Bamboo music festival blows into Bandung

Sandra Siagian ,  The Jakarta Post ,  Jakarta   |  Fri, 10/09/2009 1:56 PM  |  Lifestyle

The bamboo plant has always played an integral role in Indonesia’s culture.

With 39 different bamboo species around the country, the native plant, discovered 200,000 years ago, has provided local communities around Indonesia with resources to use every day, whether for handicrafts and food or building materials and musical instruments.

In Bandung, West Java, the ancient bamboo plant has provided the community with a platform to showcase their musical talent, primarily through the use of bamboo as a wind instrument, at their annual Bambu Nusantara World Music Festival.

Back for its third year, the festival will be held in Bandung again this October, celebrating traditional Indonesian culture as it revolves around the use of bamboo, through performances, seminars, workshops and culinary feasts.

The festival, supported by the Tourism and Culture Ministry, was established to promote and celebrate Indonesian culture, with a goal of highlighting the musical talents and opportunities to the world, says festival designer Wawan Juanda.

“We are trying to enhance public awareness about the importance of bamboo in the arts, culture and environment,” said Wawan. “In the long run, we are attempting to become a part of the world culture festival circuit.”

This year’s festival will consist of more than 600 performers, spread over six stages during the two-day event held on Oct. 17 and 18.

Traditional bamboo-inspired performances will take part, for visitors to watch or sing and dance along to, with classical Sundanese performances and contemporary performances incorporating a range of genres, from jazz and rock to samba and hip-hop.

The wide range of bamboo musical instruments to be showcased at the festival originate from all over Indonesia, including flutes (salung) from West Sumatra, xylophones (kulintang) from North Sulawesi, trumpets, didgeridoos and the harp.

The indigenous musical instrument taking center stage is the bamboo percussion instrument from the West Java, the angklung.

Traditionally played by Sundanese people, the simple instrument consists of two bamboo tubes of different lengths attached to a bamboo frame is carved to create a specific pitch when the base of the frame is shaken from side to side.

When used in an orchestra or on its own, a range of differently pitched angklung creates soothing melodies, adaptable for both classic and contemporary sounds.

University and school students from Bandung will join the line-up of local, domestic and international artists performing indigenous bamboo music in a parade using the angklung.

The various music groups will play perform a mix of classic, contemporary and indigenous music. Contemporary artists include Balawan and Batuan Ethnic, C-Cord, Samba Sunda and Ozenk Bamboo Chillout.

International guests taking part in the festival this year include Patrick Shaw Iverson, Beetee and Mikail, visiting from Europe, South America and South Africa.

Wawan said local Indonesian artists will take up a lot of the festival program, in accordance with the goal to promote true local talents internationally.

Some local artists have had the opportunity to travel across Indonesia to perform, while others have become seasoned performers as they travel the world to raise awareness of Sundanese culture and art internationally.

Bandung native Ismet Ruchimat leads the 17-piece contemporary group Samba Sunda, an angklung group that has found success performing and educating the world about the Sundanese culture. Ruchimat, who has already performed at festivals throughout Europe, North America and Australia, will be appearing at the Bamboo Nusantara World Music Festival for the third time.

Ruchimat said that no matter how successful his group became, he would always come back to support his local community.

“This festival is important to promote Bandung’s powerful culture,” said the 41-year-old, who started learning angklung when he was 10. “I started playing music with bamboo when I was younger, so it’s important that we continue to push through our culture for the next generation and to the world to share our story.”

Non-musical activities and other kinds of events incorporating bamboo will also be included in the festival program. Eco-friendly fashion shows, performing arts, carnivals and photo contests will take place. Visitors will have the opportunity to attend workshops to watch and learn how to make household items, toys and crafts from bamboo and attend group seminars to learn more about the history. They can indulge in traditional culinary feasts or even just sit back and enjoy the documentary movies on display.

Wawan said the festival is a small taste of what is in store for 2010, when Bandung will celebrate its 200th anniversary.

“Next year we will be holding 12 events, one each month to celebrate our bicentenary,” said Wawan. “This year we are using the festival as a sampler for next year, organizing what works and what doesn’t, from the program outline to the range of performances.”

The Bamboo Nusantara World Music Festival will be held at Mall Paris Van Java Jl. Sukajadi, Bandung on Oct. 17 and 18, from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Entry is free.

The writer is an intern at The Jakarta Post.