Jogja Hip Hop Foundation, Center Stage, Tour
There’s a place where 18th-century spells and mantras slip organically into glittering breakbeats. Where the gamelan flutes and roundly resonant percussion swirl around a crisp rap flow. Where time-honored literature is bumpin’ and where the musically inclined intonation and punctuated rhythm of poetry turns tradition inside out.
Welcome to Yogyakarta, Indonesia, and the unique realms of possibility carved out by the Jogja Hip Hop Foundation, a vibrant young arts collective that makes Javanese rap and has a true knack for fostering unanticipated personal connections between ethnically diverse Indonesians, between different generations, and between Americans and Indonesia’s creative youth, in person-to-person diplomacy you can dance to.
“We just love to stand on the roots and traditions where we were born and grew up, but we are also part of global society. We want to give; not just receive,” exclaims Mohamad “Zuki” Marzuki, one of Jogja’s MCs, who is also a visual artist and electronic musician. “We can take poetry, traditional literature, or a spell or mantras—it could be from three hundred years ago—and we reimagine it, giving it contemporary context. We bring it into our generation and to the world. We want Americans to know about Javanese culture and our rap, to hear their reactions.”
Embraced by older intellectuals, initially skeptical elders, and young music fans alike back home, the Foundation will bring its tradition-inflected beats and sonically engaging Javanese poetry to the U.S. In November and December 2012, as part of CENTER STAGE (www.centerstageUS.org). Tour dates below!
An initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, CENTER STAGE brings compelling contemporary artists from Haiti, Indonesia, and Pakistan to the United States to engage the American people in cultural diplomacy as a way to create opportunities for greater understanding. Administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts, with funding from the Asian Cultural Council, the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, and the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art,this public-private partnership is the largest public diplomacy effort to bring foreign artists to American stages in recent history.
“Hip hop has changed in America,” Zuki reflects. “Too much bling this, bling that, and sexy girls. Our songs are very different. They’ve become a soundtrack of everyday life in Yogyakarta now, and that feels really good.”
The day-to-day in Indonesia’s vivacious cultural center encourages the kind of creativity Zuki and his crew exhibit. With a large community of university students, the city has become home to a whole scene of active young artists and intellectuals, eager to recast and rethink Java’s artistic heritage. Not a weekend goes by without dozens of events, happenings, art openings, and concerts at Yogyakarta’s many galleries and venues. Young and old—“even those people who don’t like hip hop,” Zuki laughs—will often turn out for a Jogja show, if only to sing the Yogyakarta anthem with the crew.