Bali Jazz Affair

Bali occasionally, cutting through the cacophony of Electronic Dance Music and top 40 hits that reverberates from
almost all major night hubs in Bali’s tourist areas, is the sounds jazz and all that. Admittedly, when one mentions the
top jazz destination for jazz lovers in Southeast Asia, one doesn’t immediately think of Bali.
But some brave souls have boldly trod where no one else has gone before—and succeed.  Unbeknown to most people,
Bali IS one of the top jazz destinations for jazz lovers in the Southeast Asia region and the genre is thriving on the

Many local musicians have been scene stealers in the festival circuits—both at home and abroad—such as guitar
maestro Dewa Budjana, Balawan, Sandy Winarta, Erik Sondhy (aka Mister Finger), Ito Jazz Trio, a 13-year-old piano
prodigy Joey Alexander (who’s 2015 album, My Favorite Things, was nominated for Best Jazz Improvised Solo and
Best Jazz Instrumental Album at the Grammy), and veteran jazz fixture Indra Lesmana has made Bali his home base
starting with 2017’s Sanur Mostly Jazz Festival.

However, the indisputable star is Ryoshi House of Jazz in Seminyak, every jazz lovers’ top destination as they visit
Bali, followed by the internationally-renowned Ubud Village Jazz Festival, which this year is celebrating their 7th

Best place to stay near the Festival

A Jazzy Affair
Even though the colorful Ubud Village Jazz Festival (UVJF) has been attracting avid jazz lovers and musicians from
around the globe—successfully positioning it as one of the top jazz festivals in the world—but the island has played
genial host to jazz before.
Back in 1996, jazz lover and musician Agung Wiryawan opened the (now closed) Jazz Café in Ubud, which created a
ripple effect and spreads jazz into the playlist of many restaurants and cafes in Sanur, Kuta, and Seminyak.
UVJF simply inflamed the crowd further. Set in the relatively modestly-sized enclosure of ARMA (Agung Rai Museum
of Art) Ubud front yard, the Ubud Village Jazz Festival has an intimate feel with simple stages and more focus on the
performances themselves—an exhilarating melting pot of groovy, soulful, instrumental, bebop, and free-styling jazz
Refreshingly, UVJF was kickstarted by homegrown jazz musicians: Yuri Mahatma, founder of Bali Jazz Community
and Underground Jazz Movement; and Anom Darsana, director, and owner of ANTIDA Music Production, one of the
biggest recording studios in Bali.
Their original idea was to create a festival that is more like a community concert participated by fellow jazz musician
friends and acquaintances looking for a proper joint to do jam sessions.
Along the way, the idea snowballed and grew into a bigger event than expected with the involvement and support of
numerous jazz communities. Thus, the first Ubud Village Jazz Festival swung into existence in 2013.

The Ubud Village Jazz Festival 2019

Save the dating jazz! The 7th outing of UVJF will be held on 16 – 17 August at ARMA Museum and the line-up is
looking promising so far with confirmed performances by American jazz pianist Aaron Goldberg, Austrian Michaela
Rabitsch and Robert Pawlik Quartet, Italian Daniele Gorgone, Australian group Arcing Wires, and Indonesia’s Kopi
Jazz Kediri who’ll imbue inimitable local sounds to jazz.
Agung Rai Museum of Art (ARMA), Jl Raya Pengosekan, Ubud.



Jazz Talk
The owner of Ryoshi House of Jazz, Mr. Saigon Togasa’s speech is subtle at first then interspersed with outbursts of
excitable words. The enthusiasm is contagious. Being the pioneer in distilling the sound of jazz and helping to
jumpstart the live music scene in Bali, the jazz aficionado aims for a Blue Note-level fame at his venue where
little-known prodigies display their musical prowess before leaping off into widespread stardom. We’d say he’s
already there…
Were you initially worried that a jazz joint might be too limiting in terms of finding an audience?
I realized that the live music scene that makes money here are the ones playing pop and Top 40 songs, and especially
in Bali where the live music scene is probably 95 percent DJ (music) and the five percent left goes to live music, with
the one percent being jazz (laughs). But I do it for the love of it.
So how did you come about establishing a jazz club in Bali in the first place?
I felt that there was a missing jazz culture in Bali, and wherever I go—from New York to Singapore—the first thing I
always looked for was the jazz club. Then I founded Blue Train in ’98 that plays jazz seven days a week in Double Six,
Seminyak, which unfortunately failed to find an audience, so I had to close it. After that, I kind of lay low for a while,
until Ryoshi moved to our current place, and Rio Sidik, who performed at the opening of the new place (and still
performs here today), suggested why don’t we do it every week? And so that’s how it became a weekly jazz event.
Tell us what you love most about having a jazz venue?
Oh, it’s the energy of it. Many people may not notice it but when the musicians are up there on the stage, they’re
interacting with each other. The bass player might suddenly do something new and the other members would be like,
WTF—and then, in the end, they’ll try to blow each other’s mind! And seeing new talent is also great; we have this
young kid from Yogyakarta named Hiro who plays a killer saxophone or when Joey Alexander (at age 7 and 10,
pre-Grammy nominations) performed with Sandy Winarta and Indra Lesmana and that kid drove those two to their
maximum potential!
How did you set your jazz club apart from the others?
Though we started small, I don’t want to compromise the gig—we set the standard high. We encourage musicians
who play here to express themselves; if they play a cover song, I want them to do it with their own unique style, not
like some karaoke version of it. We often stage jam sessions where we will have senior musicians to play with the
new ones. That’s how we have musicians like Iwan Fals, Indra Lesmana or Dewa Budjana, and international artists
such as Incognito and Earth, Wind & Fire, up on our stage and have jam sessions. Now we have people from all over
curious about the jazz scene in Bali then they come to Ryoshi.
So what’s the difference between the jazz scene then and now?
Of course compared to when I first got here in ’86 now Bali has everything! Before there was nothing here—not even
fresh milk! Today the jazz community is growing, and though there are some jazz clubs, I think we’re still the only one
that allows the musicians to just play and be themselves. We have an average performance of about 20 minutes for
each set or more for jam sessions.
Any new goals for the future?
You know, there aren’t that many jazz clubs in the world but the ones that exist have long term stability and are now
considered legends like Blue Note because many famous jazz artists play there before they become a big star and
make their own history. I want Ryoshi’s House of Jazz to be known like that: as the place where Balawan started, or
Sandy Winarta or Joey Alexander or Indra Gupta. I want it to make its own history.
Address: Jl. Raya Seminyak No.17, Seminyak.
Live Jazz Performance Hours: 9pm – 12pm (every Monday – Wednesday – Friday).

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