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When movies, music and dance collide


One of my most memorable movie experiences happened when I was 9 years old and my mom took me to watch “Tjoet Nja’ Dhien”. It was an Indonesian historical piece about the Indonesian national heroine Tjoet Nja’ Dhien’s journey leading Aceh people in their fight against the Dutch colonisers (1880-1905). I was blown away by that movie, and cried my eyes out during a sad and gruesome scene when the Dutch finally captured Tjoet Nya (played by Christine Hakim) who was ill, blind and crippled. That year, the movie received 5 Citra Awards (Indonesian equivalent of Oscars) including best Director for Erros Djarot.

So when after 28 years my best friend asked me to spend February 14 in 2014 watching “40 Tahun Erros Djarot Berkarya” (Erros Djarot 40 years of creation), I automatically accepted.

Anything can happen in Jakarta, even if you’re single, on Valentine’s day. This felt like a gift of love from Indonesia’s best musicians and dancers to its people.

So I will share with you what I loved about this show, even though it was a special one-off event. If you’re interested in Indonesia, or coming to visit Indonesia, this show will give you the best introduction to contemporary Indonesian music, dance cinema and culture. And don’t worry that you missed seeing it live – you can watch it here:

There are 5 parts to the show illustrating all of Erros Djarot’s work over the years. During his 40 year career he was a musician, director, journalist and even a politician. The first part of the show was a sequence of 5 of his best musical arrangements. The Erwin Gutawa orchestra did an amazing performance with 5 current and upcoming singers.

The second part was one of my favourites, where Christine Hakim[1] gave a short speech about the production of “Tjoet Nja Dhien” and the set transformed into a large rectangular movie screen with movie footage and the award winning sound track being played in the background by the live orchestra. My seat was so close to the stage, I felt like I was inside the movie. The dimly stage created a mysterious atmosphere that gave me goose bumps. The S.I.G.I.T band closed the segment, with a piece that sounded like a new indie rock song. 

Halfway through the show and I’m wanting more, more and more. Music concerts by Indonesian artists are a common thing, even musicals, and live orchestras play about once in a year, but no show in my opinion has been so innovative and fresh – combining everything into a 2 ½ hour experience. During the third segment, the show turns into a musical from Erros’s album “DeTik”. The story was about the shutting down of his former magazine “DeTik” in 1994 and the political condition at that time. During Soeharto regime, the government closed many publications that were deemed to be subversive/anti government.[2]

The fourth part was led by Iwan Fals, who was named the Great Asian Hero by TIME Asia in 2002. He sang two songs about change and hope for a better Indonesia, a relevant theme even today. The last part was a collection of the best songs and music made by Eros and his collaborations with other musicians. I love how the Indonesian rock band ALEXA played two famous romantic songs in acoustic: “selamat jalan kekasihku” (goodbye my lover) and “malam pertama” (first night). What would be more appropriate then love songs that were made by Eros for his wife.

Many great Indonesian singers played hits such as Kikan, Glenn, Eva Celia, Marcell, Bunga Citra Lestari, Once and Gabriel (I highly suggest you find their work on youtube, you wouldn’t regret it). But the best was indeed saved for last: the Indonesian soprano Berlian Hutauruk, whose performance received a long standing ovation from the audience. Her powerful voice delivered two songs, one being the all time favorite Indonesian soundtrack “Badai Pasti Berlalu”.

It was a memorable night for sure, and like I said: Valentine’s night in Jakarta may take you by surprise, and remind you about what you love.

[1] Respected actress feature in about 34 movies, winner of several Indonesian and international awards, became the first Indonesian to judge in the 55th Cannes Festival in 2002 and played alongside Julia Roberts in “Eat, Pray, Love”.

[2] “DeTik” was closed together with “Tempo” and “Editor” because of their coverage on alleged mark up over Indonesia purchased of 39 ex-Germany Military Vessels.




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