Mu­sic

Joey Alexan­der's nom­i­na­tion for two Grammy Awards has cre­ated a height­ened in­ter­na­tional in­ter­est in In­done­sia's jazz scene, yet he is not the first child prodigy to emerge here play­ing jazz pi­ano.

Indonesia Expat - - CONTENTS - BY TERRY COLLINS Terry Collins, aka Jakar­tass, is cur­rently re­search­ing A His­tory of Jazz in In­done­sia.

The Kids Went Wild in Batavia

Jazz East ar­rivedIndies near­lyin whata cen­tu­ry­was then ago, the in Dutch 1919, and its en­try rep­re­sented a so­cio-cul­tural shift among the Dutch and Indo-Euro­pean teenagers, much as the ad­vent of rock ‘n' roll did in the mid-'50s in the USA. Be­cause noth­ing hap­pens in iso­la­tion, it is im­por­tant to con­sider why.

Ac­cord­ing to the se­cond com­plete census sur­vey of 1930, the pop­u­la­tion of Batavia was 435,000 hav­ing grown from 306,000 in 1920, while the pop­u­la­tion of the Dutch East Indies was 60,727,233. Of th­ese mil­lions, just 240,417 were peo­ple with Euro­pean le­gal sta­tus in the colony, and about 75 per­cent of those were ‘Eurasians', the chil­dren of Dutch men who had taken ‘na­tive' wives for the du­ra­tion of their con­tracts here.

There were also a num­ber of for­eign traders, in­clud­ing Bri­tish, who were 'in need' of en­ter­tain­ment and amuse­ment such as that ex­pe­ri­enced in Europe and the United States. This was pro­vided by up­mar­ket ho­tels that had their own house bands, the­atres and a net­work of of­fi­cial So­ciëteit Con­cor­dia, which of­fered the­atri­cal and mu­si­cal per­for­mances with danc­ing at week­ends.

Jazz grew out of rag­time mu­sic (‘ragged' rhythm), which orig­i­nated in the red-light dis­tricts of African-Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties in St. Louis and was pop­u­lar­ized by the pub­li­ca­tion of sheet mu­sic for pi­ano per­for­mances by Ernest Ho­gan. An­other African-Amer­i­can, Scott Jo­plin, reg­is­tered

Maple Leaf Rag in 1899; the ear­li­est sur­viv­ing record­ing of the tune is from 1906 by the United States Mil­i­tary Band.

Rag­time was pop­u­lar in Batavia. For ex­am­ple, in May 1913 the Elite Cinema and Deca Park Theatre, which had live vaude­ville acts, fea­tured the Amer­i­can rag­time co­me­dian and dancer Tom Richards.

On 26 Fe­bru­ary 1917, the all-white Orig­i­nal Dix­ieland 'Jass' Band (ODJB) recorded two sides of a shel­lac 78rpm disk, Dixie Jass Band One Step/Liv­ery Sta­ble Blues, which are con­sid­ered to be the first jazz record­ings. Rag­time went out of style.

Just ar­rived two in years Batavia later, with jazz the (no San longer Fran­cisco-‘jass') based group Columbiaof 42 mis­sion­aryPark Boys boys. Club's Their act eclec­tic– a pro­gramme in­cluded singing, danc­ing, tum­bling (gym­nas­tics), with marches and jazz played on cor­net, trom­bone, trum­pet, and sax­o­phone, with per­cus­sion. A reporter from the daily news­pa­per of the East Indies, Het Nieuws van den Dag dis­missed the Boys Club show as a “sort of cock­tail en­ter­tain­ment”. Al­though he found it amus­ing, the “loud and noisy mu­sic” gave him “stom­ach cramps”.

But the new mu­sic proved pop­u­lar, par­tic­u­larly with older teenagers. As phono­graphs were al­ready part of house­hold fur­nish­ings, the heavy shel­lac discs were brought into the coun­try from, it is sug­gested, Shang­hai via Sin­ga­pore. Live mu­sic sur­faced too in up­mar­ket ho­tels whose in-house staff bands, known as ‘string' bands be­cause ban­jos and vi­o­lins pre­dom­i­nated, soon be­gan to in­clude jazz in their reper­toires for mati­nee and week­end dances. It wasn't long be­fore high school and vo­ca­tional col­lege stu­dents de­cided to form their own dance bands play­ing the new mu­sic. How­ever, it wasn't in Batavia but in Makas­sar that the first band was started. In 1920, W.M. van Eldik formed the Black & White Band with his vi­o­lin­play­ing 17-year-old brother-in-law Wage Ru­dolf Suprat­man, now bet­ter known as the com­poser of the coun­try's na­tional an­them In­done­sia Raya. They played at wed­dings and birth­day par­ties.

The Batavia Jazz Band formed in 1922 with a line up of six ban­joists, two C-melody sax­o­phon­ists, a pi­anist, an acous­tic bassist and drum­mer, all of whom had Dutch names. How­ever, Pater who played the trom­bone and Geduld the cor­net player were pos­si­bly from Suri­name, the Dutch colony in the Caribbean. All were am­a­teur, but their in­flu­ences stretched to Ted Lewis and Paul White­man as in­ter­preted from sheet mu­sic.

The fol­low­ing year the band folded and two of the banjo play­ers, brothers Wim and Piet Bruyn van Rozen­burg joined with four other stu­dents at King Willem III School to form The Royal Jazz Band, but on vi­olin and alto sax re­spec­tively. They took their name from Kon­ingsplein (King's Square, now Monas) be­cause they had a reg­u­lar book­ing at the Rail­way Ho­tel on the east side, where Gam­bir Sta­tion is now. An­other band on the scene at the time was pro­saically called The Orig­i­nal Jazz Band. It is now no­table for its drum­mer: Moh. Aroef was the first recorded In­done­sian jazz mu­si­cian.

In 1926, a num­ber of Filipino jazz mu­si­cians en­livened the scene, and 1928 saw the visit of a real Amer­i­can jazz band, that of drum­mer Jack Carter tour­ing South­east Asia af­ter fin­ish­ing a con­tract at the Plaza Ho­tel in Shang­hai. Their live sound be­ing so much bet­ter than recorded ‘platen', they in­spired the young lo­cal mu­si­cians.

A new band was formed at the end of that year with sax, trum­pet and trom­bone, with Moh. Aroef on drums. They se­cured reg­u­lar gigs in the restau­rant of the Deca Park Theatre (north side of Kon­ingsplein) on Satur­day evenings af­ter the film show, and at the Rail­way Ho­tel whose man­ager was Paatje Vos. At the end of 1926 he be­came man­ager of the newly opened Tjikini Swim­ming Pool at the Zoo (now Ta­man Is­mail Mazurki), and the band, now called the Swim­ming Bath Or­ches­tra, played the Sun­day mati­nees, which started at 11am.

“The vis­i­tors first had a swim for half an hour and spent the rest of the mati­nee danc­ing to the lively mu­sic. At two o'clock they went home for their af­ter­noon nap.”

Yes, it was a time of leisure for the very few. Bands came and went as the per­son­nel left school, were posted out­side Batavia or re­turned to the Nether­lands, so we jump to 1930 and the en­try of Char­lie Over­beek Bloem to the scene. Born in 1912, he was just six years old when he took his first step to fame by play­ing Paderewski's Min­uet

in G at Schouw­burg Wel­tevre­den, now Ge­dung Ke­se­nian.

Bloem was to prove a mu­si­cal driv­ing force not only in Batavia but also na­tion­wide. At 18 he was lead­ing a trio, the Jazz-OMa­ni­acs, which played in the King Willem III School hall. He was also a key player in The Sil­ver Kings, named af­ter a cig­a­rette brand. They had gigs at elite ho­tels such as the Ho­tel des In­des, the Bata­vian Yacht Club and other so­ci­ety venues such as So­ciëteit Con­cor­dia in Ban­dung, reg­u­larly broad­cast live on the ra­dio.

In 1936 the semi-pro­fes­sional band recorded two sides of a 78rpm disc for HMV, Di­nah and Ma He's Mak­ing Eyes at Me, which, sadly, doesn't seem to have sur­vived. In early 1938, Bloem re­signed from the band and fo­cussed as a solo pi­anist broad­cast­ing live on Satur­day nights on the govern­ment-ap­proved ra­dio net­work heard through­out the ar­chi­pel­ago.

On De­cem­ber 7 1941, when Pearl Har­bour was at­tacked, jazz in the Dutch East Indies came to an abrupt end as all able-bod­ied men were mo­bi­lized and despatched to their de­fen­sive po­si­tions to pre­pare for the Ja­panese in­va­sion. The next chap­ter in A His­tory of Jazz in In­done­sia be­gan in late Au­gust 1945 when Char­lie Over­beek Bloem was re­leased from the Ja­panese in­tern­ment camp in Ban­dung.

"The mem­ory of things gone is im­por­tant to a jazz mu­si­cian."

- Louis Arm­strong

The Con­cor­dia So­ci­ety Build­ing in Surabaya, 1850– 1900

King Willem III School. The land in Jl. Salemba is now oc­cu­pied by the Na­tional Li­brary

CD reis­sue of first ' jass' ( jazz) record

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