“ A festival should contain both pleasure and competition, intermezzos and serious performances, and at the basis of all this is one thing: encounters,” Goenawan Mohamad, one of the co-founders of Salihara in South Jakarta, wrote in the catalog for the cultural institution’s first anniversary.
Festival Salihara, a biennial event back for the fourth time, embodies all this and has done so continuously in the past couple of years.
This year’s edition of the festival kicks off on Saturday and will run a little over a month, showcasing cultural events ranging from art exhibitions and literary discussions to music concerts, as well as dance and theater performances.
According to the organizers, the festival is Salihara’s gift to the city of Jakarta, and on a larger scale to Indonesia, with the aim of seeing the country’s creative forces thrive on an international stage.
Keeping up the tradition from past years, Salihara has again invited international artists as well as local talents to entertain its loyal audience and culture-hungry Jakartans over the course of a month, and the festival’s program looks like a colorful cultural kaleidoscope.
Perfectly embodying the festival’s spirit of encounter and cultural exchange is Amir John Haddad, who will perform on Oct. 10 and 11.
The musician, who was born in Germany and has a Colombian and Palestinian background, said on his website that his focus on music came at a very early age.
“When I was 7 years old, our TV quit working and my parents didn’t replace it, so from that moment on I was raised without a TV at home, and that was very important to my playing and my innocent and creative approach to music,” he said.
Haddad’s music encompasses many different influences: his songs are an eclectic mix of rock, funk, folk, flamenco and oriental sounds.
“Music keeps our spirit alive and makes us survive,” Haddad said.
Two days after Haddad takes to the stage, dance enthusiasts will be in for a treat as they can witness a performance by the Susanna Leinonen Company from Finland.
The company, founded in 2001 by award-winning artistic director and choreographer Susanna Leinonen, visited Jakarta in June to perform “Blinded Mind” for the finale of Jakarta’s Dance Festival.
During the visit, Jouka Valkama, video designer and husband of Leinonen, remarked that contemporary dance was a growing market in Asia.
“In the past few years, there has been a lot of demand for Susanna’s pieces from Asia. It has been easier to come to Asia than to travel around Europe,” Valkama said.
Seeing that the company is scheduled for another performance, this time with the piece “Trickle, Green Oak & The Line Begins to Blur,” proves his theory.
One of the festival highlights is a two-night performance by the Nan Jombang dance company on Oct. 23 and 24. The dance troupe, originally hailing from Padang in West Sumatra, is famous for combining dance and martial arts movements in its productions. Nan Jombang has already traveled to Singapore, South Korea, the Philippines, Germany and Australia, proving that not only are European dancers in demand in Asia, but the reverse movement of performers is also taking place.
There are many more local talents on display during Festival Salihara.
The opening night will see the performances of folk-meets-pop singer Sir Dandy, music group KunoKini and Aksan Sjuman, better known under the name Wong Aksan, the former drummer of rock band Dewa 19 who has since taken more of a jazz approach to music.
The first night will also feature an art installation by Kelompok Hitam Manis, Komroden Haro, Octora and Theresia Agustina Sitompul, which will all be on display throughout the course of the festival.
Sept. 22 to Oct. 24
Jl. Salihara 16, Pasar Minggu,
Tel. 021 789 1202