The 3rd North Sumatra Jazz Festival 2013: The Report




With the promising growth of jazz lovers in Medan, the North Sumatra Jazz Festival has became the most awaited annual events among Medan’s music audience. Quite different than any other jazz events ever held in this thrid biggest city in Indonesia, North Sumatra Jazz Festival upholds a remarkable idealism in bringing jazz onto its stage. More than a show of colorful genres of jazz and cool stage acts, Erucakra Mahameru from Waspada E-Music (WEM) as the founder of the festival and his team always leave more than enough room to promote local Medan’s jazz talents. While some of us went to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia to cover the 3rd KL International Jazz Festival (see the report here:, we also sent a reporter and photographer to cover up the 3r North Sumatra Jazz Festival held  in Medan.


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Entering the third edition of the festival, North Sumatra Jazz Festival 3 is the simple name they chose. The given theme for this year is “Jazz Concert.” It was held in the bigger venue at the Ballroom of Aston City Hall Hotel. Together with Gideon Momongan, a senior jazz journalist, photographer and founder of Indiejazz Indonesia, Erucakra filled the lineup with more varieties inside the jazz corridor. Other than Medan’s [flickr id=”9781985212″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”false” size=”medium” group=”” align=”left”] young jazz talents from Youth Jazz Community, a local jazz community founded in 2010 and B.D.G (Brian-Dwiky-Gopal),  there was Iwang Noorsaid, the famous Indonesian senior keyboardist who also played with BEX-Project in the first year of the festival, this time in collaboration with Erucakra C Man Band.
Then there was Sherly’O, a lovely female singer from Bali who owns the ‘old soul’ and charisma of legendary jazz singers with bluesy, soulful vocal vibes.  Representing the talent searching trend on TV was Dion Idol who reached the big four in Indonesian Idol Season 7.  Aditya Bayu, a very talented young jazz guitarist and Suarasama. Known as the ensemble of Indonesian ethnomusicologists who also came from Medan, Suarasama has produced two internationally acclaimed album in the world music scene. Their 1998’s ‘Fajar Di Atas Awan’ also came in two versions, one by Radio France Internationale and the 2008’s reissue by Drag City. Founded by husband and wife Irwansyah Harahap and Rithaony Hutajulu; both ethnomusicologists; they have gained the international recognition for long in blending Sumatran/Melayu (North Sumatran Malay), Western and Middle Eastern styles inside their musical concept. Irwansyah said that what they are doing is synthesizing all world’s ethnics into jazz. Interesting isn’t it?


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[flickr id=”9782238513″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”false” size=”medium” group=”” align=”right”] Now let’s see how it was. With much bigger number of crowds than the previous two attempts, the party started with B.D.G as the opening performance. Youth Jazz Community’s bigband brought the medley of two Earth, Wind & Fire’s famous hits “In The Stone” and “After The Love Has Gone”, Stevie Wonder’s “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life”, and USA For Africa’s “We Are The World”. Vinnie Lupita, the young jazz singer wearing hijab came up with some standards, a song originally written for Nat King Cole in 1965 “L-O-V-E” and one of the great American Songbook’s top lists, “Fly Me To The Moon.”

The Governor of North Sumatra Mr Gatot Pudjo Nugroho delivered his welcome speech and stated his support for this festival. Standing in front with him were the steering commitee from WEM, some other representatives from the local government and VIPs. Mr Governor even sang one cover song “Jerat” originally by Harvey Malaiholo.


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Then it was time to check out what the founder Erucakra Mahameru and his band C Man got in store. Erucakra and C Man Band consists of Erucakra Mahameru (guitar and vocal), Heri Syahputra (synthesizers & keyboards), Rusfian Karim (drums), Brian Harefa (saxophone),  Radhian Syuhada (bass) and Febri (percussions) as their latest formation. Collaborated with Iwang Noorsaid on keyboard who gave attractive performance throughout the fest, this internationally acclaimed band which played C Man’s latest single recorded in Norway and arranged by Edie Zam, “Quiet Rain”, taken from the upcoming album ‘Giant Butterfly’. The collaboration continued with a smoothly cool number composed by Iwang Noorsaid, “I’ll Be Fine Without You”.


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[flickr id=”9781969681″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”false” size=”medium” group=”” align=”left”] The next performer was Sherly’O accompanied by C Man. Pinning Sade’s “Nothing Can Come Between Us” in her very first performance in Medan, Sherly gained quite a big applause from the audience. She got even bigger appreciation when she nailed Chaka Khan’s “Through The Fire” and surprisingly took a famous Batak song, “Alusi Au” beautifully by wearing an Ulos (the traditional cloth of the Batak people of North Sumatra) on her shoulder. Sherly already has more than 15 years’ experience and has performed side by side with who’s who in the jazz world (both national and international) such as Phil Perry, Ireng Maulana, Tamam Husein, Idang Rasjidi, Bubi Chen and Peter F Gontha, just to mention a few. Speaking of her singing territory, she can pin multiple genres from contemporary pop to classic oldies, smooth jazz to soul, thanks to the beautiful soulful jazzy vibes that’s always resonated from her voice. She released her debut album in 2007 titled “Terima Kasih” and never stops gracing all kinds of stages ever since with any of his bands like The Quatro, Time Warp and Ireng Maulana and Friends. Recently she released her new EP (mini album) titled “Senandungku” that can be soon be purchased at land/online stores, including at’s store. With this album she aimed for a new dawn in her singing career. Let’s wish her the best, but other than wishing her, we believe with all the gifts she possessed within, she should stand on the top list. That’s the place she has to be at, and yes, she deserves it. Oh yeah, if you want her to perform in your event, kindly contact us.


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After Sherly’O, Suarasama got their session. With the unique, angelic voice of Rithaony Hutajulu, they sang “To The Wars” which is inspired by African ethnic from their recent album. They carried on with a famous Melayu folk song “Selayang Pandang” which served with distinctive Madagascar ethnic pattern. The guitarist Irwansyah also introduced an instrument he ound himself, a modified acoustic guitar with Pakistani Saz Guitar. An odd looking guitar that enables him to let out different sound, most probably he’s the only one who has this unique musical weapon in the world. Suarasama played “Timeline”, taken from the same titled album. Playing in different league, this group open up a whole new musical dimension that we may never thought to listen to. It might be a bit difficult to absorb by some, but having new invention and sound like this should make the North Sumatra and Indonesia in general proud. Kudos to you, Suarasama!


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To many young audience (mostly girls), the next performer was someone they might have been waiting for. Came up on the stage, Dion Idol sang an Indonesian national song written by Ismail Marzuku “Rayuan Pulau Kelapa” then fastly heated up the stage with his collaboration with C Man and guitarist Aditya Bayu with Sting’s “Englishman In New York”. His next choice was the song that made him famous, a dangdut recycled number titled “Sik Asik” popularized by Ayu Ting Ting. As the Indonesian Idol’s alumnus, Dion has his special way to entertain the audience. He went down from the stage, approaching the crowds to sing together with him. Iwan Fals’ controversial song “Bento” sealed up his session.


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After so many performances with a lot of attractive stories, the night wasn’t over just yet. Right after Dion Idol, A group from Youth Jazz Community who called themselves Bass Komed (Bass Komunitas Medan) took position on stage. This group consists of three bassists and a drummer. It was just one of the formations, because they can play up to 6 bassists at once in one single strike. Bass Komed carried on with their cool and attractive bass performance by playing Chick Corea’s “Spain”. And as how the way jazz event would do, the event gave one final shot with all performers came up on stage to release all the energy they got left in a spontaneous and total fun jam session. Not many audience left since it was already after midnight (around 00:30 am), but the participating artists still enjoyed their moment to the best they possibly could.

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[flickr id=”9782234853″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”false” size=”medium” group=”” align=”right”]For decades Medan is very well known as the rock city and has several different ethnics with their own strong music styles. But since 3 years ago, suddenly jazz jumped high and quickly gained position among the heart of music lovers in this region. So, if you still think that Medan doesn’t know how to jazz, think again, because they surely can! Having a Berklee College of Music graduated artist with international reputation like Erucakra Mahameru makes jazz in this city has a reliable ‘meyer’. The city now has solid jazz community, good developing youth community and has its own annual jazz festival. That certainly is an undeniable evidence that the jazz development in this area is running well. If these facts are still not enough, you can simply look at the number of audience attending the festival which almost reached the number of 1000.

Served in humble approach without necessarily took the most favorited groups with too expensive payment, North Sumatra Jazz Festival showed that choosing good players with good varieties could also make the festival reach success. Traditional jazz, modern jazz, the pop sides and surrealistic ethnic-coated jazz shone bright in this third edition. This might be too soon, but how about making Medan as one of the most favorite Jazz destination in Indonesia, even in South East Asia? If everyone in there keep their good work, we think it’s not impossible to reach.

We extend our gratitude to Eruckra Mahameru and WEM, Dion Momongan and Indiejazz Indonesia and everyone else behind this yearly event. Look forward to see the bigger, better and badder North Sumatra Jazz Festival next year. Keep jazzin’ yourself up, Medan! Horas!

See more pictures:

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Reporter: Daniel Irawan
Photographer: Ferry Rumahorbo
Editor: Riandy Kurniawan


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