Ubud Village Jazz Festival had its first outing in August last year. In order to catch up with the latest, Catriona Mitchell spoke to Astrid Sulaiman and A. A. Anom Darsana, two of the key organisers. Ubud Village Jazz Festival will be held on August 8 & 9 at ARMA, and programming is heating up for this year’s event.



Catriona: Let’s start by talking about your inaugural festival: when I last chatted to you, you were busy with the preparations. What was the most successful aspect of the festival last year? What did you enjoy the most?


Astrid: I enjoyed the process – how to make everything work together, and I enjoyed working with the community. I think this is the first festival ever in Ubud or in Bali where all the organisers are local. Like me – I’m a musician, Yuri is also a musician, Anom is concerned with lighting and sound systems and all the production… it all comes from locals. It’s more true to our dream, to our idealism: how to make it work here in Bali. We represent something that is both local and international, but it comes from our side.


Anom: For us the festival is really unique, and has a different concept from other festivals. The music that we provide is pure jazz. I was doing the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, working as a sound engineer for 13 years, so I saw how the festival grew up there. And now when I go back I see it’s changed: it’s different music. In the beginning they wanted to make the festival just jazz, but later they became really commercial: they brought rock, they brought pop, and hip-hop. So at Ubud Village Jazz Festival our concept that we really present just jazz.


Gung Anom

Gung Anom, Co-Founder of Ubud Village Jazz Festival


Astrid: Then there’s the venue. In ARMA, the scenery is like “in the woods”. It’s a different ambience for the musicians themselves – they have never played in the woods! They fell like, “wow this is a unique festival”. We encourage the bamboo community to make all the booths. For them it’s a very unique experience. They are used to performing in city halls, maybe in a big park, but not like this. This only happens in Bali I think.


Anom: A lot of the musicians who came last year really love to be in Bali. They love the ambience, the atmosphere.


Catriona: What was your audience like?


Astrid: We are lucky that we live in Bali. Especially in Ubud the appreciation is there. No matter what the art is – it can be theatre, it can be poetry, it can be painting – people appreciate what we do. We cannot do our thing like this in Kuta or Seminyak because it’s a very different style. They like more rock songs, and everything is loud. I think Ubud is the perfect place. And ARMA has a museum… it is already artistic.


Catriona: How many people attended?


Astrid: 2500 people came last year over the two days.


Anom: For us that was a really good result for the first festival. We were really surprised – a lot of people supported us.



Yuri Mahatma, Co-Founder of Ubud Village Jazz Festival


Catriona: Let’s talk about your vision for this year. What’s coming on the program that has you excited?


Astrid: Well for example this year we have a very popular trio from New York. The name is Gilad Hekselman – they are the most popular jazz trio in New York now. They have never been to Indonesia, and it’s very hard to get their schedule. They’re in huge demand. The Jakarta people are trying to get them there, but they have chosen to come here. We’re really proud that we can bring them here.


Like last year, we chose our own artists and are very picky about the artist wish-list.


Gilad 1

Gilad Hekselman, on the program for 2014


Catriona: Last year you had a lot of different nationalities represented on the program.  Will that be the case again this year?


Astrid: The concept is still the same: 50% local – that is, Balinese. Then 25 % are from outside, international. There will be about six bands – from Brazil, NY, Japan, Holland, Germany and Australia. And then 25% will come from outside Bali – from Jakarta, from Jogjakarta. But the 50% is always from Bali: we put Bali first so they can make their own home here; that’s the idea.


Deborah Carter 1

Deborah Carter, also confirmed for 2014


Catriona: Last year was there a lot of fusion between the international and local musicians? How did they respond to one another?


Anom: That happened in the jam sessions. For example they really liked the way Balawan performed – still jazz, but different music – and they were surprised to meet a Balinese who’s a really, really talented musician.


Catriona: That experience with people they would never normally encounter must be one of the highlights for the musicians coming from elsewhere.


Astrid: Yes. And then they can learn from that as well. That’s why we also hold two different workshops. On the first day the Balinese teach music – with jazz musicians who know how to teach gamelan – and the second day is a jazz workshop.


Anom: If the musicians want to learn, that’s where they can learn from each other.


Astrid: So we trade the music. We’re also thinking of setting up a jazz summer school for five days – a Bali jazz summer school – for youth musicians already in jazz, from 18 years old and up. We’ll include a maximum of 40 students and will have a teacher from Holland. Classes will be divided into six: brass, drums, piano, double bass, guitar and vocals. Afterwards they will perform at our festival.


Catriona: Bringing young people in – that’s an important part of any festival.


Astrid: But even with something like this, the youth from Bali is not that interested in it. I don’t know if it’s about the fee or the promotion – but I think we promoted it well. It’s more students from outside Bali – Jakarta and Surabaya; we received many emails from them.


Anom: We also have something called Jazz Rendezvous in Denpasar where we invite local musicians to perform. That happens four times a year. It means we have a program all year, and also every Sunday we have a workshop where we invite young musicians to learn music – Astrid gives lessons. What we really want is to help local musicians to develop with jazz.


Ubud Now & Then wishes the Ubud Jazz Village Festival organisers all the best with the preparations to come!


The Ubud Village Jazz Festival will be held on 8th & 9th August 2014. See here for more information.