'Er Indoors and yours truly went out and upmarket last night. Yep, we splashed out on a tarif lama
(cheapo) taxi and headed off to the Bellagio Boutique Hotel and Mall dressed up so we could celebrate a book launch. Not mine
, which is waiting to be knocked off its perch as Jakarta's number one book about Jakarta, but another one entitled, ahem, Jakarta
The book is subtitled Jayakarta, Batavia
, so old Jakarta hands, if they weren't at the do, will probably be able to work out that the book is a general interest book about the metropolis. And very handsome it is too in its hardback binding. This is a quality production, which is probably as much due to the corporate contributions as the care and attention of its curator, Leonard Leuras of the Bali Purnati Center for the Arts
. (It says something, though I'm not quite sure what, that a book about the capital city should emanate from the tourist centre of the country which is a couple of hours away by plane.)
The book features high quality photographs depicting the everyday scenes of the city as well as the culture of the indigenous groups still resident here. Some are the work of photographers, such as P.J. Leo and R. Berto Wedhatama, whose work regularly pops up in the Jakarta Post
. All capture facets which could well be missed by those of us more concerned with not falling down the holes in the sidewalks or bumping into the vehicle in front.
This Salute To Jakarta can be viewed from the 1st to the 21st April in the Atrium of the Bellagio in Mega Kuningan (map
These pictorial delights are accompanied by essays from a number of denizens of the oft-called dens of iniquity in Jalan Jaksa, including good friends such as Simon Pitchforth of Metro Mad
, Dave Jardine and Irfan Kortschak whose writings can be read in such publications as the Post, Tempo
magazine, Jakarta Java Kini
and the Garuda Inflight Magazine.
This book would make a very good souvenir of one's visit to Jakarta. Those of us who live here are encouraged to recognise that as much as we may suffer the constant aggravations, the human spirit is indomitable.
Unfortunately, one aspect of last night's party had many of us scurrying for cover.
It wasn't the dances of these Betawi puppets so much as the accompanying 'music'. Even the lass operating the sound-desk was observed covering her ears. As a group of 5th grade students have written
: Ondel-ondel is huge human effigies that are usually parades during festive occasions. Presumably, the effigies were in former times used to scare evil spirits and chase them out the village.
After half an hour of this, we appreciated a few short speeches from a couple of TV faces and then the more soothing tones of keroncong, one of the original sounds of Jakarta.Strictly speaking, keroncong is strings-only music, a reminder of the earliest Portuguese merchants who presumably packed violins, mandolins and guitars on board with them all those years ago. Add further influence from China and Holland, give it to Indonesians to play, dub a Betawi dialect on top and you have keroncong. When it’s good, keroncong is very good; rolling, floating, moving music.
- Culture Shock-Jakarta
As we were leaving, a fine little jazz group was playing, a reflection perhaps that life moves on. Or perhaps they were the Bellagio's house band. Whatever, meeting old friends, some now very old, and gossiping about times gone by and the hopes that we would meet again soon seemed to be an apt reflection of the evening and its purpose.
If you live in the Jakarta area and you want a copy of the book, call 0817 683 7777 or email Andre Ang and for Rp.250,000 they will deliver the book for free.
"Prompt deliveries (of this book) are guaranteed."