Wednesday, November 23

Ambon Jazz Plus Festival 2011

Bono once said, "Music can change the world because it can change people." Indeed, the power and potential of music to enrich lives was apparent, as I experienced first-hand recently. Now in its third year, the Ambon Jazz Plus Festival 2011 brought a renewed sense of hope to the people of Maluku as the event united people of all religions through their shared love of music. With the theme “Hands for Brotherhood,” the three-day event celebrated local and international talent and promoted better relations among the people of the Spice Islands, which recently experienced a spasm of religious conflict. The island’s local musicians were joined by a stellar list of international musicians at this year’s festival, including American jazz guitarist David Becker, French pianist Cedric Hanriot and the Ambonese-Dutch jazz and soul singer Jessica Manuputty.

I was fortunate to be able to perform in this music festival with my band, FVE Project. FVE (Funky Virus Experiment) has the roots of funk, imbued with nuances of fusion and jazz, due to its members' diverse musical backgrounds. Though a fresh entry in the music industry, each band member is no stranger to the music industry both here in Malaysia and Singapore. The members of FVE have participated individually in events including Ambon Jazz Plus Festival 2010 (Indonesia), Borneo Jazz Festival Preview 2011 (Malaysia), and Singapore Street Festival; opened acts for Glenn Fredly, Tompi, and Michael Buble; played in major Malaysian music venues such as No Black Tie, NeroFico, Groove Junction, and KLPAC; and even recorded for the first jazz album launched in Maldives, "Feshun". FVE's latest appearance as a band was at the Music, Arts, Style International Festival (MASiF) 2011 @ KLCC and Studio6's Afrik-Asia Music Fiesta 2011 gospel concert.

Sunshine and a cool tropical breeze greeted me, as I touched down at Ambon's Pattimura International Airport. What struck me first was the island's fertile and mountainous terrain... Though situated in a secluded location in Indonesia (rather close to Timor Leste and Australia), the natural scenery was just breathtaking!

As we roamed and explored the island, the beautiful, laid-back charm of Ambon and the hospitality of its people just made me forget the incessant, urban rush of our modern world...

As I quote from Shakespeare, "If music be the food of love, play on..." The local cuisine, like their music, definitely scored a hit, rendering us helpless in wanting yet another serving of food!

Eventually, it was time to perform, and my band took to the stage, tantalizing the audience with songs like Lettuce's "The Flu", Snarky Puppy's "Skate U", and Spyro Gyra's "Para ti Latino".

My whole experience in Ambon, Indonesia was an eye-opener. This year’s festival was held in Ambon’s central Pattimura Square for the first time, with the hope that the location would help draw more people. The strategy and hard work paid off - the estimated crowd at the event doubled from last year’s festival, with around 8,000 people watching performances over the three days. And how better to round up this post than with a video clip I shot on the introductory night cruise party we were invited to. Here, Ambonese people of all ages and religious backgrounds joined hands to form a circle, before singing “Maluku Tanah Pusaka” (“Maluku, the Sacred Land”), considered to be a cultural anthem for the people of the islands. Peace; brotherhood; equality for all - may these ideals spread out from Ambon, and to all the nations of the world.