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Creating Music in a Fast-Changing World – Java Jazz Festival 2020

Rebecca Reijman performing at Java Jazz Festival

Jakarta International BNI Java Jazz Festival 2020 is back with the tagline “Redeem Yourself Through Music.” Held in JIExpo Kemayoran between February 28 and March 1, the venue was filled with a whole host of international visitors.

Various artists also came from around the world to perform and entertain all the Java Jazz goers. On the second day of the festival, I got the chance to interview three incredible musicians: Rebecca Reijman, a singer who combines RnB, jazz, pop and rock into her songs; Jaz, a Brunei-born singer; and a modern city pop band from London called PREP.

Each musician interviewed has a different background and started hitting the music industry in a different generation. Rebecca has been into music since she was a kid; her first album “Kata Hati” was released in 2007. Recently, this Javanese-Surinamese-Dutch singer released a new single called “Clouds” with a unique, jazz-inspired music arrangement, bringing fresh colours into the Indonesian style.

Rebecca Reijman performing at Java Jazz Festival

Jaz, on the other hand, is a young Brunei-born singer who has decided to stay in Indonesia. Receiving the SCTV award for “The Most Popular Newcomer in 2017,” Jaz has topped the charts for online streaming ever since his first solo debut in 2016 titled “Dari Mata.”

PREP is a modern city pop band consisting of four members, Tom Havelock on vocals, Llywelyn Ap Myrddin playing keys, Dan Radclyffe strumming the guitar, and Guillaume Jambel taking the drums. This indie-pop band from London brings vibrant chords; all four of them came from different backgrounds within music. Comprising a hip-hop producer, classical composer, a house DJ, and a songwriter, PREP has managed to get millions of views on YouTube for their tracks including “Who’s Got You Singing Again,” “Cheapest Flight,” “Cold Fire,” and many more since 2015.

With approximately 40,000 tracks being added to Spotify daily, it can be very overwhelming if you try to stay up to date, and it will be impossible to listen to every single song on there. The total catalogue adds up to about 2,000 hours of music each day if the duration of a song were about three minutes. There are thousands of tracks getting added each year too.

It grabbed my attention that there are so many artists and creators in the music industry these days. According to Daniel Ek, a founder of Spotify on Music Business Worldwide, creators who engage on the platform have been increasing since early 2019, growing to over 3.9 million. Is it hard to create music in a fast-changing world? I decided to ask Rebecca, Jaz, and PREP about their thoughts on this as artists.

Rebecca thinks it is. “Well if you’re going to compare your music to other people, there are about 50,000 new songs on Spotify every day. If you are going to compare music to anybody else’s, you feel like you are left behind.”

“My first two albums were way before YouTube and Spotify, I am only 33 and it was already a different era back then. I did make a song called “Time Flies,” which is a song about spending so much time online. It does inspire me as well as it does influence me. But I don’t think it’s hard to keep track. Unless you want to follow the other 50,000 on Spotify – just do your own thing and focus on yourself,” she commented.

Meanwhile, PREP’s Tom claimed the band doesn’t fuss about it too much “or we’d go crazy. We are also quite lucky that we got a sound that we are really sure about.” PREP’s Guillaume added that the band is influenced by a lot of different artists, both the old and the new. Jaz also agrees to that; “we are going back to the oldies nowadays.”

PREP’s singer, Tom, on the stage of Java Jazz Festival

Tom continued by saying that “I have been in bands before where you have to make a record, and six months down the line, you hear some new album by someone and you are like, oh my God, what we are doing? Is this wrong? Change it and be like this! But with PREP, we’ve got our thing, we’re not concerned I think, we just keep doing our stuff. I mean, we are still making our first album; we are quite slow, we like to take our time.”

Surely, these three artists have their own way of creating a unique style in producing music. Rebecca was born in a mixed culture family, meaning that she can speak Dutch, English, and Indonesian while also incorporating all three languages in her songs.

Then, has been raised in a mixed-culture family affect how they make music? “Probably; it grows you as a person so it automatically grows you as a human being I believe, in terms of culture, intonations, mimicking vocals, and accent – both cultures are good to know,” said Rebecca.

As for Jaz who was born and raised in Brunei, he insists on using Indonesian in all of his songs. He doesn’t consider many cultural differences between Indonesia and Brunei when it comes to his music because back in Brunei as people also listen to a lot of Indonesian songs.

Jaz on stage performing at Java Jazz Festival

PREP, on the other hand, have songs which feature a lot of artists from different countries. Their song “Cold Fire” features Korean pop singer known as DEAN, and “Don’t Look Back” features a verse from Monsta X’s Shownu as well as backing vocals and guitar from Se So Neon’s So!YoON! They love working with other artists from different backgrounds and countries since they’re either big fans of them or big fans of the band.

“So there is always a kind of interest in each other. Normally, it’s been a mixture. Someone sings what we already have written or else they come and just do their thing. We’re up for both, mixing different types and vibes in the making of a song. With DEAN, we sent a track to him and sang a little bit of freestyle and adlibs. Then we got it back, turning it into amazing music,” reminisced the band altogether.

The creativity of musicians and artists can’t be limited when they’re producing their work. Thousands of tracks are daily added to playlists on services, for example, Spotify, bringing pressure to the music industry. However, mixing either cultural values or collaborating with other artists from different backgrounds can be the key to creating unique songs that people will love.

See: A Nostalgic Journey Through Djakarta Warehouse Project 2019

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