Sat | Oct 31, 2020

Jamaican musician finds fulfilment while stuck in Bali

Published:Tuesday | May 5, 2020 | 12:00 AMKimberley Small/Staff Reporter
Janine performing with local Indonesian musicians at a reggae themed restaurant.
Janine invited to the stage to sing at Blubear Restaurant in Bali, Indonesia
Janine JKUHL in Indonesia.
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LOCAL MUSICIAN Janine JKUHL’s two-month-long immersive creative residency programme in Bali, Indonesia, has been extended indefinitely, or at least until the world has the COVID-19 spread under control and international airports open up to passenger travel again. About now, she would have been making the long journey home to Jamaica, but the immersion continues.

Though the experience has extended far beyond the original plan, Janine reports that she is comfortable, fulfilled, grateful for the productive time spent, and excited for more to come.

Within her first two weeks on the island, she hit the ground running, performing at restaurants and other events before the shutdown took effect. She was setting the stage for a major performance at the Bali Spirit Festival in Ubud, from March 29 to April 5, which was cancelled along with most other festivals across the world.

She described a slow reaction to the pandemic. Upon her arrival, the island had reports of one confirmed case. “Most of the cases are in the capital island of Java. Now, the cases have increased, especially from the cruise ship workers returning home,” Janine told The Gleaner.

Even with that disappointing news, this story takes with a positive lilt, with the songbird and instrumentalist carrying her talents beyond more borders. Earlier on during her stay, Janine necessarily travelled to Singapore for three days to process travel documents for her stay in Indonesia. “Thanks to a neighbour who accompanied me, I had a great time, networked with some people and performed there. The short time I was there, I got pulled on to the stage to sing, about five times in five different places. The feedback was spectacular and welcoming,” she told The Gleaner.

CREATIVE SPACE

She returned to Bali just before the COVID-19 shutdown, and has since been in a creative mood, so much so, she’s made it to the studio and recorded her first song in Bali. “Rumah Sungai Villa, the place of Professor Morrissey and the residency, is just beautiful, peaceful and magical. It definitely gives me the space I need to create and focus, just tranquil with minimal distractions,” Janine said.

Professor Joseph Morrissey is the facilitator of the Indonesia Creative Fellowship, powered by Esirom. Before the pandemic took its hold, Esirom offered four residencies for 2020, one per calendar quarter. Residents were selected competitively from emerging talent in the fields of dance, music, the visual arts, new media, and the literary arts, with the vision to establish cultural relationships with Southeast Asia.

The only major distraction may well be the pandemic. All the same, Janine feels protected, as locals there have been receptive and reactive. Like some communities in Jamaica, the island residents have instituted their own measures to hinder the spread of the disease. “Bali is a place where each village controls their area. They don’t depend on the government, really,” she explained.

But the government has done its part, by halting all tourist activity in March. “The temples are closed, barber shops, salons, etc. It took some time, but they’re all closed now. You have to wear your mask to leave or enter a village, and on most entrances, you get sprayed.” In her own village, residents erected a sign reading, ‘If you don’t live here, please be respectful, stay out and wear your mask.”

The government has also extended all visa types for foreigners until the pandemic is under control. Janine didn’t budget for four months in Bali, but if her luck maintains, that won’t be a problem. “Someone here bought all 14 of my recorded tracks, including the new one, so I could pay to record another song here,” she shared.

“I have been using my monetary resources to fund the recording of my songs for my album. I am actually happy for the extra time to do that.”