Friday, May 1, 2009

Djaduk Ferianto on Rhythms Meeting

Composer and musician Djaduk Ferianto delivered an informal address (obrolan) at Padepokan Seni on 24 April about his experience touring Indonesia, Thailand, Morocco, India and Switzerland with Rhythms Meeting, a group of nine musicians from six countries (see also Djaduk, who plays a variety of wind instruments (including sax) and also sings, was one of two Indonesian musicians in the group. The other was Purwanta, a contemporary gamelan musician who was in the audience for the event and also spoke briefly about his experieces.

Djaduk's talk took the form of slide show in which he explained various photos taken in the journey, mostly not of performances but of sights and social gatherings. He spoke eloquently about jazz as a metaphor for social interaction, the hardships of touring (food, inadequate equipment), the joys of friendship and free exchange among artists.

The musicians in the group spoke English to each other, but none had English as a first language. Yet somehow through signing, laughter and guesswork they communicated. Djaduk saw music everywhere - even in the dhobi women of urban India (a popular tourist destination). His constant companion was a bottle of kecap manis - which he spread over everything he ate, including pizza, bringing the sweetness of Yogya cuisine to exotic dishes. (Stuffing down a pizza before a gig, Purwanta commented, 'what is important is to be wareg' -- or have a full stomach.' Not all the gigs provided adequate equipment - speakers in a restaurant-theatre in India fell well below par - and some of the musicians complained loudly about this. But Djaduk coped and was proud of the fact that the group enjoyed most the warm intimacy of Indonesian audiences.

There were many surprises along the way. The group spent some time rehearsing in Patravadi's art centre in Bangkok, a centre which Djaduk said was very much like the Padepokan Seni in many ways, except that Patravadi had erected two statues of herself. Thais working and studying at the Patravadi Theatre would bow before these statues went they went by out of respect. Djaduk said he was initially astounded that anyone would be so vain to erect statues of themselves while still alive. But then he reflected that many Indonesian artists now are writing their own biographies and life stories, another sort of monument to vanity.

After the event, I spoke briefly with Padepokan Seni's director Jeannie Park, who said how important it was for Indonesian artists to speak about their experiences of touring in these sorts of formats. Only then will realistic expectations be possible, and plans drawn up for future international collaborations that build upon past experience.

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