Image of the Week – 132 (Gunung Sindoro)

© Martin Westlake 2014

I’m the only non-Indonesian living in my street, the sole survivor where once there were many. One of them was Martin Westlake, but although we lived almost opposite each other with our Indonesian families we didn’t socialise, but sometimes met while observing the election process at the booth blocking off our end of the street.

There was a sign of his front gate announcing Jankung Fotografi, an indication that we had, and presumably still have, stork-like physiques. What is not in doubt though is that he has continued as a photographer, and you can see much of his portfolio here.

Image of the Week – 131 (Manta Rays)

Last Saturday in Bali, officials from the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, supported by the Wildlife Conservation Society, seized 103kg of manta gills, a then record total, and arrested 60 year old Suhari who now faces a potential maximum prison sentence of six years and a fine of $125,000.


Then on the following Monday, at Juanda Airport in Surabaya, quarantine officials confiscated an even larger shipment of manta gill plates – a 226kgs stockpile harvested from over 80 individual rays.

The gill plates were being exported to Hong Kong on an AirAsia flight, where they were to be sold in pseudo-medicinal tonics as part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, believed (by idiots) to cure a range of ailments from chicken pox to cancer.

(Full story here.)

While President Jokowi sets out his much needed vision of a maritime corridor, which includes a productive fishing industry, he has to not only grapple with the now accepted fact that climate warming is raising sea levels to the detriment of the country’s coastal regions but also that the health of the surrounding ocean is being put at risk by some unscrupulous criminals among the rakyat.
Support the Indonesian Manta Project.

Image of the Week – 130 (Knots)

This week’s image comes from the “aah, when I were a lad …” vault. Once a week, and a week or two a year, I’d don a wolf cub uniform and go dybing and dobbing. Later, having turned 11, as a member of the 1st Blackheath boy scout troop, around Easter I’d go bob-a-jobbing. I’d also go camping and attend jamborees.

In those days I learned how to tie and use those knots and I can still remember the mantra for the reef knot, used for tying two lengths of string or cord or rope or wire or bedsheets together: Left over right and under, right over left and under.

if you want to be as dextrous as me, then read this page which gives instructions for the four knots illustrated plus the figure of eight and the two half hitches.

I wholeheartedly agree with ‘Bear’ Grylls, the survival expert who is UK Chief Scout. He says: “Practical skills are at the heart of scouting. From first aid to cooking a meal, we encourage all young people to learn skills they can use in life. While learning together, girls and boys grow in confidence and self-esteem.

Having these skills helps them prepare for whatever life throws at them, enabling them to become active and responsible citizens who are willing to take a lead.

Looking back, I realise that I learned far more from my extra-curricular activities than I ever did studying for exams.

Ian Nairn’s London

Highgate Cemetery: “Nothing seems real but death at its greyest and clammiest”.
Photograph: Paul Grover/Rex Features

Ian Nairn’s London, originally published in 1966, is being republished today by Penguin Books. I had a copy on my long-lost London bookshelves, and it would make a much appreciated present for my Jakarta  library … hint, hint.

This review says it all: It is a detailed vision of a city, and what a city should be like, that has never been bettered.

And that city is my city, one I got to know through my school days. and and for three separate periods of work. I saw it change, and was part of it having been involved in the housing cooperative and squatting movements of the early to mid seventies.

Jakarta isn’t my city, even though my name is on a still selling book about it . I only have a sense of belonging, a recognisable attachment to the small enclave area I’ve lived in for some 25 years. It seems that every time I venture out from here that a new unimaginative structure has sprouted mushroom-like where once there was a verdant vacant plot of land, or a Jakarta-style house which had no need for air-conditioning.

Yes, change is necessary, but eradicating the soul of a place in order to erect a monument to self-aggrandisement is not. Neither are the collections of massive blocks of little boxes. the rabbit warrens designed by bureaucrats sitting in their little cells in faceless offices.

Half a century ago, Ian Nairn could see the disaster that awaited a city where money was a centrifugal force for those without enough.

I’ve half a mind to buy two copies and give one to Ahok, the Jakarta Governor in all but inauguration. I think he would have liked Ian Nairn.

A film biography.

Tesla Manaf Effendi

I haven’t asked Tesla why his parents gave him that name, but it fits the latest guitarist to have an international release of his music on MoonJune Records.

Was he named after Nikola Tesla, “the greatest geek who ever lived”? A geek is someone who obsesses and Nikola gave the world alternating current electricity, radio, radar, X-rays, hydroelectricity, wireless communications, the modern electric motor …. That his patents were taken by Thomas Edison and Guglielmo Marconi who got immensely rich on his brain work, while Tesla himself died in poverty, is historical fact.

One’s first impression when meeting Tesla Manafis of a young boyish imp, forever jumping around flashing two finger salutes – for victory or Jokowi, I’m not sure  – with a wide captivating grin. Yet that belies a complex character, someone driven to achieve what he sets his mind to. As he openly admits, he has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Recently turned 27, Tesla says he has been obsessed with music since he was five. His father’s choice of music was progressive jazz-rock from the likes of John McLaughlin’s Mahavisnu Orchestra, Gentle Giant, Emerson Lake & Palmer (ELP) and Soft Machine, complex, richly detailed music.

At nine, he took up the guitar and piano and for the next ten years focussed on classical music. He soon realised that he could interpret the music of others. However the genre’s patterns and rules, lead him in 2007 to begin to explore the world of jazz, a language of self-expression, and the many traditional forms in the nation’s archipelago.

Much as one cannot write unless one reads widely, a jazz musician does not arrive fully formed. The genre has a history here in Indonesia, and there are few jazz guitarists who in the past thirty years would not cite John McLaughlin and Pat Metheny as being major influences.

And so was Tesla: “Metheny inspired me. He influenced me in many ways both in his music and the way he spoke and thought. However, back in 2011, I was frustrated being labelled as ‘Indonesia’s Pat Metheny’. Don’t take this the wrong way; I still love Metheny, and my favorite album is The Way Up. But just because I was using his Ibanez Pat Metheny series guitar, which I’ve now sold, doesn’t mean I played like him.

I have my own sound, and that’s what I’m trying to tell audiences. I am who I am, now. A person who plays his own music.”

Back in 2011, he released It’s All Yours, which featured Mahagotra Ganesha, a Balinese art unit of the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), This self-produced and distributed album proved to be his most successful. Gamelan meets Pat Metheny is a simplistic description given the many twists and turns, the melodies supplied by a ‘regular’ group of guitar, drums, bass and soprano sax sliding across the gamelan providing rhythmic power. Tesla says that the music tells the story about humanity’s connection with nature.

That is important to him. Having been raised in Bekasi, the city on the eastern border of Jakarta, he moved seven years ago to the Dago mountain area of Bandung. He says that “living here makes me aware of the beauty of nature; the way it talks is the most inspiring of God’s messages.”

It’s All Yours has been re-released this year on the Demajors label. It will also be half of his upcoming international release on the MoonJune label. Much of the work he put into creating the soundscape of that project came from his study of such classical composers as Debussy, Bela Bartok and Krzysztof Penderecki. He has now taken that process a step further with A Man’s Relationship With His Fragile Area, the other half of the album.

It affected me a lot; especially the details. Precision and symmetry are a very important beginning to my own music. I often analyse the notes, rhythms, and the drama of each song. I like to create music which will take people into various kinds of emotions, playing with their hearts and minds at the same time. The same goes with my players. Their personalities, the way they play, the way they communicate and the way they speak … bringing the best out of them will have a good effect on my music.”

At a recent showcase of the album in the Rolling Stone Café in Jakarta’s enclave of the wealthy, Kemang, I noted the following about The Sweetest Horn (video) from the album: it opened with a whistleable marching band nursery melody played on descant recorder with a drum beat, joined by skittering drums, then guitar and clarinet playing as children do, until they combined to build an echo of an express train which gradually comes towards a halt: a guitar lead pastoral theme takes over, but with underlying menace from the bass.

This is music which repays relistening; each track, a neo-classical experiment, may confuse at first, but as it gradually comes into focus sense is made.

Honestly,” says Tesla, “I do not know where my music will bring me to. I just keep creating, keep playing, keep inspiring my listeners. It may be a cliche, but I just love what I do and I will stand for it till the day I die.”

A man driven by his obsession, a geek maybe, yet not only at one with himself and his muse, but also at one with nature. You can see for yourself if you keep an eye out for the butterflies which fluttered by in the recording of this video (at 5:15).

It was a gift from God, he told me.
Tesla’s SoundCloud
First published in the Indonesia Expat magazine.

Image of the Week – 129 (Changing Seasons)

Loweswater, Cumbria by Swarmstrong

Here in Jakartass Towers we’re waiting for the start of the rainy season. It will be cooler, streets will be flooded, and there will be new leaks in our roof.

In the UK, the last of the autumn leaves will fall, the days will be colder, yet for the time being brisk walks in the countryside are in order before the short days and long nights signal a cozy hibernation.

And staggering heating bills.

Photo from the latest Guardian ‘Assignment’.

Image of the Week – 128 (Situ Gunung)

Picture: Suloara Allokendek/Solent News

A fisherman throws his huge fishing net over a lake while standing on a thin wooden raft. In the early hours of the morning, anywhere between five to ten, local fishermen will flock to the Situ Gunung Lakes in Sukabumi, West Java, to fish for tilapia.

I’ve waited to post this photo for a couple of months for a couple of reasons. One, it is just too good not to post – click here for a larger size: it makes a great desktop background.

The second reason is that this image, or one very similar, has been engrained in my visual memory for some 29 years. It was what I was looking for during a day’s ride along the Kerala backwaters in South India. I’d used up nearly a whole roll of film and had made the difficult decision to put my camera way.

And it was at that moment…..

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