Tag Archives: events

Sparkling songbird lights up the stage


Sara Veal

It may have been five years in the making, but Imogen Heap, who dazzled the crowds at the Jakarta’s Kartika Expo Center, Balai Kartini, on Wednesday, March 31, proved she was worth waiting for.

The British multiple Grammy nominee took to the stage for two hours, with seemingly limitless energy, wit and stage presence, and an 18-song set that spanned her three solo albums.

“Until about two months ago, I didn’t know you were all into my music,” said Heap, who included Jakarta as the penultimate stop on the world tour for her latest album, Ellipse, following floods of Twitter messages from Indonesian fans.

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New artists sound off at pop-up record store


Sara Veal

Whether you’re a horror punk rocker or indie pop addict, next Saturday (Feb. 6) brings an opportunity to expand your musical horizons.

Inspired by New York’s CBGB music club, which served as a forum for the Ramones and Patti Smith, Julian Juwadi and Mirzie Arizaldi’s AOD Records offers music enthusiasts the chance to sample almost 40 up-and-coming artists across genres, including blues, metal, hardcore, jazz and ska, at its “pop-up record store” in Jl. Panglima Polim V, Jakarta Selatan, from Feb. 6 to 27.

There will also be acoustic performances every week from established acts such as Funny Little Dream, NAIF and SORE. The bands’ albums and merchandise will be available for purchase, as will refreshments.

“We have been supporting our community through fashion and arts,” says Juwadi, 25, founder of AOD, AOD Records’ parent company. “As music has become a strong part of our concept, we would like to show our support for the local music scene.”

Originally conceived while Julian was living in Sydney, AOD (Association of Division) has been, since 2008, a Jakarta-based creative studio, boutique and art space. Julian owns the space and develops concepts for events and fashion lines; partner Ade Sulistioputra is the finance director.

“I get bored very fast. By holding events, instead of just having a clothing store, I get to try out many ideas,” Julian say, adding that AOD accountant and event coordinator Pratidina Ratnanggani helps bring his concepts “down-to-earth”.

Revolving around three distinct fashion brands – Notorious menswear, Proud Parents womenswear, and the unisex Bizarre – the AOD studio has also hosted several events that to promote both established and emerging artists.

Past events include the C&C Projects-curated “We Are All Millionaires” in 2009, a group of contemporary artworks each priced at Rp 1 million, which poked fun at the cultural misconceptions of the term “millionaire” and addressed the elitism of art ownership.

In November 2009, again with C&C Projects, AOD exhibited a series of playful pieces by legendary Indonesian artist Teguh Ostenrik, continuing their shared mission to interest the younger generation in the often exclusive art world.

Along the same lines of inclusivity, AOD Records hopes to encourage music fans to step out of their comfort zones and consider bands they wouldn’t otherwise encounter.

“Plus, AOD has been strongly supported by the indie music scene,” Mirzie says. “By doing this temporary record store we, as AOD, are showing that we support them in return. These bands are doing their own thing, like we are. Plus the kids at AOD are music freaks!”

The 38 musical acts to be showcased at AOD Records beat competition, following a call for submissions via flyers and Facebook.

Interested acts that met the criteria – aged between 15 and 35 years, following “music enthusiast” or “art aficionado” lifestyles – were invited to enter their music, artwork and short biographies.

Pratidina, who went through the entries with Mirzie, said the creativity of the submissions was incredible, pointing out a woodcarving of a baying wolf from horror punk act Kelelawar Malam and a whimsical storybook by L’Alphalpha, an experimental acoustic band. But not all the artwork made the cut, as several overenthusiastic pieces exceeded the specified dimensions

“We want it to be about the music,” she said, adding they needed to ensure they had space for everyone in the 150-capacity venue.

Neither the acts nor the patrons have to pay to participate. Julian expects the Rp 30 million event, which required three months of planning, to break even through the sales of consigned merchandise, refreshments and an AOD Records compilation album, to be released after the event.

Julian credits friends – who have been generous with equipment and support – for being able to cut costs, as well as his and his staff’s DIY approach to transforming the studio.

“After *We Are All Millionaires’, I couldn’t walk for three days!” he says, referring to the painstaking installations required.

If AOD Records proves to be a success it will return in the future. In the meantime, the AOD space will host the launches of fashion/music collaborations with Naif (Bizarre) and SORE (Notorious) in March and April will see another “We Are All Millionaires” show.

Julian hopes that AOD continues to support local fashion, art and music for a long time to come.

“The creative world never ends, it’s always evolving.”

AOD Records
Feb. 6-27
Admission: Free
Jl. Panglima Polim V No.38
Jakarta Selatan 12610
021 72797514
Contact: Pratidina Ratnanggani
0818 0606 4076, dina@aodjakarta.com

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Brightening up the holidays


Sara Veal

Christmas has come early for Jakarta’s shopaholic trendsetters. Brightspot, the temporary market of all things cool, returns Thursday, Dec. 10, to provide a dose of holiday cheer and sparkle for up-and-coming independent retailers and discerning consumers alike. Sara Veal talks to Chris Kerrigan, half of husband-and-wife conceptual design team C&C Projects and one of Brightspot’s founders, about the story behind the quarterly retail event and what to look forward to with next week’s Xmas Edition.

What is Brightspot?

Brightspot was created by Future 10 Productions, Leonard Theosabrata Designs and C&C Projects. The Brightspot partnership just kind of came together. Future 10 is a party promotion and event company, C&C Projects is involved in fashion and art curation, and Leonard Theosabrata is a furniture and interior designer. We have all worked together on other projects before, so it was quite natural.

The main thing is to promote the local designers, and do something new for Jakarta. We want to help develop the ready-to-wear fashion industry in Indonesia. The brands and the ability to sell their stock at Brightspot create both money and a demand for new collections. The ultimate goal is to give these brands and Indonesia positive international recognition. It’s already happening for several brands, and the market itself.

How did you come up with the concept for it?

It’s something we’ve been thinking about for a couple years. We noticed that there are quite a lot of great independent local designers. The only problem is that they are spread out throughout the city, and many don’t have showrooms. The community that knows about them is very small, and their exposure is quite limited. We were approached by a mall to come up with some sort of event in a 600-square-meter empty space, so we decided to bring these designers together to present them to a larger audience.

We were trying to come up with the name for a while. We decided on Brightspot Market when we were watching CNN on Obama’s inauguration. They were talking about how Obama merchandise was the bright spot for retailers in an otherwise dim market. This connects to our other goal, which was to create some excitement in Jakarta retail. There’s so much focus on international brands, but there are so many great ones right under our nose.

Has Brightspot changed since its inception?

Not really. Since the beginning we had a pretty good idea of where we wanted to go with it. We’ve had chances to go in other directions, but we’re sticking with the original idea.

How do you let people know about Brightspot?

I’d say that most of it is word of mouth. Facebook and Twitter have been great tools. The participants also help spread the word to their circles. We also do posters and flyers, but not that many. We are trying to be conscious of the waste factor, and the Internet reaches people faster anyway.

The other thing is that we get a lot of walk in traffic from the mall, which is exactly what we want. There are tons of people who go to big name stores like Forever 21 or Topshop in search of cool clothes. We want them to find us by accident and discover a whole new world of unique products.

How much planning and work goes into each Brightspot?

The first one was quite fast. We had the general idea for a while, but the actual planning was only about one month. It was possible to do it so quickly because of Future 10’s experience in event planning, and Leo’s experience with trade show interiors. Since the first one, we’re constantly working to plan the next events and for the future.

What was the response to the previous editions of Brightspot?

People were skeptical about the first Brightspot Market. Most people thought it was just going to be another bazaar. What we wanted was for the brands to be creative with their booths and show their uniqueness. In the end, people were excited and felt like they had discovered something new.

That first event brought about 6,000 people over the four days we were open, and we kept getting questions about when we were going to do it again. We were expecting the second event to be better, with a goal between 8,000-10,000 visitors. We ended up with 12,000, including many heavy hitters in the retail business and several international buyers.

How has the response been to this edition?

People have been talking about it since the last one. Somehow it was all over Twitter before we had even confirmed the date.

What have been your favorite stalls so far?

We don’t have any one favorite. Every time we have a contest for the best booth design, and the winner gets a free booth at the next event. The first time we chose the booth by 16 DScale for the professional feel. The second Brightspot winners were a booth by Kle and a table by Poei Oei. It’s always a hard decision. We’re excited to see what happens at the Xmas Brightspot… we’re encouraging Christmas decor.

What stalls are you most looking forward to?

This time we have a bunch of new tenants that we’re looking forward to. Nikidee is a new women’s clothing line that’s joining. We also have Scooter 99 in this time. They customize vintage vespas and make sidecars. Of course, we will also have a bunch of the vendors that have been with us from the beginning. I think the most anticipated part of Brightspot may be the infamous bake sale.

See http://www.brightspotmarket.com/ for more information.

Brightspot: Xmas Edition
Plaza Indonesia, 3rd Floor
Opening Party: Dec. 10, 5.30 p.m. – 11 p.m. (invitation only)
Public: Dec. 11-12, 11 a.m. – midnight, Dec. 13, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Entry: Free for al

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Highland fling: Celebrating 90 years of Java-Scot relations

Sara Veal

The exact arrival of the Scottish in Java is shrouded in mystery, due to lost records, but what is certain is the informal founding of the Java StAndrew Society in 1919, via the arrival of two Scottish pilots (later Sirs), Ross Macpherson Smith and Keith Ross, who made the first flight over the archipelago from London to Australia in around 28 days.

Since then, amid natural disasters and dramatic political shifts, the society has stood its ground, faithfully providing Scottish expatriates – and anyone else interested – with an authentic taste of the motherland.

This year signifies the 90* official year of Java-Scot relations and was marked in highland style at the societys main annual event, the Java St. Andrew Society Ball, held in honour of the eponymous Scottish patron saint.

On Saturday, Nov. 28, 2009, the Grand Ballroom at the Four Seasons Hotel, Jakarta was transformed into two Scottish castles, complete with towers and portcullis, for the ball, hosted by Chieftain James Shon and wife Elaine.

Since 1971, the society has elected every March a Chieftain as its head, an annual, once-in-a-lifetime office.

The Chieftain and his partner are responsible for the societys events throughout their tenure – such as organising the hotels, menu and flights, and even slaving overa pot of bubbling fudge to make authentic Scottish “tablet”, in the chieftains wifes case.

Elaine Shon notes that although many traditions at the ball would have initially seemed curious to newcomers, the nature of activities easily included all, especially the Ceilidh dancing.

“Everyone loves it., everyone loves to see the Scottish traditions, everyone loves to see -guys in kilts, Indonesians are really interested to see the dancing… there is so much of Scotland, the way they dress, the way they eat,” says the English Shon, an “adopted Scot”.

“And there is correlation between Indonesians and the Scottish… The Indonesians have batik, familys also important”

Almost 400 guests of all nationalities attended, including the EU, Norwegian, Australian and British Ambassadors, many of the Scottish men in tartan kilts bearing their clans colours, their wives in ball gowns with sashes to match, to enjoy a long night of traditional Scottish merriment, from bagpipes and dancing reels to “haggis slaying”.

The ball opened with an introduction by master of ceremonies and former chieftain Alistair Speirs, from Now! Jakarta magazine, and Chieftain Jim Shons welcome.

The nights entertainment included performances from the British International School Choir, the Java St Andrew Society Dancers, The Perth Highland Pipe Band, a Ceilidh Band flown from Scotland, the Perth Highland Pipe Band, also flown in especially, and the local Sayagi Band.

Most importantly, there was sumptuous Scottish fare, with several meals to punctuate and fuel the revelry from early evening to early morning.

Naturally, the Chieftains “slaying of the haggis”, in recognition of the humble national dishs egalitarian charm (both nutritious and cheap), was the nighf s culinary centerpiece.

The ceremonial slaying of the sausage-like dish, made with sheeps heart, liver and lungs, is preceded by a recitation of Scottish national poet Robert Burns “Address to a Haggis”, which starts Tair fa your honest sonsie face. Great chieftain o the puddin-race!”

Once appropriately extolled, the haggis took on a new role as the star of the Feast of St. Andrew, flanked by “neeps and tatties” (mashed potato, carrot and sweet potato), and doused in whisky.

The Supper Menu, enjoyed at midnight, consisted of mushroom and lentil soup, while the Sunrise Menu at the Chieftains residence, was a full Scottish breakfast, comprising bacon, Lome Sausage, black pudding, eggs, baked beans, tomatoes and hash browns.

Guests also had the chance to win goodies, from the door prize of the title of Lord or Lady of Lochabar and therefore the deeds to a small plot of land in Scotland, to the sought after first prize of two return tickets to the UK donated by Qatar Airways.

The guests certainly seem to have appreciated the Shons* efforts, with more than 100 demonstrating admirable staying power, lasting until the 4 a.m. breakfast.

Adwi. a 2004 Glasgow University graduate, said he most enjoyed “getting together with so many nationalities”.

British Ambassador to Indonesia Martin Hatfull agreed.

“My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed die St Andrews Ball. It was a great event and a wonderful celebration of a very special part of the United Kingdom.”

The events principal sponsors were Qatar Airways, AsiaServa Indonesia, The Royal Bank of Scotland, Asian Tigers Lane Moving and Storage, which pulled off the twin-castle theme, and the Menara Peninsula Hotel.

As well as a night of great fun, the ball was also a key fundraiser for the Java St. Andrews Societys causes.

Next March, when the current Chieftainship ends, the money raised throughout the year will be invested in the education of Indonesian university students, “as its very trackable,” Shon says.

The Java St. Andrew society has many scheduled events ahead, all of which are open to the public, even nondrinkers, despite the Scottish penchant for whisky, such as Bums supper on Jan. 25, 2010, to commemorate the life of the poet

There are also two upcoming golf tournaments pitting the Scots and the English against one another, and regular quiz nights throughout the year.

For more information, visit  www.javastandrew-society.com.

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Calling all budding Indonesian novelists


Sara Veal

Have you ever planned on writing a novel? Or are you already a seasoned novelist looking for your next challenge? Well, there could be no better time to put pen to paper. November is the 11th annual National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a free worldwide challenge in which both professional and amateur writers attempt to complete a 50,000-word novel by midnight, local time, on Nov. 30.

Sound impossible? It really isn’t, as the hundreds of thousands of previous NaNoWriMo winners, i.e. all those who achieved 50,000 words of fiction within the month, can testify.

Because it’s not about quality, its all about quantity. So perfectionist writers out there can just this once forget about obsessively re-editing every single word. Just charge on and tell your story, in any language you like, with “literary abandon”, as NaNoWriMo’s tagline encourages. There are no judges and no prizes, just the magical motivation of a demanding yet achievable deadline.

“The 50,000-word challenge has a wonderful way of opening up your imagination and unleashing creative potential like nothing else,” NaNoWriMo’s founder and program director, Chris Baty, said.

“When you write for quantity instead of quality, you end up getting both. Also, it’s a great excuse for not doing any dishes for a month.”

NaNoWriMo, the largest writing contest in the world, was founded in 1999 in the San Francisco Bay area, with 21 participants. The rate of participation has dramatically increased every year and spread around the world.

In 2008, more than 120,000 people competed, with more than 30 NaNoWriMo novelists getting their novels published, including Sarah Gruen, whose New York Times #1 Best Seller, Water for Elephants began as a NaNoWriMo novel.

This year there are 213 Nano-novelists representing Indonesia, both locally and overseas, who have so far collectively written 281,921 words.

This Saturday, Nov. 14, Jakarta-based NaNoWriMos are invited to join a write-in at Cafe Gramedia, Grand Indonesia, Jl. MH Thamrin, from 1 p.m. onwards.

“It’s exciting this year because we have lots of new young members,” said the write-in’s organizer Dini, 40, a secretary who has participated in NaNoWriMo since 2004.

To be an official NaNoWriMo winner, the rules are: write a 50,000-word (or longer) novel, between November 1 and Nov. 30; start from scratch (although outlines, character sketches, and research are all fine, as are citations from other people’s works); be the sole author of your novel; and finally, upload your novel for word-count validation to the Nanowrimo site between Nov. 25 and Nov. 30.

If you haven’t joined in yet, fear not, because it’s still not too late to be in with a winning chance. If you start today, you have 20 days, and should aim for 2,500 words a day – a piece of cake for wordaholics!

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Found in translation


Sara Veal

Much like Indonesia itself, the vast Asian region is rich with culture and full of voices, all of which translate into a storytelling goldmine, be it through prose, poetry, comics or films.

Unfortunately, the region’s strengths are also its weaknesses — the linguistic and cultural differences added to relatively low literacy rates and lack of promotion for new authors, means that many intriguing voices are in danger of never being heard.

In recognition of this ongoing dilemma, this year’s 13th biennial Singapore Writers’ Festival (SWF 2009), which took place between Oct. 24 and Nov. 1, aimed to promote Asian literature, with a particular focus on Singapore and Malaysia, and stimulate reading and writing in Asia more generally.

“Our festival focuses on Asian writers, especially Asian writers who have just started writing, new writers and new translations, in order to provide a sense of discovery and help people to get to know more Asian writers,” said Khor Kok War, deputy CEO and director of Literary Arts at the National Arts Council.

SWF 2009 was co-organised by the National Arts Council and The Arts House with official sponsorship from Singapore Press Holdings Ltd and Singapore Press Holdings Foundation.

SWF 2009’s theme was “Undercovers”, which evoked a myriad of meanings, such as the notion of children reading a book under their covers with a flashlight or the discovery of new authors.

Accordingly, SWF 2009 featured more than 100 writers from 20-plus countries and aimed to explore the variety of genres that the Undercovers theme evoked, from horror and thriller through to children’s literature and up-and-coming writers.

The festival’s itinerary consisted of intimate Q&As with authors, writing workshops, film screenings and interactive galleries, most of which took place in The Arts House, an 182-year national monument that was once Singapore’s first court house, as well as parliament house, and is now dedicated to showcasing arts and heritage.

There were almost 70 Singaporean literary luminaries directly participating in events, including established writers like Catherine Lim (The Bondmaid, 1995), a self-described “incorrigible, unstoppable storyteller”, and de-facto poet laureate Edwin Thumboo (Ulysses by the Merlion, 1979) to emerging talents like Wena Poon, who won the Singapore Literature Prize for her debut novel Lions in Winter.

Poon, who also found time to enjoy other authors’ contributions, said her favorite event was Chinese writer Dai Sijie’s presentation of his film Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress.

“In our post-show dialogue, he told us interesting behind-the-scenes details about this autobiographical film and novel of the same name, and I translated his Mandarin words into English for the international audience, laughing all the way because of his dry humor.”

Southeast Asian literature received strong representation, with Indonesia’s own Lily Yulianti Farid, author of Makkunrai (2008), showcasing her play The Kitchen and headlining a discussion on cultural and ethnic identity. Timor Leste’s Naldo Rei discussed his book Resistance: A Childhood Fighting for East Timor, while multi-Malaysia Literary Prize winner Anwar Ridhwan, prominent Thai writer Chart Korbjitti, 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize winner Miguel Sujuco from the Philippines, offered candid Q&As and participated in several provocative discussions on Asian literature.

One of the festival’s most pertinent discussions was “In Conversation with SEA Write award winners”, where past recipients of the award, which has been presented annually to poets and writers in the Southeast Asian region since 1979, Korbjitti, Rama Kannabiran and Wong Yoon Wah discussed the challenges facing writers in the region, citing local preference for foreign writers and the need for more translation in both English and other languages.

“As Southeast Asians, when it comes to the literary world, we are perhaps over-generous with our foreign guests… if we see two books, one by our own writer, and one by a foreign writer, who is a guest in our country, we would buy the foreign writer’s book,” said the event’s moderator Dr. Kirpal Singh, an associate professor at the Singapore Management University (SMU) and also a literary critic.

“Perhaps Southeast Asia should start to look at itself as more like the EU, as a real regional grouping so there will be Southeast Asian writers, rather than just Malaysian or Singaporean.”

Beyond Southeast Asia, many of wider Asia’s brightest literary stars were on show, including Mohammed Hanif, a Pakistani journalist whose first novel, the hilarious and politically astute A Case of Exploding Mangoes (2008) rose to international prominence, attracted several award nominations, and Taichi Yamada, one of Japan’s most respected writers, and author of atmospheric ghost story Strangers (2004).

As part of SWF 2009’s aims to reach out to a wider audience and create a greater interest in the literary arts, several international writers were invited, such as John Ajvide Lindqvist from Sweden — a former magician and stand-up comedian whose first novel Let the Right One In became a global bestseller and garnered him comparisons to Stephen King — and John Boyne from Ireland, whose 2006 World War II tale The Boy in the Striped Pajamas sold more than 5 million copies worldwide before it was adapted into a Miramax feature film.

By far, the international participant attracting the most attention was English writer Neil Gaiman, who is regarded as a literary rock star, and is listed in the Dictionary of Literary Biography as one of the top 10 living post-modern writers. Accompanied by his musician girlfriend Amanda Palmer, best-known as one-half of the Dresden Dolls, a Brechtian punk-cabaret duo, the author of The Sandman comic book series and American Gods largely dominated the closing weekend of the festival.

The couple’s events, which included a joint presentation of their lavish coffee table book Who Killed Amanda Palmer, featuring faux death shots of Palmer accompanied by prose by Gaiman, and a special Graveyard Party gig for Halloween night, were fully packed, with many hardcore fans dressed up as the novelist’s characters or in tribute to Palmer’s gothic-punk style.

Gaiman generously subjected himself to several mammoth autograph signing sessions, with the final one lasting for more than five hours.

“I had to queue up really early [to get a ticket for the event] and wait an hour in advance on the very first day tickets were announced… I’ve come as Death, Sandgirl [from The Sandman comics],” said Yi Xuan, a 22-year-old SMU student, who was clad in black and pale make-up, and poised about halfway in the five-hour queue.

SWF 2009 came to a close with a “Dissecting the Merlion”, a light-hearted debate on Singapore’s definitive tourism symbol, a figure of both fun and adulation, which emphasized the talents of several silver-tongued Singaporean writers like Alfian Sa’at and Desmond Kon.

As guests finally filtered out of The Arts House, Phan Ming Yen, assistant general manager of the Arts House, was exhausted but satisfied with the outcome of the event.

“The best way to program any festival is to pick people you like… if you like the people, you can market them and you can get excited about them… but the main thing is that people were happy. Personally, I’m happy, the attendance was generally good, and so was the feedback. The challenge is doing it better the next time around.”

Dr Singh, who has been involved in the event from its inception in 1986, concurred that SWF 2009 had been a success.

“This year set a high watermark, as we’ve got lots of people from everywhere. Even though the international representation is not as diverse as it has been in other years, this time it’s very much focused and sustained… now we are concentrating on people nearer us… One suggestion I’d make, is that we could use more women participants next time,” Singh said.

“As well as the promotion of youth, this festival was about Southeast Asian legends. We would have had Mochtar Lubis here if he was still alive.”

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Moluccan princess and her merry men enchant


Sara Veal

Jazz-loving Jakartans were treated to a truly magical evening at Erasmus Huis, Kuningan, on Thursday as Boi Akih filled the amphitheatre with vibrant melodies and rhythms.

The performance artfully blended singer Monica Akihary’s soaring vocals with guitarist Neils Brouwer’s elegantly daring compositions, and boasted a range of influences from Moluccan folk songs to European classical music.

The Netherlands-based band also included Eric Calmes on bass guitar, Owen Hart Jr on drums and Maarten Ornstein on saxophone and clarinet.

Akihary and Brouwer, who are partners in life as well as music, constitute the heart of Boi Akih (or “Princess Akih”, in the language spoken on the Indonesian island of Haruku, part of the Moluccan archipelago), which, since 1996, has performed in a range of setups, from duo to six-piece band. Thursday’s quintet was the debut of this particular incarnation of Boi Akih.

The free event was organized by Erasmus Huis, which also brought Boi Akih to Jakarta last year for the Jakarta Jazz Festival. Today they will be performing at Taman Budaya Provinsi Maluku in Ambon, a surprise gig for the city’s birthday celebrations, followed by a workshop and concert in Bandung on Sept. 9.

“We felt it was time to bring them back to Ambon, where their music originated from,” said Paul J. A. M. Peters, counselor for press and cultural affairs and director of Erasmus Huis.

While they are best known in their homeland, where they are regular performers at Amsterdam’s legendary jazz hotspot Bimhuis, Boi Akih has a deeply intertwined history with Indonesia.

Akihary’s father was born on Haruku, a small island next to Ambon, which led her to develop the rare ability to write and sing in the near-extinct Harukan language. Its soft vowels and melodic syllables complement her warm vocals, allowing her to showcase her magnificent range, the most distinct feature of Boi Akih’s dynamic sound.

Twenty years ago, Akihary and Brouwer visited Indonesia for the first time, to study in Asri, Yogyakarta, which furthered their joint interest in traditional Indonesian music. Boi Akih’s Moluccan heritage came full circle in 2006, when they performed for thousands at the New Year’s Eve celebrations in Ambon, at the Lampangan Merdeka.

Over the course of Thursday’s performance, Boi Akih relentlessly enthralled the crowd of hundreds, creating a colorful, emotionally diverse universe, featuring a dozen or so numbers from Boi Akih’s three most recent albums, Uwai i (2004), Lagu Lagu (2005) and Yalelol (2007), which boasted Harukan, Moluccan-Malayan, Indonesian and English lyrics.

The set included traditional Moluccan folk songs from the 1920s to 1940s that were rearranged by Brouwer, as well as wholly original compositions, all of which reflected Boi Akih’s fascination with Indonesian culture past and present, and desire to live harmoniously with the environment.

The barefoot Akihary, clad in a flowing dress, immediately beguiled the audience in Indonesian before opening the show with a soulful Harukan number. She used her voice as an instrument, smoothly traveling from husky tones to notes of dazzling clarity, chasing her sounds with her hands, as if to extend her range even further.

“Although I don’t understand the words, the music touches my heart. It’s something in Monica’s voice, her personality,” said Dirk de Jong, communications officer for the Netherland-based IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre based in the Netherlands, and Akihary and Brouwer’s neighbor for 14 years.

He is traveling with the band and documenting the tour on dijoh2o.wordpress.com.

Despite the power of Akihary’s vocals, she never overpowered her band mates. Her voice wrapped around the instruments, following some notes and elevating others. The romantic and musical chemistry between Akihary and Brouwer was in full force, as each intuitively responded to the other’s stylings.

Although it was the first time for this particular lineup comprising Calmes, Hart Jr and Ornstein, the improvised interplay between the instruments was organic, and each performer had the opportunity to let loose and take center stage in thrilling solos. Drummer Hart Jr, the newest Boi Akih collaborator, drew particular admiration with his exuberant beats and outgoing manner, dousing himself with water after a particularly frenetic sequence.

Akihary never forgot the audience either, always responding to the mood, whether Boi Akih inspired delight, laughter or even tears. Many of the audience members found themselves unavoidably tapping and nodding to the funkier numbers, and took little encouragement to join in when Akihary extended an invitation to sing along on the final song.

When the night ended, the audience gave Boi Akih a standing ovation. Peters presented the band with Erasmus gifts and they responded in kind with a newly printed Boi Akih T-shirt.

The evening won Boi Akih new devotees. Wini Andreini, a Telco business analyst, first heard of Boi Akih when she learned of the event via a colleague’s mailing list. After Googling them and watching their videos on YouTube, she knew she had to see them live.

“I never knew that there were such Indonesian songs that could be sung in this way,” she said.

Boi Akih are likely to return to Indonesia in October, for the Ambon Jazz Plus Festival. They are also working on a new album, soon to be released by a German label. A special edition of their Lagu Lagu CD has recently been released in Indonesia and can be purchased from www.wartajazz.com.

For more information, visit www.myspace.com/boiakih or www.boiakih.com.


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