In Jakarta, Guns N’ Roses’ Bumblefoot talks of guitars and charity

Banyubening Prieta | November 18, 2013

Bumblefoot: Ron Thal, the guitarist of the legendary rock band Guns N’ Roses, performs a set at @america.

Guns N’ Roses guitarist Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal was on hand in Jakarta recently as Rolling Stone Indonesia associate editor Ricky Siahaan and children’s creative community Kandank Jurank Doank (KJD) founder Dik Doank talked about their program to give guitars to deserving local kids.

Ricky, who is also the guitarist for local heavy rock band Seringai, made the choice of instrument seem natural. In Indonesia, he said, you can find a place to hang out where someone is playing the guitar every 100 meters as you go down the street.

He and his friends from Rolling Stone Indonesia started collecting 1,000 guitars in 2011, just after the magazine’s sixth anniversary. The instruments have since been delivered to children in shelters, orphanages, traditional Islamic schools and even jails under a program called “1,000 Guitars for Indonesian Kids”.

“We have been working with 60 Indonesian musicians. Twenty are guitarists. They volunteered to make songs for us and we bought guitars from the sales,” Ricky said at a recent event at the @america cultural center in Jakarta.

Distributing the guitars, however, has been more difficult, according to Ricky. “Sixty percent of the instruments have already delivered, but it is expensive to ship them out of town. So, musicians have been very helpful with distribution when they are on tour.”

Rock on: Bumblefoot greets one of the young performers from Kandank Jurank Doank. The Guns N’ Roses guitarist goes on the road to find new talents.

Jam session: Performers from the children’s creative community Kandank Jurank Doank based in Ciputat also had a chance to take the stage.

Bumblefoot, who said that the interactive discussion at @america was his first in eight years, is no stranger to such philanthropic efforts. The 44-year-old supports the Multiple Sclerosis Research Foundation, performing benefit concerts, visiting patients during disaster relief operations and even donates a portion of the proceeds he raises through his line of hot sauce.

In the US, he has performed with Little Kids Rock, a leading non-profit that has given music classes or free instruments to over 109,000 children in public schools and in communities affected by Hurricane Sandy.

“This kind of action happens worldwide,” Bumblefoot said.

Dik, who has been working with Ricky on the “1,000 Guitars” project for one-and-a-half years, brought 20 students he has been coaching to perform before an excited audience of almost 400 people at @america.

Dik Doank: The founder of Kandank Jurank Doank is upbeat about giving guitars to children. “Playing music indicates that the kids have already grown up — and when there is a guitar, there will be no age gaps.”

The students, wearing paper crowns along with kebaya and batik, played guitars, drummed on cans and danced for the crowd.

“Playing music indicates that the kids have already grown up — and when there is a guitar, there will be no age gaps,” the TV presenter said.

Ricky said that he hoped that the project would be replicated throughout the archipelago to include free education, regardless of chilrdren’s social strata. “Too bad, it’s still under the radar because only few people want to know or cover what they do.”

Meanwhile, Bumblefoot said that he would be interested in making a local music festival and collaborating with Indonesian musicians. “Contact Indonesia, get five really good Indonesian bands, and for each band there will be a guest from a well-known band.”

Bumblefoot said that talented local artists deserved more consideration. He often goes into the field in search of new talent. In July, for example, the guitarist went on the road with Point of View, a Dubai-based heavy metal band.

“Lots of time, local bands don’t get the attention they deserve. It could be because it’s too difficult to live and to go do a tour — or in Dubai, you need to leave your job to go for a tour.”

Ricky, the main motor of Jakarta-based hardcore band Stepforward, expressed a similar sentiment.

“We lack media [that reports] good news — that’s why people more focus on negative things. At a music concert, we put aside differences, so it should be shared.”

Ricky wants musicians to continue to promote the “1,000 Guitars” movement, saying that he will not rush the program and will only hand over guitars to those who need. He also hoped that Bumblefoot’s appearance in Jakarta might result in a song or video that could be downloaded free from the Internet.

Bumblefoot welcomed the idea. “When music is serves a greater good, it means something more than just entertainment.”

— Photos courtesy of @america

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