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About This Festival

Big Time Jazz

The largest jazz festival in the Southern Hemisphere takes place on one of the smaller islands in the Pacific. Java, the capital and most populous island of Indonesia—a trans-continental country comprised of a chain of islands—hosts the Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival (often called just Java Jazz).

What is Indonesian Jazz?

Jazz is a big deal in Indonesia. It's how this festival became one of the biggest in the world and a premiere event in Jakarta since 2004. The musical traditions vary from island to island, and among the 34 provinces, based on regional and cultural differences. Although popular in the United States and other Western countries in the previous decades, jazz really took off in 1948, when a number of Dutch jazz musicians came to perform in Indonesia. By 1955, Bill Saragih, who led a band called Jazz Riders, became known as the Father of Indonesian Jazz. But by the 1980s, a new generation of Indonesian jazz musicians had taken over the genre, paving the way for a true renaissance in the 21st century. Use a translation plug-in to learn more about the history at the Indonesian Jazz Archive, or track down the 2006 compilation Jazz Masa Kini: The New Wave of Indonesian Jazz, for a brief musical overview.

But even outside of the islands, Indonesian jazz has become a phenomenon lately. In fact, 13-year-old Indonesian piano prodigy Joey Alexander, has been wowing American audiences since 2014 when Wynton Marsalis invited him to perform at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. Alexander has since played alongside Herbie Hancock, as well as for presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, before his debut album My Favorite Things became the first Indonesian album to debut on the Billboard 200 chart.

Maintaining homegrown Indonesian musicians is certainly a priority and features dozens of Indonesian artists on the lineup each year. Some of the festival stalwarts include husband and wife duo Endah N Rhesa, vocalist Margie Segers, and pop singer/actor Afgan with guitarist Tohpati Tulus, and Dewa Budjana—guitarist/composer of the Indonesian pop rock band Gigi.

A Global Lineup

In fact, as one of the largest jazz festivals in the world, Java Jazz features more than a dozen stages with live music, with more than 1,000 musicians, many of whom call the South Pacific home. Java Jazz tends to highlight Indonesian artists—as Jakarta is an enormous cultural hub—although previous years' lineups have also included everything from American pop stars, and Japanese ska punks to Nigerian saxophonists and Broadway-style stage performers. 2016's rendition attracted upwards of 120,000 visitors.

On any year, the international artist spread can feature names like American jazz-rock band Blood Sweat & Tears, jazz-fusion pianist Chick Corea, Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, Italian-born, New York City-based pianist and vocalist Diana Schaechter, and English singer/songwriter/arranger/pianist Anthony Strong. Additionally, larger ensembles like the Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw (the jazz group from the famed eponymous Amsterdam venue) have played multiple times. On the other end of the spectrum, you'll find an act like the U.K.-based experimental Renegade Brass Band, comprised of eight horn players, two percussionists, a scratch DJ and live MC.

Each year, more and more artists on the lineup are the kind even non-jazz listeners would recognize. That's likely due to the fact that in 2014,Java Jazz's production company, Java Festival Production, teamed up with the American-based conglomerate Live Nation Entertainmentto help recruit artists to the region. As founder Peter F. Gontha said the press release, "There is an increasing demand for live entertainment in Jakarta and the rest of Indonesia. We look forward to working with the team at Live Nation to satisfy that demand by bringing in both international and regional artists for concerts and potential new festivals."

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