Embassy of the European Union: Nusantero Big Band, effort for cultural diplomacy mission through music

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(Photo: Prive. Doc)

IO – The European Union Embassy, in collaboration with 11 other embassies, held a Big Band NusanTero show in front of 300 spectators who filled the Erasmus Huis Auditorium – Jakarta on Wednesday, 26 February, 2020. One by one songs composed by European and Indonesian composers, played with stunning new arrangements.  “Under Full Moonlight” by Maladi opened the show.  With her melodious voice, Nita Aartsen, a well-known Indonesian music director, pianist and jazz vocalist brought the atmosphere into solemnity.  Besides the song, there are also “Orchid Flowers”, “Rame Rame”, “Bengawan Solo”, “Jali Jali” and “Umbrella Fantasy” packed beautifully with extraordinary musical accompaniment.  A few stories about the songs, introduced by musicians from the country of the song, such as “Svantetic” (Poland), “La Nuit Africaine” (France), “Dear Old Stockholm” (Sweden), “Blusette” (Belgium)1, “I Vitelloni” (Italy) and many more, played beautifully in 2 sets.

NusantEro Big Band is a collaboration of 25 famous jazz musicians from Indonesia, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland – led by Nita Aartsen.  They were able to bewitch the entire audience with extraordinary music.  After three months of training in their respective countries, they arrived in Jakarta two days before the performance day and practiced maximally until they appeared on one stage.

The name of Nita Aartsen is familiar in the ears of jazz lovers.  At the Jakarta International BNI Java Jazz Festival 2020, she again showed her expertise not only as a jazz musician and pianist-vocalist, but also as a music director.  A woman born on June 6, 1971, she has been well-known across jazz scenes, both domestically and internationally, and led 24 musicians who are members of the NusantEro Big Band.

17 years of experience as a pianist of the State Palace of the Republic of Indonesia and decades of performances in Europe made Nita respected among musicians.  That is what was highlighted by European Union to lead NusantEro.

Arranging songs of composers from the past in a nuance of contemporary might have been common, but if the songs from various regions in Europe and Indonesia are presented in nuances that are easy to enjoy, anyone who listens to them is not only entertained, but also  immersed in the narration and emotion of the harmony of various music.

That’s what was produced through NusantEro Big Band, which was formed by the European Union and its member states.  NusantEro is a collaboration of 24 well-known jazz musicians from Indonesia and Europe who present stunning works from a number of well-known composers, both from Indonesia (Gesang, Ismail Marzuki and Maladi) and Europe such as the works of Nino Rota (Italy), JS  Bach (Germany), Toots Thielemans (Belgium), Krzysztof Komeda (Poland), Charles Trenet (France), Jens Winther (Denmark) and many others.

Rows of songs that are familiar to the ears of Indonesian people such as Bengawan Solo, Als de orchideen bloien (Orchid Flower) and Under Full Moonlight are ready to entertain you. Besides classical music like Minuets in G repacked with melodic arrangements and lyrics in various languages by Nita Aartsen. There is also La mer, better known as the standard jazz song “Beyond the Sea”, sung in French by a trio of acapella from Indonesia; Arief Dharma, Zaky Tifano and Yohanes Raka.

As a Betawi origin song “Jali-Jali” was delivered with a very lively and full of surprises through the pioneers of Balinese mouth gamelan, Made Wardhana.  The folklore song “Dear old Stockholm” which is well known through the arrangement of American jazz musicians such as Miles Davis and John Coltrane, was also performed on stage to represent the country of origin of the song, Sweden.

The richness of this combination is a manifestation of the same motto between “Unity in Diversity” from Indonesia and “Unity in Diversity” from the European Union.  For this reason, NusantEro also presents musicians across generations.  The younger generation was represented by guitarist Brandon Julio, harmonica player Rega Dauna and vocalist from Indonesia; Yohanes Raka & Zaky Tifano, while the older generation (born in the 60s) was represented by Danilo Moccia, a trombone from Switzerland, Dutch vocalist Alexander and Gerard Kleijn, a trumpet player who also came from the Netherlands.

This cross-generational representation and diversity of works and the country of origin of these musicians is an EU effort for cultural diplomacy missions through music so that they can be accepted by all generations.

Also attending the show were the Ambassadors of several European countries, such as the European Union for Indonesia & Brunei Darussalam (Vincent Piket), the European Union Ambassador to ASEAN (Igor Drismans), the Dutch Ambassador (Lambert C. Grijns), the Polish Ambassador (Poland Blessed Stoczynska), Ambassador of Slovakia (Jaroslav Chlebo) and representatives of other European countries. (OHW)