The definitive list of Southeast Asia’s best jazz festivals—where they are happening and why you should go.
Widely regarded as the largest jazz festival in Asia and one of the largest in the world, Jakarta’s biggest and possibly most eclectic music gathering continues to attract some of the biggest and best known acts in the world, including Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, India Arie and Joss Stone since it was established in 2005. These acts are not strictly all jazz either with the likes of Jason Mraz and Christina Perri previously gracing the Java Jazz stage. The three-day festival is held in March every year and consistently attracts an average of 50,000 people. It’s an amazing event that very few festival organisers have managed to pull off.
WHERE: Jakarta International Expo (JIEXPO), Jalan Kawasan PRJ Kemayoran, Kemayoran Jakarta 10620
WHEN: The next instalment takes place on 4-6 March 2016
A relative newcomer to the festival scene in Southeast Asia, the Bali Live festival started out in 2014 as an alternative to the Java Jazz Festival—featuring many of the same artists—but on the beautiful island of Bali. Much like Java Jazz, festivities take place at the beginning of March but generally start a day after Java Jazz closes making for one long cross-country festival. Not many of Java Jazz’s headliners make it to Bali but if you’d like to chill out to some smooth tunes on one of the world’s most beautiful islands, this is the perfect place to do just that.
WHERE: Taman Bhagawan Bali, Badung, Bali, Indonesia, 80363
WHEN: The next instalment takes place on 7-9 March 2016
Singapore’s premier jazz festival takes all the best bits of both local and international talents from not just the jazz world, but from soul, R&B, funk and even pop—creating what is one of Southeast Asia’s most vibrant festivals. The festival though goes one step further than simply being an output for the international music scene, offering its proceeds to the Foundation for the Arts and Social Enterprise which in turn funds its own jazz academy. This creates a wonderful cycle that ensures that jazz is kept alive and well for generations to come in Singapore. The inaugural ‘SING JAZZ’ kicked off in 2015 and after much rave reviews of acts such as Chris Botti, Chaka Khan, Incognito, Brand New Heavies, Yuna and Jessie J—not forgetting local Singaporean talents Charlie Lim and The Steve McQueens who more than held their own—we wait with keen anticipation for what future editions will bring us.
WHERE: Marina Bay Sands
WHEN: It will be at Marina Bay Sands from 4-6 March 2016 with a stunning line-up featuring the likes of Hiatus Kaiyote, Joss Stone, and the legendary Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club.
Formerly known as the ‘Miri International Jazz Festival’, the Borneo Jazz Festival celebrated its 10th year anniversary in 2015 with a huge list of artists performing something of a reunion show to commemorate the vast, incredible talents that the festival has played host to over its first decade—including Anthony Strong, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, The Doodaddies and The Nylons. Naturally this means things can only get better and with a huge event already planned for 2016, we’re looking forward more than ever to heading to Sarawak for some of Asia’s most memorable nights of jazz. Something keen travellers can look forward to is the one-of-a-kind craft bazaar accompanying each year’s festival that showcases the diverse cultures of the Malaysian state of Sarawak where the festival is held.
WHERE: ParkCity Everly Hotel, Miri, Sarawak.
WHEN: The next instalment takes place on 13-14 May 2016.
Now going into its 12th year, the Penang Island Jazz Festival has grown from its humble beginnings as a small two-day festival of 12 acts to a wonderful four-day explosion of jazz with acts from all over the world. As well as the eclectic artists and bands at the festival, there’s also a number of workshops held by artists who are participating in the festival and a number of exhibitions that span everything jazz-related from photography to poster art. All of this in an open-air setting on the absolutely stunning Penang Island and might we add, in full view of the sea. You can just imagine the stunning atmosphere as the evening sun sets with smooth jazz playing all around you.
WHERE: Batu Ferringhi, 11100 Penang, Malaysia
WHEN: The Penang Island Festival takes place over three days, annually at the beginning of December. The next instalment will take place from 3-6 December 2015.
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