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Return to the Stage

A piece I wrote for Bandung Philharmonic‘s first concert after 2,5 years of pandemic in which indoors live arts events were prohibited according to necessary public health regulations.

In an era of pandemic, global conflicts, economic pressures, and our escalating online consumption, are live music performances still relatable?

That is the question I ask myself everyday. No doubt many musicians ask themselves the same thing.

Bandung Philharmonic Concert 14 May 2022 at UNPAR Auditorium

A wise lady reminded me that humans have been making music even before we learned to read and write. The Neanderthal flute, one of the oldest instruments currently known to archaeologists and historians, date back to between 40,000 – 60,000 years ago. Jiahu flutes date back 7,000 – 9,000 years ago, and Tutankhamun has trumpets in his tomb.

Human history is a history of sex, blood, power, and – among others – music. Rest assured music will always be a part of society, though how it’s created, distributed, and consumed might change at incredible speed. TikTok trending sounds (roughly 7 seconds each) will fall out of trend after a couple of weeks. The Instagram algorithm might suddenly push your reel to 100,000 viewers, while flopping your very next reel. A hype music video might sink to oblivion after the hype is over.

Bombarded with music from every possible platform, tonight we invite you, for a precious hour, to rest the noise of it all. Let your gadgets be silent while you listen to an acoustic offering in this amazing space. In the quiet of this sanctuary, let there be music.

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Pandemic Reflections, a Poem

I deeply believe

the pandemic saved me

reminded me

that life doesn’t have to be so complicated

that my schedule doesn’t have to be

so suffocated

I quite like

the lazy afternoons

the song of neighborhood birds

nine hours of sleep

honking cars unheard

After all

If I may be coy

Is this not what we work

Our whole lives to enjoy?

(I thought this would be a fun way to start 2022, by reflecting on some of my benefits from the great pandemic – anyway, happy 2022 everyone)

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Covid Cauldron in Indonesia

July and August 2021 Indonesia has risen to number one Covid hotpot in the world. “We are the next India,” friends said in the WhatsApp groups. Every day there is news of someone dying, friends or family members that got infected, and some that are grieving because loved ones have just died.

When my grandmother died just 2 days after she contracted the virus, I wrote a lamentation. My uncle died soon after.

Economic Implications of the Covid Cauldron

In one of my zoom meetings for a possible next musical project, a new possible collaborator spoke of the film industry in Indonesia being in a critical situation due to producers not being able to pay hundreds of crews. This takes me back to the beginning of the pandemic. The performing arts industry was in that critical period last year. Of course, the whole landscape freefalling and musicians had to start selling food, masks, fresh vegetables, anything really to survive.

As for myself, in addition to my job at the Bandung Philharmonic where I’ve reduced my salary by 40%, I have been very fortunate to be a part of another music start-up in Singapore, made possible by Singaporean partners and grants. I’m also lucky that Villa Gupondoro Airbnb is still up and running, in fact becoming quite the popular staycation place in Bandung, so that provides some breathing space in terms of finances. Although of course it closed down again along with everything else in July.

The film industry still had online platforms, Netflix, etc so I guess they managed to hang on for another year (just barely). But now it’s their turn. It’s like watching a slow-moving train wreck. I wonder what will indeed happen in the next couple of years. How will the map change after Covid cauldron, and who are the players that will survive?

To be honest, I am not sure. I guess we can only take it a day, a week, a month at a time and hang on to weather the storm as best as we can.

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Covid Wedding: Yes or No?

For the better or worse, I’ve had two weddings within the last few years. My first wedding was on 25th of February 2017 to Oky. After his death last year, I started dated Cung, whom I married 1st of August 2020. The first was a huge 2000 people pre Covid wedding, while the second was a small 30 people ceremony held during the pandemic. At first we were a bit nervous about gathering and saying vows in the current situation, but when planned carefully adhering to strict health protocols, we reflected that it was actually very beneficial to get married this year.

How so?

First: Economic benefits.

A wedding can be extremely expensive! Sending and printing invitations, food, parking, wedding souvenirs, all this plus the bill for the organizers afterwards. In Indonesia, a fancy wedding is also a sign of wealth and social standing. Its also a matter of “face” to invite everyone both sides of the family knows. Naturally the guest list increases, adding up to a figure which can be irrational.

Given the Covid situation, you can only have about 30 guests or so. People understand this and won’t get offended, so you can actually save a lot of expenses. Family and good friends still send in gifts in the form of angpao-money in an envelope. Thus the chances are very high that you will end up having some extra cash, which is so nice in this economically challenging time.

The chances are very high that you will end up having some extra cash, which is so nice in this economically challenging time.

Second: Virtual trends allow for more guests.

Broadcasting trends with Zoom, Instagram Live, Facebook Live, or any other technology actually allows you to have more guests at a very low cost! You can invite friends from all over the globe to be a part of your special day. This is a huge benefit because otherwise, it would be a challenge for them to attend your wedding. Of course, if you are the type to prefer intimate private parties, then you don’t have to do this.

With affordable technology, you can invite friends from all over the globe to be a part of your special day.

Third: Facing the reality of life together.

For me, this is the most important benefit of a Covid wedding: getting married during a hard time forces you to truly think about the reality of your lives together. Real life has been very difficult this year, but guess what? That is the nature of life. In a couple of years another crisis will come along, whether it’s your personal life, work life, political emergencies, natural disaster, or some other global crisis. Living through this year’s adversity side by side and making the decision to get through future crisis together as a team, is priceless. You will be able to look back and say: we survived the pandemic together. We can survive more things together.

Getting married during a hard time forces you to truly think about the reality of your lives together.

So, Covid wedding? If you are ready to face the realities of life together, then yes. Go for it. This year is as good as any year.

To read a comparison of my first and second wedding, visit White Heels and Avocadoes.

Have you attended or perhaps had a wedding in this time? Do you know a friend or relative thinking of getting married under the current circumstances? What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments, I’d love to hear them!