Inaugural Bali Jazz Festival overcomes terrorist bombing, plays as scheduled with a message of peace :: eJazzNews.com : The Number One Jazz News Resource On The Net :: Jazz News Daily Inaugural Bali Jazz Festival overcomes terrorist bombing, plays as scheduled with a message of peace
Posted by: editoron Monday, November 21, 2005 - 12:40 AM
Jazz News KUTA, Indonesia - The inaugural Bali Jazz Festival came close to “point zero” after terrorist bombings killed 20 people here seven weeks ago. Sponsors and performers cancelled, tourist numbers plummeted, and dogs and security guards became the new welcoming face of the tropical island.
But the three-day festival featuring performers from 10 countries debuted on schedule Nov. 18 - two days after police named three captured men as suspects in the attacks.
Festival organizers regrouped to focus on issues far exceeding typical first-time challenges. The actual location wasn't finalized until two weeks before the event, for instance, and many of the remaining bands didn't want to play opening night.
Total attendance for the 40 concerts on two stages at the Hard Rock Hotel was light, with officials lowering an initial goal of 15,000 down to 2,000. That may have been furthered dampened - literally - by heavy rain the final two days. But they also called their effort part of the healing process and hope positive reaction from participants serves as a foundation for future years.
“We kind of knew that this was not going to be a big knockout in terms of turnout and all that,” said Gita Wirjawan, chairman of the festival's advisory board. “But in terms of what we're doing for Bali and what we're doing for country we couldn't have asked for more.”
None of the dozens of performers and listeners interviewed expressed safety concerns, even as the U.S, Australia and the United Kingdom was issuing fresh travel warnings following the discovery of a Web site detailing tactics for killing foreigners in Indonesia. Canadian pianist Ron Davis said it's an honor playing somewhere with so many languages and cultures, much like his homeland.
“We will go back to Canada and tell people what a beautiful country this is,” he told fellow musicians, event organizers and dignitaries during a performance with his trio at a pre- festival gala dinner. “There is nothing to be afraid of.”
The words “bird flu,” incidentally, weren't mentioned by anyone despite a recent barrage of worldwide headlines due to recent deaths here and elsewhere in Asia.
Plans for a free, five-stage outdoor festival were scrapped after the bombings, with the Hard Rock Hotel accepting the event at the last minute. While a fitting setting for a tourist island venue, including a sand beach and pool in front of the main outdoor stage, it meant admission fees, limited capacity and struggling for advance publicity.
“Everybody was saying we are crazy because this is a very short time,” said Agus Basuni, the festival's artistic director. “Even the professionals were saying we cannot make it.”
Most listeners were locals, with few calling themselves hardcore jazz fans, but Paolo Precchia, on a business trip from his home of Napoli, Italy, was among those making an extra effort to hear what he called “very special music” by Indonesian performers.
“I was coming here anyhow, but when I learned about the festival I adjusted the days,” he said during an opening night concert at the Hard Rock Cafe stage. He said he was planning to return for at least one of the two remaining nights to hear the Indonesian world/fusion band Saharadja, a personal favorite.
The Oct. 1 suicide bombings occurring almost simultaneously at three restaurants revived fears sparked by a 2002 bombing in Bali that killed 202 people. Police captured suspects believed to be involved in planning the recent attack during a Nov. 9 raid in Batu, East Java, and are seeking further suspects.
Even before the attack there seemed to be skepticism among music association representatives about a festival in Bali, said Eric Bonhomme, Saharadja's band manager. The country already hosts two annual jazz festivals and there is little interest in the genre among the general population.
“The thought was there not much hope,” he said. “But if you just do what people say is possible then you never experiment and you never discover what is possible yourself.”
The festival lost sponsors and its biggest international names, including the James Taylor Quartet and Harvey Mason, after the bombings. Wirjawan, runs J.P. Morgan's operations in Indonesia, was brought in a few weeks before the festival for his organizational experience - and much-needed financial contacts.
“I called a lot of friends,” he said. “If you look in the festival book maybe 80 percent of those (sponsors) are my friends.”
Others also rallied to assist what officials were already calling the country's first music festival organized through community work.
“After the blasts all the restaurant and hotel associations in Bali pledged their support to us,” Basuni said.
Officials are already talking about next year's festival - and this time planning is scheduled to start within a couple of months. Reviving the multiple open-stage setting and bringing in well-known international performers are among the top priorities. Wirjawan, who lists luring pianist Bob James among his goals, said he hopes given Bali's popularity as a tourist destination that within five or 10 years a festival comparable to large-scale events such as the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands might be possible.
“If we do this well these people will go home and say good things about us, and we can only do better - unless have another bomb explosion,” Wirjawan said.
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