Independence Celebrations: Jakarta, West Java

August is the month when you will find Jakarta residents at their most creative and hectic. During the month Jakarta is transformed into a giant fairground and competition field, and in almost every corner of the city you can find unique decorations and events.

All of this is part of the traditional independence celebrations. And, as the country celebrates its 62nd independence anniversary this year, Jakarta residents will once again be presented with various events and programs.

Gedung Kesenian Jakarta (GKJ), in cooperation with the Jakarta administration, will present art performances in the first Indonesia Independent Art Festival from Aug. 1 to 29. Even though this is a national celebration, it is not limited to national or local culture only, but is wide open to foreign cultures as well.

Marusya Nainggolan, director of Gedung Kesenian Jakarta, said this celebration was in appreciation of national culture. As the saying goes, a great nation is one that appreciates its culture, as well as foreign cultures.

As part of the festival, there will be performances by Betawi (native Jakartans), Balinese, Javanese and Acehnese artists, as well as foreign art performances from Russia and Italy. Various types of performance will be staged, including comical theater, dance and music.

On Aug. 15, two days before the independence day celebration, Quintetto Amaranto from Italy will perform a music concert titled Omaggio Italiano all’ Indonesia (Tribute from Italy to Indonesia). The performance will feature five Italian musicians: Maria Teresa Piccoli (piano), Maria Valentina Montuori (violin), Alina Gilardi (violin), Chiara Ciancone (viola) and Vera Cammelli (cello).

They will play works from classical and modern composers. The quintet will perform Concerto in Re magg, Per pianoforte e orchestra and Ersione cameristica by Franz Joseph Haydn, and Concerto Grosso op. 6 n. 8 by Arcangelo Corelli, a Baroque composer and violinist from Italy.

From modern composers, Quintetto Amaranto will play works from well-known Italian movie soundtrack composers such as Nino Rota and Ennio Morricone. They will also perform Nicola Piovani’s La vita Š bella and Rinaldo Di Capua’s O Sole Mio.

On Aug. 16, there will be a music performance titled Gamelan Non Gamelan Concert by Jes Gamelan Fusion.

This concert will be an unusual blend of musical instruments, mixing traditional and modern instruments. There will be a blend of Balinese gamelan in harmony with other instruments such as violin, keyboard, bass, saxophone and more.

What’s particularly hard to imagine is the combination of the pelog scale (Javanese scale that consist of seven tunes) and western scale. Probably this mixture will produce a unique sound, a blend of traditional and modernity symbolizing the daily life in today’s Indonesia.

On Aug. 21 another Betawi-styled comedy titled Si Jagur will be staged. Si Jagur is a man who transforms into a cannon.

The story goes that once upon a time, the king of Padjadjaran had a nightmare. He heard a loud sound from a great unknown cannon. When he woke up, he ordered Kiai Setomo, the prime minister, to find the weapon or be killed. Kiai Setomo and his wife, Nyai Setomi, meditated at home in an effort to find the specific weapon.

After a while, the king commanded his soldiers to bring him Kiai Setomo. When they arrived at his house, all they found were two cannons. Kiai Setomo and his wife had metamorphosed into two cannons.

As the soldiers prepared to move the two cannons to Mataram, the Kiai Setomo cannon ran away to Batavia where people considered it a sacred object and covered it with an umbrella to protect it from the sun and rain and named it Kiai Jagur. This is the legend of the cannon which now resides in the northern part of Taman Fatahilah in Jakarta.

On Aug. 23, another music performance will be staged by two Russian musicians, as part of the Russian Embassy’s cultural program, From Russia to Indonesia with Love.

The concert will feature Pavel Sedov (violin) and Vitaly Unitsky (piano).

The two will perform pieces by Russian composers, including Tchaikovsky’s Russian Dance (from Swan Lake), Melodie and Valse-scherzo. There will also be a piece by Rachmaninoff-Heifetz, Adante Cello sonata, 3rd movement. They will perform several other pieces, including Grand Adagio by Glazounoff-Zimbalist and Dances by Rubinstein.

The festival will close with a performance from Walet Dance Company presenting dances under the theme Meusaboh Hatee (Uniting Hearts). The performance will be staged twice, on Aug. 28 and 29.

More than 20 dancers will portray the religious and daily lives of Acehnese and their efforts to face the challenges of life. The dances are choreographed by Marzuki Hazan, Djoko Histi Maryono, Ratna Uli and Grace Suzan.

Walet Dance Company will also feature traditional Acehnese songs by Nyak Ina Raseuki and Kabriwali, as well as the Saman dance performed by students from SMU Al Azhar Kemang Pratama Bekasi and SMU Islamic Center Bekasi.

All performances will start at 8 p.m.

Camelia Pasandaran