Sunday, September 12, 2010

Independence Day and Lebaran Celebration at the Ambassador's Residence

I have just returned from the Indonesian ambassador's residence. No, I was not attending a formal dinner (which actually was the case the last time I visited), but the annual celebration of Indonesian independence, which this year was combined with Lebaran, celebrating the end of the month of the fast.

This was a community event, open to everyone- Indonesian expats and their families, domestic servants, students, Indonesia experts etc.

Food and drink was served buffet style on the tennis courts. Food vendors set up shop in tents, selling nasi uduk, sate, pempek-pempek, dodol and other delights. A shop vendor came from Birmingham to sell Indonesian canned and dry products (like kripik tempe). Children played in the woods, bashed each other with sticks and climbed over a high wall separating the ambassador from his neighbour.

A stage was erected on the lawn next to the house, where the London-based degung ensemble Sekar Enggal played (I arrived just as everyone was packing up), a Batak band performed pop Batak songs, and a number of lively tari lepas were staged by brightly-costumed dancers flown in from Holland and also a UK-based Indonesian dancer. A small group made up of Indonesians and non-Indonesians also did a pencak silat demo on the lawn in front of the stage, with hand-to-hand combat and weapons.

The highlight of the cultural programme was a 'singing competition' between a 20-year-old contestant in the 2008 edition of Indonesian Idol from Palembang and a contestant from Indonesia in the Swedish edition of the show. The prize, the MC joked, was a ticket - not to Indonesia, but from Tegal to Pekalongan in Java, third class. The Indonesian singer did a mix of Indonesian pop songs with some dangdut (including Goyang Dombret). The Swedish singer did mostly Western pop. Both were accompanied by the house band of the Indonesian Embassy. At the end they came together for a few numbers, including Poco-Poco. A number of Indonesian women came up from the audience to joget (dance free style) on stage during the dangdut numbers, to the joy of the audience.

Such was the joy that permeated the whole event that the MC's remark that we Indonesians are all 'saudara' (relatives) seemed not TOO forced.

This was not the kind of event which I would want to attend regularly. But as a once in a blue moon thing, pretty enjoyable. And of course the food was good, and the weather thankfully cooperative.

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