Mon, 20 Nov 2000

Marching bands more than music and marching

By Tri Hafiningsih

JAKARTA (JP): A marching band performance is real entertainment, not just music and marching around. It is a mixture of music, color, skill and attractions.

The music makes you want to sing or dance rather than march around. At least that was what attracted the audience of the Grand Prix Marching Band (GPMB) 2000 at the Senayan Indoor Stadium, last weekend. The audience clapped, cheered and sang along with the performing bands.

Almost all kinds of music were played in the performances of 20 marching bands across the country. Pop, jazz, rock n'roll or R&B were mixed with ballads, classical or orchestral music. Slow, jazzy tunes were blended with fast, marching numbers in the bands' repertoires. Even features of traditional gamelan and dances were included in some of the bands' attractions.

The colorful displays of the musicians and guards are not easy to forget. The show presented by the skilled musicians of Pupuk Kaltim Marching Band won the most applause. The ballet choreography during the slow number Bahasa Kalbu (Language of the Heart by popular singer Titi Dwi Jayati) was one of many attractions that won the band from Bontang, East Kalimantan, the first place in the 16th grand prix.

Making a great show involving over 100 people, however, is not easy.

Members of the Santa Ursula Marching Band had to put up with hectic schedules of music and marching practices in the last three months. They had to spend the holidays after the mid-term tests in a training center to be ready for the Ben-Hur repertoire they had to perform. The 12-minute show, which was adapted from the 1959 classic movie, took at least five months to prepare.

Being a member of a marching band is also hard work. For Rima, a first year student at the University of Indonesia, practicing her skills would mean not only long, boring hours of marching and basic music practice, but also literally hard work requiring stamina as the student band's "helper". This "squad" of helpers is responsible for arranging the stage or field to be ready for the show within minutes. They have to push the wheeled xylophones and carry the timpanies, cymbals, cow-bells and other standing percussions, called the pit instruments, to the right spot. They are also responsible for bringing the flags and other accessories and arranging them in the required spot on the stage. During the GPMB 2000, Rima and around 30 fellow helpers had only three minutes to set up the stage.

Everyone should know exactly what to do and everything should be exactly in place, Rima said.

It would take several months more of working as a helper before she could be one a member of the Madah Bahana Marching Band (MBUI) musicians. There would be time when she will stand before an applauding audience, after a successful performance. Her seniors gave an attractive performance of a jazzy upbeat number entitled Cantina Band, ala Sing, Sing, Sing by Louis Prima for their closing piece at the grand prix.

Meanwhile she has to be content with playing her mellophone only in practice sessions and being a ready helper during the band's shows. "For the time being, I will just be wherever the band performs," Rima said.


Setting a training schedule for such a big band is another complicated task.

Members of the Garuda Indonesia band, who come mostly from lower-income families, had to really squeeze both their time and money to attend the routine rehearsals.

"Some of our members come from Bogor, Sukabumi, Yogya, even Surabaya. It's never easy for them to set aside the time and money to come here," said one of the band's supervisors.

"We didn't have enough time for many training sessions, and we couldn't afford training centers," said Oktariadi, adding that the more prosperous members of the band helped the less fortunate ones by providing meals and accommodation during the training sessions.

Though many of their members had no educational background in music, Okta said, they had the discipline and eagerness to work hard like professionals.

"They seem to have extra discipline and stamina to train in music and marching displays," he said.

The repertoire of the Garuda Indonesia Flight Drums and Bugle Corps in the GPMB event was taken from a popular play Miss Saigon. The attractive display of the band was supported by shiny, colorful costumes of the musicians and color guards. They received good applause from the spectators.


The hardship of training for a successful marching band performance is always worthwhile.

A great show is a visualized form of hard, skilled training, discipline, and teamwork of all members of the band, said Kirnadi, a leading band master and trainer.

"It's a harmony between a person's musical and visual creativity," he said, adding that the marching band training was part of an education to improve a person's self esteem, leadership and communication skills.

Despite all the great performances of the bands, the marching band competition failed to attract many spectators. People in the audience who were glued to their seats were mostly close relatives of the performers, including parents, brothers, sisters friends or former members.

Marching band shows are still not popular, said the chief of the organizing committee, Lisa Ayodhia.

"Many people still think such shows are not worth watching. It's actually a lot more than just music and marching. It's real entertainment," she said. Marching band activities, she said still need a lot of promotion across the country.