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North Sea Jazz Festival - the jakarta post

Music plays on at North
Sea Jazz Festival

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Life | Sat, July 21 2001, 7:20 AM

By Eddy Koko

THE HAGUE (JP): A great variety of jazz music presented by over 1,200 musicians from 160 groups was a fitting commemoration of the 25th year of the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Hague this month.

Over the years, the festival -- often called the world's most prestigious -- has seen the participation of practically every legendary and prominent jazz musician and singer.

Held from July 13 to July 15, this year's festival was highlighted by the presence of Erykah Badu, Herbie Hancock, George Benson, Chick Corea, Bobby McFerrin, Al Jarreau and legendary jazz musicians like Ray Brown, Hank Jones, Ron Carter, Joe Zawinul and Toots Thielemans, who, at 81, was the oldest of all the participating musicians.

Some US$3 million, according to the festival's director Theo van den Hoek, was spent to organize the festival and most of the money went to the musicians. He said this year's festival was quite successful, especially with all the tickets sold out a month before showtime. Tickets could be bought as early as May 2001 and many purchases were made through the Internet.

""In the 25 years of its existence, the North Sea Jazz festival has had varying degrees of success. While this is quite common in business, we have to remain professional, especially considering that we have more jazz buffs with more critical minds,"" said Theo.

The organizers, he said, always prepared a fixed program and after completing a program in a particular year, they would get down to business again, preparing for the next year. Good relations with countries which have their own jazz institutes, such as the International Association of Jazz Educators of the United States, were established. ""Thanks to their suggestions, we are always able to improve the quality of the festival,"" said Theo.

This year's festival was a testament to improvement in the running of the event, particularly in getting things done professionally and efficiently. The festival, which was the idea of the late Dutch jazz promoter Paul Acker, returned to the Netherlands this year after being held in Cape Town in 2000.

Of all international jazz festivals, the North Sea Jazz Festival is the most popular among jazz buffs and musicians. It is every jazz musician' dream to be able to perform in this festival. But it is not easy due to the tight selection process.

""The requirement is simple. Send us a recorded sample of your music. If it's good in our opinion, you will be invited,"" Theo said.

Luck might also play a significant role here. Every year, thousands of musicians and groups send samples of their recordings, said the festival's program manager Michelle Kuypers.

In the end, the audience must be prepared to listen to a great variety of jazz music played by about 75 groups every day.

Going to the festival is definitely not a holiday. Thousands of people would watch the jazz performances, not to mention many stages where different groups were playing. Bad planning might cause disappointment.


This year, Indonesia was represented by the Jakarta All Stars, a jazz group comprising Jeffry Tahalelle (bass), Kiboud Maulana (guitar), Cendy Luntungan (drum), Embong Rahardjo (saxophone), Ajie Rao (percussion), Idang Rasyidi (piano) and Syaharani (singer).

The group's performance at Mariszaal stage was looked forward to by their loyal fans. Some had to push and shove at the entrance to Mariszaal, to the right of the Hague convention hall where all the festival's activities took place.

Embong was seen involved in a tense discussion with the person in charge of the stage because he played another piece while the group's time was already over.

""The audience asked us to continue playing, so we had to play another piece,"" he argued, after the show.

In all, the Jakarta All Stars presented 10 songs, mostly the works of Embong Rahardjo. One of them, Don't Ask Me to Stop, was performed by Syaharani, who was obviously a favorite with the audience despite this being her first performance at the festival. In another piece, she was accompanied by Kiboud Maulana as she belted out Stormy Monday Blues.

The performance at this year's festival was the third for the Jakarta All Stars, which was set up in 1991 to take part in this festival. The group, however, did not take part in the festival in 1997 due to the economic crisis.

This year, the group was sponsored by Sugeng Saryadi of Kodel group and other companies, including Garuda Indonesia. The group said its mission included trying to lure foreign tourists back to Indonesia.

""We hope the participation of our musicians in an international festival will convince foreigners Indonesia is not as bad as reported by foreign media. When a country is really in a mess, it would be impossible to send musicians abroad,"" Sugeng said.

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