I would have preferred green grass but this being Jakarta and not, say, Curitiba, it wasn’t to be. It wasn’t really a Blues night either, though that was why we were in the vast open space of Senayan on Saturday night.
Having met up in Ya ‘Usual and had a long pleasant chat over a couple of Bintangs, we, DQ and I set off for central Jakarta’s sports and posh hotel Senayan complex. in the new vintage Merc of the Globe’s Mad Man about the Metro. Having a vehicle a bit further upmarket than the common and garden variety of people carrier, meant that we were accorded due preference by the civilian traffic controllers when we needed to make U-turns, a frequent occurrence in the maze. We soon found a parking space and slowly wended our way in, apart from Simon that is as he had to find his press credentials in order to save Rp.100,000 (c.$10).
I’m not familiar with the layout in Senayan and, besides it was night. We wandered around a few stalls and stages but neither saw nor heard anything that took our fancy. Besides, we discovered that Jan Akkerman who was our prime listening target wasn’t due to play until 9. Or was it 10?
No band called us as we wandered through the cacophony hammering us from all sides and front so we entered the building ahead. Having strolled through empty corridors which reminded us of hospitals in their antisepticness – an alien thought in Jakarta – we found ourselves at the back of the building facing an empty parking lot. And beyond we could see colourful lights and hear some vaguely enticing music.
Like Pied Piper’s children, having informed security guards of our intention of returning, we drifted off and, lo, discovered that another event was being held – a promotional evening for Pond’s Whitening Cream. as samples were being handed out in return for Rp.13,000 and an entrance ticket we sallied past a few of the ‘thousand faces’ smiling at us and entered. And what an entrance we made as we had to part seven sets of heavy curtains separating air conditioned spaces.
And that was really the best part for us, although for some reason there were four tourist police there in their really attractive uniforms. Having said as much to them, they all told me that they could only speak a “liddle” English. I suggested that as foreign tourists, not that there are many at any time in Jakarta, generally used English as their lingua franca, perhaps it would help if tourist police were to take a course. I didn’t volunteer my services.
After a very pleasant chill in one of the curtained anterooms, we went in search of Heineken where JH with his teenage daughters linked up with us. The Heineken girls didn’t agree that the noise of their generator which was pumping air into an inflated advert drowned out any hope of focussing our eras on any of the music emanating from the surrounding stages.
Come 9, the time for JA according to the media centre, we made our way back into the corridors and came across a packed area around a stage where we heard some of the best music of the night – Sue Bonnington, Jakarta’s very own British ‘Queen of the Blues’. Sue’s a former colleague of SP and myself and we all exchanged air kisses before she and her very tight band launched into what proved to be their final number. And they were good, very good with their organ driven rhythm and blues, the funky version as played by the likes of the Blues Brothers rather than the bland muzak which carries that label today.
We managed to find our way up into the uppermost reaches of the hall, one in which JH and I thought we may have seen Pat Metheny back in 95. We hadn’t: that was the tennis centre rather than the Istora Senayan, but now as then there was space a-plenty.
The wiki page dedicated to Jan Akkerman includes him in the rock and jazz fusion guitarist categories, but no mention of ‘blues’. To give him his due, this interview conducted following a gig earlier this year in Syria says that Akkerman is known for having no boundaries or limitations; a true free soul, he is also known for exploring new musical flavors by combining elements of rock, jazz, blues, classical or modern dance music and give those his own signature.
And that is what he played. There was possibly an element of blues in there but his playing didn’t touch us emotionally which is surely the function of blues music. And I’ve never been a great fan of drum solos.
I was primarily there because I’d arranged to meet Leonardo Pavkovic, proprietor of MoonJune Records, and JA’s tour manager for this gig.
It took some time to navigate my way through more tiled corridors backstage, but meet up we did and spent the next few hours into the early morning gossiping about this, that and t’other in the now impersonal foyer of the Sultan (né Hilton) Hotel quaffing cans of Bintang.
Indonesian jazz fans may like to know that L. is hoping to release the next album by Agam Hamzah, a veteran jazz guitarist. Canterbury music fans will certainly want to know that Beppo Crovella’s “personal vision of the music of Mike Ratledge” (the original keyboard player of Soft Machine) is all we wanted and possibly more.
And L. kindly introduced me to the music of Boris Savoldelli – of whom I know little, but any album (in this case ‘Insanology’ with guitarist Marc Ribot and vocalese à la Bobby McFerrin) is worth a sing-a-long to.
So the evening did produce some good music other than Sue B’s.
But, oh, those tiles!
I look forward to reading the next MetroMad column in the Globe for Simon’s take on the evening.
And DQ has asked me to give an initial plug for his Gunung Bagging website, a comprehensive, encyclopaedic even, guide to all Indonesia’s mountains, for which read volcanoes, over 1,000 metres in height. As it’s a work in progress, contributions are more than welcome.
Anyone interested is welcome to contact Dan from the site and will be invited to a Bintang-fuelled site launch, provisionally set for 3pm-ish on Saturday December 12th, “but god knows where, not the Blok and preferably not swanky and dull Kemang.”