Producers of the Ramadan Jazz Festival say music can be a form of preaching, reaching out to young people, and showing them that mosques can be cool.
For two nights in late July, the Cut Meutia Mosque compound in Jakarta rang with swinging sounds as Indonesian jazz musicians and groups entertained thousands at the second annual Ramadan Jazz Festival.
“We want to send a message to Muslim youth that the mosque is actually a cool place for Muslim youth to hang out,” said Agus Setiawan of Jakarta-based jazz promoters Warta Jazz, which produced the festival together with the Cut Meutia Mosque Islamic Youth Association (RICMA).
“The mosque is actually not only a worship place. It is also a place to socialise,” Agus added.
Jazz is very popular among young Muslims in Jakarta, he said.
“The Q’uran verse says, ‘Preach with your own people’s language.’ Hence, we use jazz music as a medium to preach and approach young people, so there would be more Indonesian youth coming to the mosque more often,” he said.
Gilang Widodo is a 22-year-old who came to pray and lingered for jazz.
“I am not a big fan of jazz music. But I found this jazz festival to be unique because we could enjoy jazz music in a mosque after Taraweeh prayers, which is very unusual,” he said, referring to a special prayer said during Ramadan. “I decided to stay here to watch it.”
A focus on tolerance
This year’s festival featured 16 prominent Indonesian jazz musicians. They included Dwiki Dharmawan, Idang Rasjidi, Payung Teduh, Tompi, Endah N. Rhesa, Ari Pramudito, Barry Likumahuwa and also Jilly Likumahuwa.
Coming from different backgrounds, they brought diversity and high-calibre talent to an event where the emphasis was on religious as well as musical harmony.
“Through the Ramadan Jazz Festival, we want to share the spirit of togetherness without being concerned about our differences,” said Agus, the Warta Jazz representative.
“We want to show that Islam is a tolerant religion. For example, we not only invited Muslim jazz musicians, but also Christian jazz musicians such as Barry Likumahuwa and also Jilly Likumahuwa,” he explained.
The first Ramadan Jazz Festival, held in 2011, attracted 2,500 young audience members from the greater Jakarta area. This year, attendance at the July 27th-28th event topped 4,000.
Audience members also helped support local libraries. Instead of purchasing a ticket, those attending the event were asked to donate a children’s book.
Andhika Mauludi, a RICMA spokesman who chaired the event, told Khabar the books will be donated to ten libraries in East Nusa Tenggara Province.
“Every book was exchanged for an entrance ticket. For those who did not bring books, we sold a donation ticket for a nominal 20,000 rupiah ($2). The money will be used to buy more books,” he said.
“Last week, we were able to collect 1,600 books, which was more than our target of 1,000. We also raised one million rupiah ($106) in donations,” he said.
The books will be examined prior to delivery to ensure that none contains portrayals of violence, racism, or other sensitive issues, he said. RICMA plans to sort them that after Idul Fitri (Eid Mubarak). Then, they will be donated through the non-profit Sabantara Community at the University of Indonesia, which has a book donation programme.
Islam for a new generation
Andhika told Khabar that RICMA has been using non-conventional approaches to engage young Indonesian Muslims since the early 1990s.
“The jazz festival is actually not our first modern approach to preaching. Previously, we have held events such as Bike to Mosque and the Jakarta Islamic Fashion Guide,” he went on.
He believes that these are some of the best ways to reach Indonesian youth.
“We hope that by using a modern approach, we could attract as many young Muslims as possible to come to the mosque more often and be active and involved in mosque activities,” Andhika explained.