The article first appeared on Indonesia Jazz Review, 17 March 2015.
Swing Boss Jazz Band dedicated itself since it was founded in 2014 to promote Indonesian vernacular songs in a unique arrangements combining jazz and bossa nova. Given that jazz emerges from an alternative cultural expression of folk songs developed by a particular group of immigrants in the US, the seven members of the band applies similar approach in the modern Indonesia, a diverse country where they can find abundant cultural reference for their works, such as folk songs from the eastern province of Maluku, Sulawesi, to Java. The latter became the theme of their performance in Galeri Indonesia Kaya, Jakarta, on Sunday, 16 March 2015.
Popular traditional Javanese folk songs such as Rek Ayo Rek and Suwe Ora Jamu showcased their creativity to make rural culture more receptive to urban trends. As the host repeteadly uttered in the opening words, “this is the real Java jazz,” alluring to the recently held International Java Jazz Festival 2015, the biggest regular jazz event in the country, but dominated by global pop culture instead of identifying local character. Talking about local identity, exceptional 30 year-old singer Sruti Respati, also in the same spirit to increase the popularity of Indonesian folk songs among the pop-influenced Indonesian public, sang Gundul Pacul and Gambang Suling in a classic style, but in harmony with the band’s play.
Taking an uncommon path in the current trend-shaped music industry, she reveals the contemporary side of Javanese and Keroncong vocal styles. Leading the stage side by side with the band’s front man, the saxophonist Imran Hasan with his fittingly improvised melody, the Java jazz concert by Swing Boss Jazz Band featuring Sruti Respati aimed to make concoction of global music genre to local taste, and possibly as it seems, vice versa.