When I tell my friends the classical string quartet performance I stumbled on was the highlight of my Christmas vacation, they might almost think that I just travelled to Vienna, Salzburg or Prague where Western classical music is rooted and is still celebrated everywhere you look.
Uh-uh, the place I visited was Yogyakarta instead, the most vibrant artistic city in Indonesia.
Before joining the crowd to visit the UNESCO sites, as an art lover, I decided to spare two days just to explore the galleries and modern art spaces in Jogja. However, it was not a very successful attempt as most of the dots on my “JogArt Map” are either closed or only accept prior appointments due to COVID 19, including the famous Affandi Museum.
I decided to try my luck anyway and hopped on a Grab car to Sarang Building, an art space hidden in a common village. When I arrived at the place, except for a few customers at the café, it seemed like no other happenings at all. While I was about to accept that it was a bad decision to come all the way here, I heard music playing somewhere not far away.
I followed the enchanting sound to the second storey. Against the window of a high ceiling exhibition hall, there were four big boys happily playing classical music in short pants, sports cap, t-shirt and flip flops. At first, I thought it was casual jamming, but when I stayed there and listened carefully, I knew right away they are not amateur but professional.
After enjoying a segment of the Beethoven string quartet at the random art space I picked, I thought it was already the luckiest thing of the day – not until I bumped into the Concert Producer of “Marskanskey String Quartet” in the café.
The four youngsters in the hall are indeed the string players of the “Marskanskey String Quartet”. They are the students and alumni from Yogyakarta Indonesian Institute of the Arts, and I just ran into their rehearsal for the concert at night. Because of this special encounter, I was able to get my very last-minute ticket from the Concert Producer.
When I came back to the Sarang Building that night, the four young musicians were already in their skinny fit black suits looking smart and bright and ready to play. The venue accommodated about 40 chairs comfortably, social distancing was properly adopted.
With no empty seats, the string quartet pieces from Beethoven, Shostakovich and Indonesian composer Jeremia Kimosabe Bukit were played in the two-hours performance. The music was definitely the most uplifting and soothing night breeze in this tropical country that night.
Sarang Building’s owner, Jumaldi Alfi, who is also a painter himself with his works exhibited in Art Basel and contemporary galleries in Hong Kong, my hometown. With the big help of google translate and my very limited Bahasa Indonesia, I learned from Mr Alfi’s opening speech that Sarang Building has been a hub for young local artists to showcase their works through performance, exhibition and workshop. It is also an open space for creative people to gather, roam around, relax and have their masterpieces brewing.
It was not the first “Marskanskey String Quartet” ’s performance staged in the Sarang Building. In fact, they had finished their concert tour across seven towns in Indonesia last year, including Jakarta and Yogyakarta where these young musicians base.
It was Reza Nurdian Hartono, one of the violinists of the Marskanskey String Quartet, who opened the iron gate of the exhibition hall for me when I was standing outside listening to their rehearsal. Little did he know that not just the iron gate, he was also opening the gateway to the world of Indonesian classical musicians to an amused foreigner.
Western Classical music was not prominent, even neglected in Indonesia music scene. Thanks to the collective effort among the local artists who helped each other out, young musicians like Manskanskey String Quartet could get more exposure that they deserve.
I strongly recommend next time when you are making your weekend plan, whether in Jogja or other cities, try to look for a western classical music show nearby! I am sure it will give you a pleasant surprise and a good time guaranteed.
Travel tips to art lovers: do not miss out the Kiniko Art gallery. It is just one minute walk away from the Sarang Building. You can find the works of Jumaldi Alfi and other contemporary Indonesian artists there. It is opened to the public from Tuesday to Sunday.
Marskanskey String Quartet
Iqbal Harja Maulana (Violin One), Reza Nurdian Hartono (Violin Two), Bravandy Wijaya (Viola), and Longginus Alyandu (Cello).
About the Writer
Mukmukcou is an expat’s wife residing in Jakarta. She is a Hong Konger, a cat person and an art lover.