Gunung is not the name of the town which hosts Jazz Gunung; in Bahasa—the predominant language of Indonesia—it means mountain. Mountain Jazz is as good a name as any given that this one-day festival is staged among the swirling clouds, some two thousand meters above sea level in the East Java town of Wonotoro. It’s a three-hour drive from the nearest airport of Surabaya and the contrast between sprawling conurbation with its teeming roads—chaotic yet curiously functional—and the bucolic idyll of the high mountain pass where Jazz Gunung is staged couldn’t be more pronounced.
The steep mountain sides are carefully sculpted into agricultural terraces, often at seemingly impossible angles of seventy five degrees. On the lower slopes and on the plains farmers toil in fields of mulberry, cabbage, lettuce and tomato which will end up in the markets of Jakarta, a five-hour drive away. It is odd to think that some of these farmers will later be performing in the jazz festival. In the villages women sell Edelweiss by the side of the road, and children on holiday from school fly red, yellow and blue kites which lift and dance easily in the mountain currents.
With the organizational and programming aid of the indefatigable Agus Setiawan and Wartajazz.com—the most active jazz advocacy body in Indonesia (and beyond)—the first edition of Gunung Jazz was successfully held in ’09, with about five hundred people attending. Only two bands performed first time around, but this year the program has grown to six bands. So far all the bands to perform at Jazz Gunung have been Indonesian bands, but next year will almost certainly see the festival incorporate international bands and a second stage. Clearly, Pramono has a long-term vision for Jazz Gunung.
Set to be held at an open stage in Java Banana, Bromo, East Java, the event will feature the talents of Kramat Madura and performances by Yuri Jo Collective, Tulus, Ina Ladies, Beben Jazz and Friends, Malazza Ensemble and Andien. Exciting collaborations on hand are sure to entertain jazz enthusiasts, such as between Yogyakarta musicians Jay and Gatra Wardaya and South Korean musicians SU:M; Djaduk Ferianto’s Ring of Fire with prominent keroncong singer Endah Laras and guitarist Tohpati; and Nita Aartsen Quatro with Mexican musician Ernesto Castillo.
With the majestic Bromo-Tengger-Semeru Mountains as background, Jazz Gunung will offer a unique combination of Indonesian ethnic jazz music entertainment, breathtaking scenery and refreshing mountain air. Besides enjoying the music, visitors can help give back by joining this year’s mountain-cleaning effort with Sahabat Bromo (Friends of Bromo).
The youngest of eight jazz festivals in Indonesia, and for the time being perhaps the smallest, Jazz Gunung has nevertheless laid solid foundations for the future. The unique location combined with a varied program of the best in Indonesian jazz—and from next year international acts are penciled in —means that Jazz Gunung has every possibility of developing into one of the must-see events on the Asian jazz festival calendar.
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