09 March 2006

Jakarta undercurrents

This is my 3rd time to Jakarta but probably the first time that I enjoyed it. For the past two times, Jakarta was the boring, chaotic city which I didn’t look forward to because, in my own words, “There is nothing to do in Jakarta”.

To a very large extent, this is true. When I thought of Jakarta before this trip, only a crepe restaurant, a fusion restaurant (Koi) and the amazingly affordable hair treatment stood out in my mind. There are no world-class museums, no orchestras, no Arc de Triomphe, no Bangkok shopping finds. (Okay, there are some cheap Polo and bra buys, but those are about it.) Jakarta is not a walking city at all and the bad traffic inspires lethargy on even the most enthusiastic of visitors.

But in its own ways, Jakarta is alive. Only that it does not reveal itself easily to outsiders the way Paris or Rome does; it takes an insider to link you up to the undercurrents of Jakarta.

Perhaps it is significant that this time that I was in Jakarta, I had the fortune to be taken around by two local Indonesians. Feisty Ms D had driven us around yesterday, and we were fascinated by the modern designs* of bars and restaurants in Kemang amidst the impossible Jakarta traffic. Then today, Ms W brought us to F Bar and introduced us to the excellent band, One Vision. Although they were mainly doing covers, the quality of their voices was very impressive. Somehow, noted Ms W, Indonesians are endowed with deep mellow voices the way blacks are. She also commented that the Indonesia Idol is a lot better than the Singapore Idol. Gyrating to the tunes by One Vision, Ms M and I couldn’t help but agree.

One hour into the good music, I started to think that perhaps, famous bands are more the product of good packaging than anything else. Which is to say that Indonesian bands like One Vision could well have the potential to be as famous as Black Eye Pea. They are already a natural; I really liked how they mingled and chatted with the audience afterwards without any airs. With the proper packaging – good PR management etc, they are surely ready to break out into the world with hits of their own. By then, Ms D’s Japanese girl friends would no longer have to beg her to send them CDs of Indonesian bands.

Live music. At the end of the night, I realized that that is the part I relished the most about Jakarta – it is just so easy to find live music in Jakarta. (My hotel even has a pianist-singer in the afternoon.)

Where labour is cheap, music abounds. That unfortunately is the harsh truth, isn’t it?

* Mr L would say that the unfortunate thing about Jakarta is that the design is great but more often than not, the food does not match up at all. I had to agree for the Italian restaurant that Mr L brought us to the other time.

No comments:

Post a Comment