Small But Beautiful Music Festival in Town

Felix Dass, Contributor, Jakarta | Sun, 12/04/2011 1:50 PM

Imagine a music festival such as CMJ in New York or South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. Jakarta will have it this weekend. It is called Ruangrupa Record Festival (RRREC Festival).

Jakarta, with its glorious musical scene, has found the perfect time to host the one-street-stretching festival. The city, home to one of the most dynamic music scenes in Southeast Asia, has a lot to offer music lovers. Despite being a nonstop shelter for international artists, Jakarta also reserves spots for local acts.

Starting Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011, Jalan Cikini Raya and the Jaya Pub in Central Jakarta will host a music festival in few beautiful venues along the way until the following day, Dec. 5.

The festival was initiated by Ruangrupa, local Jakarta artist collective and The Secrets Agents, a pair of old friends known as the men behind Superbad, one of the coolest regular cutting edge music series in town.

RRREC Festival is entering its second year. Last year, the festival was celebrated as an integral part of Ruangrupa’s 10th anniversary series.

Last year, the city saw what was described as one of the most beautiful gigs in terms of chemistry between the band and its audience. The small but simultaneous music festivals are new to Jakarta. The festivals don’t have to be big with large stages play bang-boom music with huge sound systems.

The atmosphere is probably something more important, an impromptu mesh of warm feelings between the performers and audience.

“We have been seeing all kind of music shows here in Jakarta,” says Keke Tumbuan from The Secret Agents, “But nothing gives us a small festival with intensity and intimacy.”

Her partner, Indra Ameng, says, “We stole the concept from CMJ and South by Southwest, where we try to use the existing venue and convert it to a music venue. The gigs will take place simultaneously, so audiences need to choose what they want to see based on their personal preferences.

“We want to highlight acts that haven’t been heard on a large scale, thus, we always want to make a small festival with what Keke has highlighted earlier, ‘With intensity and intimacy’,” Ameng says.

The circus will start with Superbad tonight. Three intercity local bands — Risky Summerbee and the Honey Thief from Yogyakarta, Sigmun from Bandung and Jakarta’s Backwood Sun — will share the stage with two international acts — Maps from Hongkong and The Cambodian Space Project from Cambodia.

Then the rest of the shows will run on Monday night in three venues with four stages in Cikini, Central Jakarta.

“We’re trying to make people aware that this district – Cikini — has every supporting factor to organize a festival. It has good hotels for the bands, good intimate venues and it’s a one-way street where people can easily hop between shows,” Ameng says.

Tan Ek Tjoan Bakery will host two stages — one for rock music and the other for electronic music. Names like Morfem, Ghaust, PAL /NTSC, Sigmun and Bite will fill the lineup. In the other part of the building, electronic squadrons such as Belkastrelka from Yogyakarta, Tenderfist from Malaysia, Zebra and Snake from Finland, Adopta and Jakarta’s Goodnight Electric will play.

The second venue, Tjikini Café, provides chiller music with acoustic presentations by Sir Dandy, Backwood Sun, The Swimming Elephants, 9 Maps from Hongkong and rare performance by Indie Art Wedding, an acoustic duo formed by husband and wife Cholil Mahmud (widely known as cult act Efek Rumah Kaca’s guitarist and vocalist) and Irma Hudayana.

The duo hasn’t been playing much since the debut at their wedding party few years ago. The place will also see Cikini’s finest White Shoes and the Couples Company play sets in their home district.

All these small venues are on the same stretch of road, but the main activity will take place in Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM) after all the action finishes on all the previously mentioned stages. Bands like The Trees and the Wild, The Experience Brothers, L’alphalpha, Hightime Rebellion, Zeke Khaseli, The Cambodian Space Project and American future folk band Deerhoof will perform on the TIM stage, considered the festival’s main event.

Deerhoof will showcase their wicked alternative style of music with unique eerie vocals from bassist/ vocalist Satomi Matsuzaki on the stage built in the amphitheater just outside Teater Jakarta in TIM Complex.

Cover charges will vary. For gigs in Superbad, Tjikini Café and Tan Ek Tjoan Bakery, you will be charged with a first drink charge while the one in TIM will cost you a donation simply by buying merchandise or a pay-what-you-want fee.

If you need additional information, follow them on for the latest schedule and other basic info for the festival. Also, book your time today and tomorrow, as packed crowds are expected to show.

“The three Cikini shows, except the one in TIM, will only be able to fit 100-150 people,” Keke said. Ameng added, “The one in TIM will be able to hold 500 people.”

It’s definitely a small-but-beautiful music festival worth checking out while you’re around. Oh, and as the name itself, the whole circus will be recorded to audio and video and transferred for posterity. For once, Jakarta is hosting an intense yet intimate music festival.