11 March 2011


Jakarta, Indonesia: Would I take my expensive camera, complete with two expensive lenses, to one of the poorer neighborhoods in the U.S. at night, to sit around on the street with locals drinking beer and shooting pictures of them doing something that is at least occasionally frowned upon by society at large - banned, even?

Probably not. It would be unwise.

Here, I don't think twice about it. One of my very favorite places on the planet is under a highway overpass at night, on the edge of a very dark, very poor, very dirty neighborhood called Jatinegara, where I am usually the only non-local to be seen. Even Indonesians from other parts of the city don't go there - some are afraid to. (I fruitlessly try to explain that while yes, Jakarta has crime, even increasing amounts of violent crime, it wouldn't even make the top 25 in crime statistics in the U.S.)

People in Jatinegara are, in my experience welcoming, friendly, helpful, happy to attempt conversing with me in my terrible Indonesian and proud that someone from far away is interested in their neighborhood and their lives.

There, six nights a week - they take Thursday night off - two stages are filled with musicians, singers and dancers performing Jaipongan. Rather than attempt to explain it, I will refer you to Wikipedia - which in this case, so far as I can tell, does a reasonably good job.

Men dance on the ground in front of the stage - sort of dancing with the women on the stage, who they shower with money - usually one and two thousand Rupiah bills (12 to 25 cents U.S.) - but also dancing with each other in a sort of martial artsish friendly competition for the attention of the women on stage.

Some of the women on stage might, or might not be, available for takeaway (so to speak), but you'd probably need to be a regular and get to know them first.

Last night I was there, by myself, enjoying one of my favorite things to do anywhere. I might have even danced a little - luckily there is no photographic evidence of that.

Here, though, is the other photographic evidence of my night out:

And okay, so he's not really a jaipong musician, but I'm pretty fond of nose-flute guy. He's good, too.


Sandra Cormier said...

Despite the low light, the photos are beautifully clear. Thanks for the snapshot into another world.

Eric said...

Gotta admit there are things I miss about film, but for the most part its performance in low light isn't one of them.