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Terrorism likely behind avian flu outbreak: BIN chief

Avian flu: (Antara)

Fretting that terrorists might one day unleash bioweapons in Indonesia, the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) says it will monitor the recent outbreak of a new strain of avian influenza in Indonesia.

BIN chief Lt. Gen. Marciano Norman said on Thursday that the agency was on alert and would continue to monitor the spread of the new strain, identified as H5N1 clade 2.3.2, which has re-portedly been behind the deaths of tens of thousands of ducks in the nation.

“My agency has been closely watching this phenomenon since the beginning,” Marciano told reporters at the State Palace on Thursday. “We have to stay alert, as the global development of biological weapons is very fast.”

“In the future, this kind of biological attack will be frequently used in wars,” Marciano said, although he was quick to quell speculation that the new strain was a biological attack.

“We are closely monitoring developments. We can’t jump to conclusions without strong evidence,” Marciano added. “We are asking relevant agencies to look into the new strain of the virus more closely, and we will support their efforts.

Also speaking to reporters at the palace, Coordinating Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto said that several government agencies were investigating the new strain.

“Since we learned about the suspicion, we have formed a team to look into it. The team comprises the BIN and the Health Ministry, among others,” he said.

Djoko said that there were possibilities that the new strain of the virus had been “engineered” for certain parties. “The suspicion is good for us, because we can stay vigilant about any possible threats.”

Following the deaths of thousands of ducks over the past few months, regions across the country have taken measures to stop the spread of the new strain.

The new strain has killed more than 1,000 ducks in Bantul alone, while reportedly killing tens of thousands more in Yogyakarta, Central Java and in East Java.

In Tulungagung, East Java, for example, thousands of chickens have recently died from the new strain, which was thought to have been limited to ducks.

“The symptoms are very similar to those of the bird flu. We have taken precautionary measures by incinerating sick birds,” said Trimo, a farmer said as quoted by Antara news agency.

On Thursday, public health officials in Pati, Central Java, confirmed that hundreds of birds in the area recently died from bird flu.

“Based on our investigation on the samples taken from the dead birds, we found that they died from AI, [avian influenza]” Pati Health Agency chief Niken Trimeiningrum said.

The government has called on local administrations to take measures to prevent a pandemic.

In Central Java, administration officials said that the new strain had killed 200,000 ducks in 28 regencies and municipalities in the province since September, while over 6,000 ducks were reportedly infected with the virus in Lampung.

In Payakumbuh, West Sumatra, known as the province’s main production center for poultry products, the virus killed nearly 2,000 ducks in December, while in Sidenreng Rappang, South Sula-wesi, some 25,000 birds reportedly died from the virus in the same month.

In Bali, officials at the province’s animal quarantine centers said they were tightening measures to block the delivery of poultry from outside of the island through Gilimanuk Port.

“Right now, live ducks and frozen duck meat are not recommended to pass through the port and we are required to spray additional disinfectants to vehicles with transport poultry,” Ida Bagus Eka Ludra Manuaba, the head of the monitoring division at the Gilimanuk Animal Quarantine Center, told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

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Huawei Looks to Android With New Devices

Huawei Device, a division of Chinese infotech giant Huawei Technologies, is developing telecommunication devices that will use the Android platform. (AFP Photo)Huawei Device, a division of Chinese infotech giant Huawei Technologies, is developing telecommunication devices that will use the Android platform. (AFP Photo)
Huawei Device, a division of Chinese infotech giant Huawei Technologies, is developing telecommunication devices that will use the Android platform.
Huawei Device’s Indonesian unit, Huawei Tech Investment, have launched nine Android-based smartphones this year, and will launch another three by the end of year. Among them are two smartphones, Huawei Vision and Huawei Honor, and a tablet, MediaTab.
“We will launch Huawei Vision and Honor this month, and MediaTab by the end of December,” said Riadi Sugihtani, Huawei Tech Investment’s marketing director. Riadi said that the Android trend has grown quickly over the past two years, and accounts for 10 percent of smartphones on the market. “We estimate that there are between 300,000 and 500,000 Android smartphone users at the moment,” he said.
“Since Android’s market has just started to grow and the user base is still relatively small compared to other operating systems, there is a possibility that the user base will double next year,” Riadi said.
In the future, Riadi said, Huawei Device will continue to create devices that will support telecommunications. At the moment, the Chinese company only produces modems and handsets, and has only recently entered the tablet market.
Huawei's MediaTab is said to be the world’s first seven-inch Android 3.2 Honeycomb tablets. Dubbed Huawei Device’s smartest, slimmest and lightest tablet to date, the device measures 10.5 millimeters, weighs about 390 grams, and offers over six hours of battery life.
“One of Huawei’s characteristics is that we always create unlocked devices, so that our users will not have to be dependent on any mobile operators, and are able to choose the best connections wherever they are,” said Riadi.
Huawei Device has been operating in Indonesia since 2004, and will open its first Indonesian flagship store before the end of year.

Research in Motion Thanks Indonesia With BlackBerry Launch

Canadian Research In Motion launched two of its latest handsets, Blackberry Bold 9790 and Blackberry Curve 9380, in Jakarta on Tuesday night, as a token of appreciation for the increasing number of Blackberry service users in Indonesia. (Antara Photo/File)Canadian Research In Motion launched two of its latest handsets, BlackBerry Bold 9790 and BlackBerry Curve 9380, in Jakarta on Tuesday night, as a token of appreciation for the increasing number of BlackBerry service users in Indonesia.

“These two new products will be available in the market starting next week,” said RIM’s co-chief executive officer, Jim Balsillie, whose visit to the country was kept private until the launch event on Tuesday night. 

He said he was surprised to see the significant growth of BlackBerry in Indonesia. 

The subscribers of “BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS),” a service provisioned through a mobile phone service provider, has multiplied by a factor of 10 in the last two years, while around 85 percent of Blackberry users in Indonesia have activated BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service.

On the sidelines of the event, RIM’s regional managing director for Asia Pacific, Gregory Wade, said Reseach firm IDC estimated that by the end of this year, Blackberry’s market share in Indonesia would be 42 percent. 

According to IDC data, the annual shipment of BlackBerry products to Indonesia would be close to 4 million by end of this year, he told the Jakarta Globe. 

“By 2015, the annual shipment of BlackBerry smartphones to Indonesia would reach 9.7 million, in front of Android and Windows mobile smartphones. We are very optimistic about it.” 

Wade said the great thing about Southeast Asia’s largest market was the large base of growing middle class, which is estimated to reach 150 million people by 2015. Indonesia’s economy, meanwhile, was estimated to grow 6.5 percent this year, due to strong domestic spending and investment. 

“The Mobile penetration rate is still fairly low and we have already become the majority player, so we welcome this,” he said.

To achieve this expansion goal, he said distribution of products through mobile carriers, distributors, retailers, and application development would be crucial components.

The Canadian company would open the second BlackBerry lifestyle store in Southeast Asia at Kelapa Gading Mall in North Jakarta on Wednesday, to enhance its “retail look and feel.”

“[Jim Balsillie] is so excited about Indonesia. He is enthusiastic about the entrepreneurial drive, the innovator and the apps development here,” Wade said. 

“Also, [Balsillie] is impressed with Indonesia’s leadership in terms of applications and social networking. He believes that Indonesia is one of the best places in the world for social networking application development,” he added.

Beside launching its latest products on Tuesday, RIM also introduced its newly appointed country director for RIM Indonesia, Rohilesh Singh. 

He will be responsible for RIM’s operations in Indonesia. Andrew Cobham, who was introduced as RIM Indonesia’s president director last year, was said to have taken another role in the company.

My Jakarta: Bernadette Maria, Agnostic

‘I Don’t Know if God Exists, and I Don’t Care To Find Out’Most say faith is a personal matter. But is choosing not to have any faith at all an equally suitable choice, in the eyes of Indonesian society and the law?

While the recent arrest of an Indonesian atheist for airing his beliefs has sparked a dialogue about the state’s place in religion, Bernadette Maria’s nonconfrontational agnosticism rejects the convictions of both sides of the faith debate. 

The 22-year-old clinical psychology student’s perspective is above the fray and down to earth. Her theology runs only as deep as a belief that all faiths — or no faith at all — should be respected equally by government and its people.

Since you follow no religion, are you more ‘liberal’ in doing things considered sinful? 

I make my decisions regarding the so-called sinful things based on their real life pros and cons. For example, regarding marijuana, I gather information from the Internet, from many different sources, and make my call. So it’s not because I have no religion that I tend to be more liberal. It’s just that without religion, I can optimize my own rational decision-making system that is dogma-free. 

Do you fear hell, or missing out on heaven? 

No, I do not, because the concept of the two places or conditions is too simple, strict and absolute, whereas morality is not black and white, along with unpredictable what-if scenarios. For example, religion says that abortion is wrong, but what about rape victims? This is one reason why I don’t like the concept of religion. It’s somewhat absurd to judge humans based on these teachings, especially with the fact that religion is somewhat resistant to evolving along with human civilization. 

How did you become an agnostic? 

What I am right now is more like a phase in my life, rather than a fixed conclusion. Up until I was 15 years old, I was quite the religious person. I was until I read about the women in the reign of the Taliban, which further led me to articles on how women have been and are still now being disadvantaged by religions. 

After some time, it came to me that God has nothing to do with those problems. For now, I consider humans and religions as the cause of terrible things, like war. So currently, I don’t believe in any religions. 

What about God’s existence? 

As an agnostic, I don’t say that I don’t believe in God. My stance is, I don’t know if God exists or not, and I don’t care to find out. I don’t care because for me, that doesn’t really affect my condition. I won’t be a better person if God exists, nor become a worse person if God doesn’t exist. I think it has no impact on my life. 

However, if God does exist, I have lots of questions for Him or Her to answer. 

Do you belong to any formal group of fellow freethinkers? 

No, but there are some friends of mine who ended up becoming agnostics or even atheists. But sometimes I feel that they are especially annoying when they try to convince others that God does not exist. I mean, what’s the difference with religious people who try to argue with you that God does exist. The existence debate is something that will never be over. It’s impossible to prove either God’s existence or non-existence. 

People need to think for themselves and not just take for granted what others say. What’s wrong is for you to go against your own belief. If a particular religion is making your life uncomfortable, you might need to let go of your religion. However, if you feel that you are comfortable with your religion, I wouldn’t recommend that you leave it. So just do and believe whatever you want, as long as it’s still legal. 

Do you think society would be better off without religion? 

For me, sure. But from a psychological perspective, I fully understand others who may just collapse without religion, like those who have just lost their parents or loved ones and have no friends to talk to. Without the psychologically comforting and calming assurance of religion, they may not have the strength to live. 

Besides, due to the uncompromising nature of religion, the less dominant religion is, the less reason for minority oppression. 

What are your thoughts on the many cases of violence attributed to religion? 

Put simply, I believe that religion can and should be regulated by government, and not the other way around. On a related issue, I believe that government should treat agnostics and atheists equally. Currently, we are outlaws, as it is somewhat illegal to have no faith. 

The Constitution guarantees the freedom to have religion or other belief systems, and agnostics and atheists should be classified and protected as an ‘other belief system.’ The United States of America also uses the words ‘under God’ in its Pledge of Allegiance, yet that does not automatically mean that non-believers are criminals who can be shunned from society. 

Will your stance toward religion change? 

I might consider changing if religions start to show support for gay marriage and women’s equality. If that happen, then there’s less reason for me to go against the teachings of religion. 

Bernadette Maria was talking to Denny Firmanto Halim.

Indonesia Twitter Fight Turns Violent

While most Twitter users would probably click the “unfollow” button if someone bad-mouthed them on the social media Web site, a high school student in Makassar, South Sulawesi, sliced her antagonist’s cheek with a box cutter, seriously wounding her.

The victim, K.P.F., 16, was hospitalized with a one-centimeter-deep, four-centimeter-long gash running from her upper right lip to her right cheek after a quarrel with a fellow student, N.H., turned ugly on Tuesday.

Tamalate subdistrict police chief Adj. Comr. Amran Allobaji said on Wednesday that N.H. had been arrested.

“We charged her under Article 351 [of the Criminal Code] on assault, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison,” he said. “About the motive, the perpetrator was enraged because she was being constantly mocked on Twitter.”

Abdul Majid Kasim, principal of the high school where the two girls go, said the case should be settled out of court.

“For now we are holding meetings between the family of the perpetrator and the family of the victim so we can settle this,” he said on Wednesday.

The school, he said, had not decided whether to sanction any of the students involved in the incident. “Maybe [K.P.F.] said something that was out of line and [N.H.] just couldn’t stand it anymore,” he said.

K.P.F. had to get eight stitches for her injury, but she was released from the hospital immediately after that on Tuesday.

The case is also another example of the police arresting juvenile offenders and placing them in detention cells with adult criminals.

Two teenager brothers died in police custody in Sijunjung, West Sumatra, in December, highlighting the need for juvenile offenders to be treated differently from adults. Police insist the boys committed suicide.

The Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) told the House of Representatives on Tuesday that there should be special detention centers and correctional facilities for underage offenders.

The House is currently deliberating an amendment to the Law on Juvenile Justice, which would put more emphasis on alternative sentencing for children, instead of incarceration.

After Bali Prison Riot, Criticism of Packed Indonesian Jails

Calls mounted on Wednesday for the government to deal with the chronic overcrowding of its jails and detention facilities following the latest bout of violent unrest to hit Bali’s packed Kerobokan Prison.

For the second time in a week, widespread violence broke out at Kerobokan, with prisoners rioting and taking over the jail on Tuesday night. Police and soldiers needed 11 hours to re-establish control, and they had to call in hundreds of officers and water cannons to do it.

Three inmates and one officer were rushed to the police hospital in Denpasar for injuries sustained during the violence, police said.

Rioters set fire to the administrative offices of the jail and the flames burned nearly everything inside, including documents and money stored there and an armory containing firearms and ammunition. None of the prisoners escaped, an official said.

National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Saud Usman Nasution said in Jakarta on Wednesday that inmates had locked the jail from inside and pelted incoming police with stones and cement blocks. Only 20 guards were on duty on Tuesday night, and they had been forced to flee in the face of overwhelming numbers.
Later on Wednesday, at 10:15 p.m., rocks and two fuel bombs flew from inside the prison. Police and military officers on standby outside responded by opening fire, a journalist there said.

Police immediately cordoned off the area. The prisoners were demanding the release of the three inmates who were shot and taken to the police hospital earlier.

Gatot Goei, deputy program director for the Center for Detention Studies, said the clear cause of the Kerobokan violence was overcrowding.

Citing data from the directorate general for penitentiary affairs, he said there were 1,015 people detained in Kerobokan, which is 315 percent of its capacity.

“The question is why nothing has been done to handle this known overcrowding,” Gatot said in a news release.

He said his organization was calling on the government to seek ways to immediately alleviate the overcrowding at Kerobokan.

The statement suggested allowing prisoners convicted of trivial crimes to serve their sentence outside of the jail or be given conditional release. House or city arrests could also be an option for petty offenses.

The government could grant pardons for petty criminals who had served at least two years in jail, juvenile, elderly and handicapped convicts, it added. Drug users, it continued, could be moved to rehabilitation centers.

“Complete the construction of jails and detention facilities across Indonesia as soon as possible,” the center advised.

Finally, it said, although it was obvious that steps needed to be taken to deal with the overcrowding, nothing had yet been done.

Aziz Syamsuddin, deputy chairman of House of Representatives Commission III on legal affairs, said the issue of jail overcrowding must be addressed.

He said that although drug users were scheduled to be moved to a rehabilitation center in Bali, that facility was only expected to be completed next year. A special facility for women and children is still waiting to be built on the resort island.

With such packed prisons, he said, violent outbursts should come as no surprise. Other jails in the country, Aziz said, suffered from the same problem.

“We demand that this be settled,” he said, adding that despite available funding there were no new jail construction or expansion plans in the works.

Aziz said the Nusakambangan island prison off the southern coast of Central Java could accommodate more detention facilities if necessary.

He added that jails should use conditional releases and sentence cuts as part of efforts to reduce overcrowding.

Sharing Indonesia's Food With the World

The TV show opened with Indonesian culinary expert Bondan Winarno and his youngest daughter, Gwendoline Amanda Wirastari, standing in front of Prambanan Temple on the outskirts of Yogyakarta. The morning sun filtered though the temple towers, creating a serene, majestic tableau. The father and daughter scoured the temple and briefly explained its history. Afterward, they went to Pasar Lempuyangan in Yogyakarta to enjoy jadah manten, a traditional sweet and savory snack made of cassava, brown sugar and coconut. “I love this so much,” Gwen said, smiling at the camera. Father and daughter were filming an episode for the first season of “Taste of Indonesia,” a TV program that showcases the riches of Indonesian cuisines on the Asian Food Channel. Based in Singapore, the AFC is a 24-hour cable and satellite TV channel that features Asian foods and lifestyles. In Indonesia, AFC is broadcast by major cable TV providers, including First Media, Indovision, Aora and Telkomvision. Through AFC, the “Taste of Indonesia” is being aired in Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Brunei, Hong Kong, Mongolia and Indonesia. “It all started five years ago with a chat between friends at a studio in Jakarta,” Bondan said. “It occurred to us that we could actually promote the country by featuring Indonesian cuisines in a regional TV show.” Bondan and his friends then raised money to make a demo videotape, which they shot in Bali, focusing on street foods. They offered the tape to several TV stations in Asia. “Many of them were interested in putting the show on the air but we couldn’t find a sponsor to produce it,” he said. The project was shelved. In early 2010, the deputy minister of trade at the time, Mahendra Siregar, called Bondan to his office. “They were launching a program, ‘100% Cinta Produk Indonesia’ [‘100% Love for Indonesian Products’],” Bondan said. “And they asked me what I could do to support the program.” Bondan then showed Mahendra his demo videotape and explained his idea of promoting Indonesia with a food show. The deputy minister was interested and agreed to finance the show. “Why does the Ministry of Trade promote Indonesian cuisines?” asked Mahendra’s successor as deputy minister, Bayu Krisnamurthi. “Because it’s an extremely big business. Just imagine, Indonesians consume 40 million tons of rice per year. And that’s only rice. We haven’t taken into account the beef, chicken and eggs being consumed by Indonesian people.” According to the deputy minister, 90 percent of Indonesian culinary products are produced by small-to-medium enterprises. And 64 percent of all small-to-medium enterprises in Indonesia are food-related. “Thus, by promoting Indonesian cuisines, we promote the economy and trade of the country,” Bayu said. The production funds were allocated for the show on the condition that the entire 12-episode season was produced and aired by the end of 2011. “We had to finish filming 12 episodes in only six weeks,” Bondan said. “Our schedule was terribly hectic.” Because of the time constraints, Bondan did not have time to cast for co-hosts, so he asked his youngest daughter to present the show with him. “I was both surprised and ecstatic,” Gwen said. But her surprise and delight did not last long. Both Bondan and Gwen had to rush to finish the show. “We filmed in three different regions in a week,” she said. “It was terribly exhausting.” But Gwen, who spent most of her youth in the United States, said she discovered a lot about her native country during the filming of the show. “We traveled a lot with the crew by car,” she said. “It really opened my eyes. Indonesia is indeed very beautiful. I wouldn’t have seen it all with my own eyes if I weren’t on the show.” An unforgettable experience for Gwen was when she watched a group of women cooking rendang (caramelized beef curry) in front of their houses in a village in Padang Pariaman, West Sumatra. “They appeared to be very happy when cooking rendang for us,” Gwen said. “Their village was small, yet very beautiful. It’s located at the foot of a beautiful mountain amid lush green paddy fields.” Rendang takes more than six hours to cook. An international survey by in July 2011 ranked the dish among the top 50 most delicious foods in the world. “We’re very happy with the partnership,” said Derrick Foo, deputy director of partnerships and campaigns at AFC. “The show gets very good feedback from our viewers.” The first season of the show went to air last November and December. “A survey showed that AFC beat all other channels when the ‘Taste of Indonesia’ was aired in prime time,” according to Foo. The research, conducted by AGB Nielsen in Malaysia, showed that approximately 3.2 million viewers watched the first screening of the show in that country alone. “It shows that our viewers are enthusiastic to see more and more Indonesian [culinary] programs,” Foo said. Reruns of the show are now being aired on AFC in eight countries on Fridays at 8:30 p.m. Jakarta time. “The program improves awareness and appreciation for the cuisines of Indonesia both domestically and internationally,” said Bayu, the deputy minister. “I’m sure that if we continue this program, it will create a positive impact on Indonesia’s trade and tourism in the near future.” Bondan agreed. “Indonesian cuisine is one of the most obvious and important tourist attractions in the country,” he said. “If you go to Semarang [Central Java], what are you going to see?” Bondan asked. “You may go to the ancient Sam Po Kong temple or Lawang Sewu [old building] in the city for a couple of hours. Or you may come to see the Tugu Muda [war monument] for 15 minutes. And then what? “But if I give you my list of Semarang’s culinary delights, you can sample the suggestions for three days and three nights and still not finish it.” According to Bondan, there are at least 20 cities in Indonesia with rich culinary histories, including Jakarta, Bogor, Bandung, Manado in North Sulawesi and Pontianak in West Kalimantan. “Food is a slice-of-life experience,” he said. “Through cuisine, we can learn the ways of life of the people and appreciate their traditional cultures.” As for Gwen, she said she hoped the show would inspire a sense of love and pride for Indonesian cuisines in her two children, Saffron, 10, and Gael, 5. “They love Western foods now,” she said. “But when they see the show, they’ll see how varied and delicious Indonesian cuisines are. Hopefully, they’ll try to love Indonesian food, too.”

Wamena Calm Again After Brawl That Killed Soldier

Makassar. Acting Papua Governor Syamsul Arief Rivai said conditions in Wamena had stabilized after the city was rocked by a riot that killed a soldier. 

“[Wednesday’s] brawl was purely criminal,” he said on Thursday, dismissing speculations that it was connected to this year’s gubernatorial election like recent electoral clashes in Tolikara district . 

“Conditions have been returning to normal since.” 

Jayawijaya military commander Col. Ibnu Tri Widodo said earlier that the incident had been set off when a pas senger on an ojek, or motorcycle taxi, refused to pay his fare and the driver beat him up. 

But Jayawijaya Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Alfian said that after further investigation, it appeared that the clash started after a young man from neighboring Tiom village was extorted by thugs upon arriving at the market. 

The man was beaten for refusing to give the thugs money. Later that day, he reported the incident to people from his village, who stormed the market in search of the people responsible for the beating. 

When they couldn’t find the thugs, the frustrated villages began ransacking the market and attacking people, Afian said. John Banua, a deputy regent, arrived at the scene to assess the situation and was hit by an arrow in his thigh. 

“Schools, markets and shops have returned to their normal activities,” the police chief, said adding that authorities had not charged anyone for the incident. 

“We have to be sensitive. We have just restored order, so we cannot rush to investigate anyone,” he said. “We also have not assessed the damage, but several police patrol cars and stations were vandalized by the mob.” 

Syamsul said soldiers from a nearby military base had tried to stop the violence. “But unfortunately one soldier ended up getting killed after he was slashed in the neck,” he said. 

However, military commander Ibnu said that the soldier, Chief Sgt. Bambang Winarko, was in fact a member of John’s security team. Bambang was buried at the Wamena heroes’ cemetery in Papua’s capital Jayapura on Thursday. 

Ibnu said that the mob had also tried to steal Bambang’s handgun. 

“But [Thursday] morning his FN pistol was returned,” he said.

Get Jazzed, Java! 2012’s Roster Shines

Musician Stevie Wonder, above, Herbie Hancock, singer Erykah Badu and saxophonist Dave Koz are just a few of the names performing at this year’s Java Jazz. (Agency Photo)
Musician Stevie Wonder, above, Herbie 
Hancock, singer Erykah Badu and 
saxophonist Dave Koz
 are just a few of the names performing
 at this year’s Java Jazz. (Agency Photo)  
What used to be an event for a niche audience has become the annual occasion that many Jakartans feel they must attend. 

No longer reliant on bulking together barely known artists with well-past-their-heyday headliners, the Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival now carries an increasing number of respected names in its lineup. And while the event’s “jazz” tag seems to have lost some relevance with the mounting inclusion of musicians who bear no signs of the genre in their sound, it is still the place to go if you want to catch a variety of eclectic music. 

One of this year’s big draws is Stevie Wonder , the legendary artist whose influence on the R&B genre is immense. Wonder is popular for his barrage of hits, including the ’70s groovy mainstays “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours ,” “Superstition,” and “Higher Ground.” 

His high-profile collaborations have included singles with Paul McCartney , Dionne Warwick and the Jackson 5, among many notable others. For casual Indonesian listeners, Wonder’s most memorable hit was undoubtedly the plaintive (if rather sappy), organ-driven ballad “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” which dominated the radio waves here when it came out in 1984. 

Another legend set to perform is Herbie Hancock. Certainly a major player on the jazz scene, Hancock honed his skills as a member of the illustrious Miles Davis’s “second great quintet.” He is seen as being largely responsible for the rise of “post-bop” jazz during the mid-’60s, a genre that indulged in syncopated rhythms and eventually then-new instrumentations such as synthesizers. 

Hancock’s popularity surged beyond the jazz scene, however, with his ability to write jazz-infused pop songs that crossed into the mainstream. An example of this dynamism can be found in the rousing hip-hop styled “Rockit” in 1983, which was a minor hit in Indonesia due to its novel usage of vinyl scratching. 

Over the years, Hancock’s characteristically funk-ified brand of jazz has made him the go-to guy for artists to collaborate with, including Freddie Hubbard, Quincy Jones, Joni Mitchell and even Stevie Wonder. Over the years, Hancock has won a whopping 14 Grammies and has written or produced hits that many perhaps don’t even know he had a hand in. 

Another headliner is Erykah Badu , the soulful songstress whose music contains a seemingly effortless blend of soul, jazz, R&B, reggae and hip-hop, among others. Known to her fans as “The First Lady of Neo-Soul,” Badu found success with her debut release, “Baduizm,” in 1997. The record, as well as its breakthrough single “On & On,” made her a favorite with the Indonesian jazz and R&B crowds. Her strong vocal inflections are an obvious source of influence to many female singers around the country. 

Badu’s Grammy-nominated sophomore release was “Mama’s Gun,” which furthered her disparate influences into an even more eclectic whole. Although this and her subsequent albums, including 2010’s “New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh),” didn’t have the same popular impact in Indonesia as her debut did, Badu’s name still resonates with local fans.

The addition of vocal group The Manhattan Transfer to the festival is no shocker, considering it has performed more than few times at prior Java Jazz Festivals. The foursome is clearly a crowd favorite, with its glorious harmonies intertwining with the jazz and pop flourishes of its backing band. 

Clean-cut saxophonist Dave Koz is another name often found at Indonesian festivals. His brand of smooth jazz may not be much more than romantic wallpaper, but it’s clear that his adoring fan base thinks otherwise. 

Arguably, the biggest local name that will partake of this year’s festival is God Bless. The legendary rock band formed in the early 1970s as something of an Indonesian equivalent to global rock titans Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and the Rolling Stones. The group has undergone various lineup changes through the years, although its current incarnation is recognized as a reunion of the “classic lineup” by longtime fans. Many of its former members are today major players in the local music industry, including guitarist Eet Sjahranie and drummer Gilang Ramadhan. 

Although the band laid low for a few years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it regained its mantle as one of the country’s biggest names after returning to play many respected venues in the mid-2000s. Almost all of the group’s albums, including the self-titled debut, 1980’s “Cermin” (“Mirror”), 1988’s “Semut Hitam” (“Black Ant”) and 1989’s “Raksasa” (“Giant”) are today considered classics. 

That same rock energy can no doubt be experienced through Gugun Blues Shelter’s always-rousing performances. The trio is another crowd-pleasing entry, and it has gathered some momentum in the last few months with its brand of fiery blues rock. 

Similarly, the massively successful pop-rock band Kotak (Square) will be performing with newcomer Nabrassban. With plenty of radio hits to its name, the band finds little difficulty in getting a crowd singing along to any one of its easy-listening alternative rock tunes. 

Another momentous occasion will be an all-star tribute to the late Utha Likumahuwa, the jazz-pop musician who passed away late last year. Although no official announcement regarding the lineup to pay homage has been announced, it should certainly be a prime event considering the singer’s popularity and influence.

G-Pluck, the Beatles tribute band whose playful moniker (read as “Jiplak,” meaning “copy”) says much about its uncanny ability to mimic the legendary band’s sound and posture, is also a must-see. There’s a danger in attempting to execute the Fab Four’s vaunted repertoire, but G-Pluck does so admirably and consistently. 

Many other noteworthy names will fill out the lineup, including fusion-jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, local electro group Stereocase, Bobby McFerrin, Al Jarreau and the George Duke trio, Mayer Hawthorne and The County, Sister Duke, Robert Randolph and the Family Band and a variety of up-and-coming artists.

The festival will take place from March 2 to 4at the Jakarta International Expo in Kemayoran. 
Ticketing and full lineup info:

See the orangutans now before it is too late

I just came back from a weekend in Bukit Lawang. Bukit Lawang is about a three hour, bumpy bus ride from Medan and is apparently one of the best places for seeing orangutans in the wild. It was my second trip to Bukit Lawang, but the first time to see orangutans.   There is a feeding area where National Park staff feed the orangutans two times a day – at around 8:30 a.m. in the morning and 2:30 p.m. You need to pay an entrance fee of around 20,000 rupiah for foreigners and 50,000 rupiahs to take photos.

When you arrive in Bukit Lawang you will be met by one of the many “guides” who won’t leave you alone until you book a trekking trip with them. It is easy though to get to the feeding station without a guide. When it is close to feeding time, just keep going up the river past the “Jungle Inn” hotel, where there is a small boat to take you across the river. You can pay your money there or at the National Park office near where the becaks (motorized rickshaws) park.
The National Park guide said morning was better to see more orangutans. I was only able to see two, but the previous day there were seven. The orangutans live in the wild and make their way to the feeding station if they need food. The park rangers feed them milk and bananas.
It was incredible to see them up so close, just a meter or so away. They looked at us while we took pictures. The larger orangutan was 5 months pregnant.


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