Inside Dewi

She’s got Java Jazz, Soulnation and Java Rockin’ Land.

Yes, Dewi Gontha is the young and pretty Indonesian spark plug behind three of the most anticipated and best attended music festivals in the world.

First, the big daddy of the three – Java Jazz.

This was started in 2005 by Dewi’s father Peter Gontha, acknowledged architect of Indonesia’s broadcast media infrastructure.

An accomplished pianist and jazz afficionado, Peter Gontha religiously attended the iconic North Sea Jazz Festival – year in and year out – bringing along with him the finest jazz talents of Indonesia.

One day, instant epiphany!

He realized that 1) the southern hemisphere can use a major jazz festival and, 2) more Indonesians should participate musically and witness the jazzfest. Thus – the Jakarta Java Jazz Festival was born.

The first edition was staged in Jakarta in 2005, with approximately 125 groups and 1,405 artists performing in 146 shows. This was attended by a staggering 47,500 visitors during its three-day stretch.

The numbers have increased dramatically through the years.  This year, there were 106,000 attendees… while millions in Indonesia were treated to a centerstage view of the concerts in the comforts of their homes – with FREE live streaming.

Java Jazz has, expectedly, evolved into an institution with many a milestones.

It has given people in the region the chance to enjoy the music of the world’s first division artists like Santana, Earth, Wind & Fire, Airto Moreira & Flora Purim,  Chaka Khan, Daughters of Soul feat. Lalah Hathaway, Nona Hendryx, Dave Weckl, David Benoit, Deniece Williams, Diane Schuur,  Harvey Mason, Incognito, James Ingram, Deodato, The Crusaders, Swing Out Sisters, Frank McComb, Freddie Washington… and if you’ve got the whole day – I can go on and on.

It also showcased James Brown’s last international performance… and Stevie Wonder’s latest in Asia.

As the production company’s COO (Child Of Owner), Dewi initially just watched from the sidelines as his dad flawlessly molded Java Jazz Festival into a rare smooth-flowing, ego-untainted music event.

While learning the ropes, she was juggling what she absorbed in school (International Relations at Boston University), with her working experience in the US (investment banker Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette), with her fashion boutique venture with friends (Tribute) and with her senior positions in her dad’s companies (Datakom and Jaring Data Interaktif).

Music won out.

Dewi chose to be known as the President/Director at PT Java Festival Production.

A wise decision indeed.

Sponsors have continued to support all the projects of the company. Even the government has shown its 100% backing with significant subsidies – in recognition of the impact the music festivals make on the country’s tourism and cultural efforts.

Hobnobbing with the world’s most gifted musicians is one of the perks of being the greenlighter of each and every act.

But Dewi has a wishlist of artists that she hopes will inevitably grace the (usual) 14 electrifying stages during Java Jazz.

(While she excused herself momentarily, I saw the names of Sade… Adelle… and John Mayer. Of course, not to forget, Esperanza Spalding.)

She confides that she would love to spotlight some Pinoy acts but… admits… the production team doesn’t know any.

(At this point, I appointed myself as her Pinoy “suggester”.)

Her youngest “baby” is Java Rockin’ Land which saw the light in 2009.

It is a tribute to the rock genre (and its many permutations)… held outdoors in keeping with the spirit of its fanatical adherents… has featured acts as varied as the Cranberries and Mr. Big… and Indonesia’s loudest and most  energetic headbangers.

And finally, here’s what’s keeping her busy these days: Soulnation.

Soulnation was started in 2008 and was meant to celebrate soul music. Understandably, except for purists, this was quite limiting… so the festival eventually embraced all forms of “urban” music.

The line-up since inception has been dazzling: Simply Red, Arrested Development, Ashanti, LMFAO, Public Enemy, and Posner, among others.

This year, Dewi expects Soulnation to feature five international artists per day – in its five stages. For three glorious days – September 28, 29 and 30.

This will include, among others, James Morrison, Robin Thicke, Hercules and Love Affair, Color Me Bad and Bones, Thugs & Harmony.

Dewi hopes to – someday – replicate the success of Java Jazz in neighboring countries like Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.

There is never any time to rest – preparations for the next Java Jazz Festival takes 365 days and starts the next day after the latest one is concluded

Again, she stressed before I got into my cab, Java Festival Production’s efforts are fueled by the team’s love for music… but, because of the purity of intent, money is somehow also (greatly) attracted to the music festivals.

And no one’s complaining.

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