja label but in Europe it costs about 25 Euros, which is not affordable for Indonesia," Setiawan said. "It doesn't make any sense to import that. So, we came up with the idea to do our own version on our label, but to expand the liner notes in Indonesian Bahasa [the official language of Indonesia]."

The result is a beautifully packaged CD with extensive liner notes at an affordable price for Indonesian consumers.


Although WartaJazz.com sell a considerable number of T-shirts, baseball caps and other merchandise at a big event like the Java Jazz Festival, the prime motivation for Setiawan is not to make money but to spread the name of jazz and its practitioners.

"We can support musicians not just by selling their music and supporting their music at our website and on our radio show, but in other ways too, and we will keep doing it in whatever way we can," he said.

When David Murray
David Murray
David Murray
b.1955
sax, tenor
's Black Saints Quartet played the first night of two concerts at the 2010 edition of the Java Jazz festival only a few hundred people turned up to watch. WartaJazz.com decided to put Murray on the front page of its printed publication—a project completely independent of the festival but designed, of course, to promote the music featured at the festival—before the band's second concert.

"The concert was packed," Setiawan recalled, enthusiastically. "David Murray and his manager were both surprised and wondered what was happening. When I went backstage and I gave them the printed edition of WartaJazz newspaper to them, the manager and David Murray immediately hugged me. 'Man, you did it!' they said. This is something I really like in the jazz family—promoting everybody, and everybody benefiting from what we do."

Although Java Jazz has mostly staged smooth jazz, easy-listening jazz and fusion jazz of the lighter kind, as well as a heavy dose of pop music in its 10-year history, there are signs that its programming is getting a little more adventurous. In recent years, the SFJAZZ Collective
SFJAZZ Collective
SFJAZZ Collective

band/orchestra
, Christian McBride
Christian McBride
Christian McBride
b.1972
bass
, David Murray and Roberta Gambarini have all been invited to perform.

At the Prambanan temple, Yogyakarta from left: Agus, Ajie, Ceto and Darto


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