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As the sun set over the horizon overlooking Singapore in the distance, the groove of jazz began to light up Harbor Bay on Batam Island, in the Riau Archipelago. It was Batam’s own jazz group Groovinity who began jamming with the 6 stringed bass player, Brian Batie, renowned American jazz musician who lives in Singapore. The performance warmed up the Ocean Stage that slowly but surely, built the hype of the 7th ASEAN Jazz Festival 2014 on Saturday, 6th September 2014.

As the moon climbed higher in the night sky, more and more people flocked to the scene. These enthusiastic jazz fans were not only citizens of Batam, many came from Singapore by ferry.

At 20.13 West Indonesia Time, Batam’s signature jazz festival was officially opened when Deputy Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy, Sapta Nirwandar stepped onto the Wonderful Indonesia Stage, symbolically beat the drum and did a short jam with the musicians.

In his short opening remark, Sapta said that the Asean Jazz festival is not only the trademark of Batam but also of Indonesia as a whole since it has gained wide popularity. The opening ceremony was also attended by the Governor of Riau Archipelago, Muhammad Sani; Vice Governor of the Riau Arcipelago, Soerya Respationo; Head of the Tourism Office of the Riau Archipelago, Guntur Sakti, and other officials.

The Surabaya all Stars Big Band, hailing from the city of Surabaya in East Java were first to perform at the Wonderful Indonesia Stage. Long in experience and high in skills, these jazz seniors managed to thrill the audience with their dynamic and sophisticated compositions. Nina Tamam, One of Indonesia’s top lady singers, joined the stage receiving roaring applause from the audience.

Meanwhile, a unique performance was given by violinist Tengku Ryo at the Ocean Stage. Fusing the distinct traditional Malay tunes with jazz through rendition of some of Malay traditional songs, the performance of Tengku Ryo Ensemble was truly exceptional. The performance also involved dancers who combined Malay traditional choreography with western dance moves; a true rare sight in any jazz concert.

Dubai’s guitarist Kamal Musallam followed, bringing the sounds of the desert to the Wonderful Indonesia Stage, while Russian violinist German Dimitriev brought again another twist to the festival as he performed Led Zeppelin’s classic rock song “Kashmir” at the Ocean Stage. Monita Tahalea, one of Indonesian rising jazz vocalists indulged the audience with her smooth voice and mellow songs.

The festival came to its pinnacle when Krakatau took on the Wonderful Indonesia Stage. As legendary as the mountain from which they took their name (Mount Krakatau), the reunion of Krakatau at the ASEAN Jazz Festival 2014 was the most anticipated performance of the night. With lineup consisting of today’s musical maestros Dwiki Dharmawan and Indra Lesmana on keyboard, Gilang Ramadhan on Drum, Dony Suhendra on Guitar, Pra Budi Dharma on Bass, and one of Indonesia’s most talented lady vocalist Trie Utami, the band took the audience on a musical nostalgic trip through the sounds of the 80’s with their evergreen hits such as “Kau Datang”, “Cinta Pasti”,”Sekitar Kita”, and “Gemilang”. Showcasing their undisputable musical skills, Indra Lesmana and Dwiki Dharmawan also performed keyboard duel which led to an artistic impromptu.

The most distinct feature of the ASEAN Jazz festival is its intimacy. There were no gaps between performers and the audience,which both the musicians and audience loved. Fans could greet their idols as they walked up the different stages, while the musicians also interacted closely with them when they performed.

While it may not be too grand in volume of attendance, yet the Asean Jazz festival will continue to bring great music and distinct international ambience and friendship to the shores of Batam Island.

{Indonesia.travel special report/AAM]}