Drifting Piano and Proud Villagers, A Morning Stroll Around Ngayogjazz 2021

This year, Ngayogjazz returns to the village of Karang Tanjung to the north of Yogyakarta, a picturesque village surrounded by rice fields with undulating streets and multicoloured houses. This is the third time the village has hosted the festival.

Ngayogjazz chooses its location not only on the logistics – stage set up, parking, the aesthetics and so on, but far more so on the community. What is special about the village, how strong the community is and their inclusivity, their history, their enthusiasm about being the host. The festival becomes a collaborative process between the village and the organisers, where homes become stages, front gardens become food stalls and information points, and the residents become both festival organisers and guests. The festival lives and breathes through the village, and despite being online again this year, the excitement is no less palpable.

Walking around Karang Tanjung this morning as everything was being set up, rather than using a map, I let myself be guided by the sound of drumbeats and “one-two-one-twos” tha drifted across the streets. Residents stood in their gardens chatting and watching the motorbikes carrying signage and bamboo poles, and farmers cycled past carrying animal feed and scythes for their morning in the paddy field.

The sound of distorted piano brought me to perhaps my favourite stage for today, Panggung Bregas, busy with the soundcheck for Nita Aartsen & JogJaC Team. The sound of the stage and the surrounding people were matched with the sound of a hundred cicadas living within the bamboo that framed the stage, adding to the atmosphere. Speaking to Bu Pariyah, whose house sits next to Bregas, she laughed as she explained that the stage was positioned next to the graveyard, which was why it was surrounded by so much greenery. 

Continuing my way through the leafy paths of the village, an elderly simbah (grandma) Mbah Inam, dressed head to toe in batik, called me over to say “hebat iki” (this is terrific!), with two thumbs up to convey just how enthusiastic she was. She continued to tell me how the village’s young people had been busy preparing for the festival for days, and shared how excited her grandchildren were. “Bangga” (pride) was a word that I heard a few times on my walk this morning. 

 With only half an hour until the opening act, everything and everyone is ready for the 15th Ngayogjazz to begin.