The largest jazz festival in the Southern Hemisphere takes place on one of the smaller islands in the Pacific. Java, the capital and most populous island of Indonesia hosts the Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival (often called just Java Jazz). Jazz is a big deal in Indonesia. It’s how this festival became one of the biggest in the world and a premiere event in Jakarta since 2004.
Although popular in the United States and other Western countries in the previous decades, jazz really took off in 1948, when a number of Dutch jazz musicians came to perform in Indonesia. By 1955, Bill Saragih, who led a band called Jazz Riders, became known as the Father of Indonesian Jazz. But by the 1980s, a new generation of Indonesian jazz musicians had taken over the genre, paving the way for a true renaissance in the 21st century.
Maintaining homegrown Indonesian musicians is certainly a priority and features dozens of Indonesian artists on the lineup each year. Some of the festival stalwarts include husband and wife duo Endah N Rhesa, vocalist Margie Segers, and pop singer/actor Afgan with guitarist Tohpati Tulus, and Dewa Budjana—guitarist/composer of the Indonesian pop rock band Gigi.
In fact, as one of the largest jazz festivals in the world, Java Jazz features more than a dozen stages with live music, with more than 1,000 musicians, many of whom call the South Pacific home. Java Jazz tends to highlight Indonesian artists—as Jakarta is an enormous cultural hub—although previous years’ lineups have also included everything from American pop stars, and Japanese ska punks to Nigerian saxophonists and Broadway-style stage performers.
On any year, the international artist spread can feature names like American jazz-rock band Blood Sweat & Tears, jazz-fusion pianist Chick Corea, Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, Italian-born, New York City-based pianist and vocalist Diana Schaechter, and English singer/songwriter/arranger/pianist Anthony Strong. Additionally, larger ensembles like the Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw (the jazz group from the famed eponymous Amsterdam venue) have played multiple times. On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find an act like the U.K.-based experimental Renegade Brass Band, comprised of eight horn players, two percussionists, a scratch DJ and live MC. Each year, more and more artists on the lineup are the kind even non-jazz listeners would recognize.