Melbourne Town Hall fell into silence as the lights dimmed. Suspense was in the air as only gentle, excited whispers could be heard. Then, the familiar ‘ding’ of an airplane cabin echoed throughout the hall. The in-flight announcement was made.
“This is the announcement for the flight GA717 from Melbourne Town Hall to Indonesia. Please fasten your seat belts and enjoy the flight from Sabang to Merauke.”
To fly from Sabang to Merauke is to fly from one end of Indonesia to another. The audience was to be transported from Sabang, a tiny island off the northern tip of Sumatra, to Merauke, Indonesia’s easternmost city located in the island of Papua.
And thus began Artiumnation 2017, organised by Melbourne-based Indonesian dance group Saman Melbourne. The night was themed “Fly to Indonesia” and focused on providing attendees with a simulated flight experience, complete with live in-flight entertainment.
But as with any flight, the team behind Artiumnation encountered some turbulence along the way.
At the eleventh hour, Saman Melbourne announced that two of its guest bands, HIVI! and NAIF, were unable to perform that evening. Citing visa problems, Saman Melbourne Treasurer Teja Galih said re-arranging the program “was challenging, but [he] was fortunate to be able to work with such a collaborative team”.
“We managed how to handle this difficult situation and learned so much from it,” he said.
Having to shuffle their performers around and accommodate for a show without two of their headlining acts was a major setback for the team but nevertheless the show must go on.
Following welcoming speeches from President of Saman Melbourne, Rossa Wintala Puspitasari, Artiumnation Program Manager, Putri Jihan Bahmid, and a representative of Indonesian Consulate-General in Victoria, Albert Abdi, the show opened to a patriotic performance by guest star Ashilla Zee who sang one of the country’s famous songs, ‘Tanah Airku Indonesia’.
Wearing a black dress with her hair in a ponytail, the singer was accompanied by Artiumnation’s band who helped her add a funky groove to the beloved song.
Later in the evening, Ashilla would return to the stage, donning a white dress and white cape instead. She covered popular songs from renowned Indonesian artists such as RAN, Tulus and Raisa. Her performance drove the crowd into a frenzy, many clutching their hands in front of their chests as they sang along to the songs they loved.
Ashilla wasn’t the only highlight of the evening. Traditional dance found across the many regions of Indonesia was also given a platform to shine. Performing the traditional Saman dance from Aceh Darussalam, Sumatra, fifteen of Saman Melbourne’ dancers wore brightly-coloured costumes and moved elegantly in tone with the music. At one point, the dancers knelt and danced in unison, synchronised to music and dancing as one; bound together as one structure, one idea and one Indonesia.
Other showcases for Indonesian dance were also performed throughout the evening with traditional dances from regions such as Bali, Central Java, East Borneo, Batak and so much more were put on display. These dances came complete with their own unique choreography and ornate costumes coloured the stage, captivating attendees.
And finally, an a capella group also sang to the Artiumnation faithful. With their black tops and batik skirts, this group of singers also sang several traditional Indonesian songs, all to the beat of a gendang, a type of Indonesian solo drum.
As the night came to a close, more than 50 of the invited dancers were once again given the stage. With elegant choreography and skillful precision, the dancers came together to perform ‘Bersih Desa’ to close out the show. At that final moment, the attendees clapped and whistled for the dancers. The in-flight announcement came back on, announcing a safe passage and the show’s ‘grand landing’ in Melbourne.
Setbacks didn’t stop this show from being a spectacular evening of live entertainment. It certainly didn’t deter the audience from what was observed and, really, proved to be a night where Indonesians could be reminded of the beauty in their culture.
As Saman Melbourne and the performers made their final bows that night, Artiumnation’s Program Manager thanked everyone involved, especially her team.
“I’m very proud of my crew,” remarked Putri. “We’ve made this happen despite the obstacles!”