When you think of Bali, you may not immediately think of a thriving jazz and blues scene. Thinking of music, you’ll likely conjure the tranquil sound of gamelan in the distance, the traditional Balinese orchestra, or maybe your mind will wander in the opposite direction, towards bellowing nightclubs and world-class DJs.
Whatever you’re thinking, if you love jazz music, Denpasar is the place to be on a Sunday evening.
Let’s be honest; most tourists don’t tend to explore Denpasar. The closest most tourists get to the provincial capital is either a quick drive through from the southern beaches towards Ubud or a stop off at Immigration for a visa extension. This is actually a real shame; Denpasar is a busy and bustling, thriving city with heaps to explore. As you will have guessed, music plays a huge role in the nightlife scene in Denpasar.
But if you’re free on a Sunday evening, you should check out the Galang Ayu Market in Denpasar, which has morphed into an ad-hoc weekly jam session for jazz musicians. It’s beyond cool. Speaking to reporters, local drummer Bogie Prasetyo explained how the Sunday night jazz jam came about. He explained, “Initially, because of our anxiety during the pandemic. Many [musicians] have lost their jobs, and it is difficult to just play and practice.”
Prasetyo, along with musical friends Ketut Mastiana and Boni, created an informal band of their own. Playing in the corner of Galang Ayu Market, they steadily started attracting more and more musicians. Just last weekend, they were joined by local musician Idham Nursaid and vocalist Mercy Dumais, originally from Jakarta, and Rio Sidik from Bali, an incredibly talented trumpet player.
In true Indonesian style, the music jam sesh is multi-cultural. Last weekend the musicians were joined by Jef and Joe Rosenberg from Chicago in the USA, who joined in the laid-back music hangout. Prasetyo explained, “They were happy when I invited them here. So you can also share knowledge on the sidelines of his vacation.”
What the group of musicians is most excited about is making jazz music accessible. They acknowledge how jazz music has kind of lost its roots and is now synonymous with fine dining and more exclusive environments.
The Jazz Jam at Galang Ayu Market is free for all to come and watch, tap along, and even have a dance if you feel called to join in. Prasetyo concluded, “our music corner is indeed free because of friendship. We also want to create a community jazz festival event by involving groups that have grown up in Bali and also from outside.” For updates, follow @JazzPasar on Instagram.
A community-based jazz festival in Denpasar would no doubt be a huge success. Especially given the success of the internationally acclaimed annual Ubud Village Jazz Festival. Dates have already been announced for this year’s event.
The festival will take place at the Shtala Ubud on the 28th and 29th of July, 2023. It is absolutely worth flying into Bali just for the occasion and definitely worth driving up to Ubud if you’re staying along the coast while the festival is on.
The lineup is yet to be announced, but it is always incredible. Previously the Ubud Village Jazz Festival has featured artists like Tohpati Bertiga, the Bernard Van Rossum Quartet, and the Gustu Brahmanta Project.
Balis is a paradise for creatives, especially those with musical talents. This month Bali will welcome Joyland Festival in Nusa Dua; headline acts include M.I.A, Sigrid and Phoenix. At the end of the month, international superstar DJ and producer Calvin Harris will be headlining the two-year anniversary celebrations at Savaya in Uluwatu.
Leaders in Bali want to establish the island as a world-leading destination for live events and music festivals. We can expect to see the live music offerings across the island get bigger and better than ever before in the coming months.
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