Tag Archives: music

Sparkling songbird lights up the stage


Sara Veal

It may have been five years in the making, but Imogen Heap, who dazzled the crowds at the Jakarta’s Kartika Expo Center, Balai Kartini, on Wednesday, March 31, proved she was worth waiting for.

The British multiple Grammy nominee took to the stage for two hours, with seemingly limitless energy, wit and stage presence, and an 18-song set that spanned her three solo albums.

“Until about two months ago, I didn’t know you were all into my music,” said Heap, who included Jakarta as the penultimate stop on the world tour for her latest album, Ellipse, following floods of Twitter messages from Indonesian fans.

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Karmela Kartodirdjo: Keeping it real


Sara Veal

“I love singing, I love it when I sing with a crowd, and I see them enjoying my music,” says Karmela Kartodirdjo over a cup of coffee in a cozy Kemang cafe.

“It gets me high when they sing the songs I have written.”

You might not have heard of Karmela, better known as Lala, but if you’re a fan of Indonesian pop music, you’re bound to fall for this little lady in a huge way.

With a laidback style, genuine demeanour and a crystal clear set of pipes, this Indonesian-Pinoy girl next door is well on her way to becoming the next big thing.

After spending two years making her name in the Philippines on the Warner Music label, the singer-songwriter returned to Jakarta last year to break into the Indonesian music industry, under the management of Sony.

“Both places are like my home, but I got to have a music career in the Philippines, and I also want to have one in here — I want the best of both worlds,” Karmela says.

In recent months, she has performed regular acoustic sets at Poste Kitchen Bar; toured around Asia with fellow Southeast Asian artists; served as a musical ambassador for Coca Cola’s “Open Happiness” project; wrapped up a musical comedy film; and is now working on her own album, with the first single due out in a few weeks.

Karmela writes songs about “personal experiences, people who are close to me, who inspire me”. Her new single, “Hasrat Cinta” (Passion), is a cover of a hit song from 10 years ago by male singer Yana Yulio.

“Because I’m a new artist here in Indonesia, we want people to know me first, so we gave them something they might be familiar with,” Karmela says, adding that while the song is “very pop” her musical roots are country, blues and alternative.

“But I’m very comfortable with pop. After that I’m working on my album, and will get to do more of my own songs… I want a lot of people to be able to sing my songs. That’s my goal.”

Indonesian artists she particularly looks up to are Rieka Roslan (“she has an amazing voice”) and Glenn Fredly (“I love him”).

At 24, Karmela has considerable entertainment experience under her belt. She began writing songs at 15, acted in sinetron when she was 17, co-starring with Bunga Citra Lestari, Raffi Ahmad, Arifin Putra and Laudya Cynthia Bella in SMP (Senandung Masa Puber).

Despite her acting forays — SKJ (Seleb Kota Jogja), her film with Cinta Laura and new Sony band SKJ, out next month — Karmela is focused on her music.

“I hope I do more albums than I do movies. I want people to know me as a musician, and then acting will be an extension of what I can do … Music is in my bones,” she says, adding that her main source of inspiration is her father, Eko Muhatma Kartodirdjo, famous in Malaysia during the 1960s as one of The Grim Preachers.

“He’s actually the reason why I play music. Since I was a young girl I would listen to him play the guitar and the music he listens to, like the Beatles, and all of that old stuff.”

Karmela is surrounded by songbirds and strummers. Her elder brother Marco is in the acoustic band Mike’s Apartment and is married to singer Imel, while she has been dating J. Mono, pop rock group Alexa’s bass player, for nine months, after meeting him at a television performance.

“We hang out with a lot of musicians. [J. Mono is] also in the industry, so we do a lot of things together. We relate to one another … He’s actually more experienced than me in the music industry, so he gives me a lot of advice.”

Getting to grips with the Indonesian music industry is a top priority for the singer.

“In the Philippines, the music industry there and the culture are different … It’s a challenge, but I’m having fun, because I’m learning a lot,” she says.

“[In Indonesia] a musician can also be seen as a celebrity, an artist … [but] in the Philippines, most of the musicians there are true musicians by heart.”

Karmela notes that “local music is really booming” and has observed a “gap” between the Indonesian audience and the output of local musicians, especially due to the archipelago’s diversity, hence she says “artists have to make more of the music audiences want to hear”.

“People are still listening to dangdut, people listen to Madonna, to Bon Jovi … it depends on what you give them … the more you give, the more they eat. People follow trends. That’s a characteristic of this country,” she says, adding the sale of RBTs (Ringback Tones) have become an important way of measuring an artist’s success.

“For my local album, we’re going to make it Indonesian, the aim is to localize myself again here as an Indonesian, because there is a difference if they see you as international or local, in terms of business too.”

In October, she and Imel, both representing Indonesia, hosted and performed at the Sing Out Asia concert in Usmar Ismail film building in Kuningan, Jakarta.

Sing Out Asia, which Karmela has been associated with since 2008, brings together top young talent from several ASEAN countries, and seeks to inspire fellow youths across the region, musically and through community work. After the Jakarta performance, the Sing Out Asia performers travelled to Japan.

“We got to perform at a bar and that night they were having female singers from Asia, so Imel and myself, and my friend Julianne, she performed with a guitar — she also performed [at the Sing Out Asia concert in Jakarta] — we did a production number, it was really fun.”

Upon her return, Karmela focused on her musical collaboration with three other Sony stars, Ello, Ipang and Beery from St. Loco, as part of Coca-Cola’s global “Open Happiness” campaign.

The only female in the quartet, Karmela represents the “pop female” of the quartet, to the others’ “pop male”, “rock male” and “hip-hop head”. The single, Buka Semangat Baru, was recently released, with an accompanying cheerful music video that regularly screens on TV.

“Every country has its own version … basically we’re trying to make people feel a new spirit again, because there’s a lot going on in this country,” she says.

“The concept was that we were at a circus, at a carnival … It was a really fun shoot, we did that in Bogor … there was a lot of green screens so we had to use our imagination.”

The Coca-Cola tour enabled Karmela to see more of Indonesia, which opened her eyes further to the range of ways people across the archipelago express their love of music.

“The characters of people are really different. In Yogyakarta, people are really calm. They’re so Javanese. In Makassar it’s different. They’re so excited and they always want to take close-up pictures. In Medan or Surabaya, people there are really into music. If we just sing a few songs, they get really hyped up.”

One month ago, on location in Yogyakarta, she completed filming SKJ, which is in the vein of Tom Hanks’ That Thing You Do.

“It’s about a band called SKJ that just got signed by Sony, and their journey, because they’re originally from Yogyakarta, so their journey from Yogyakarta to Jakarta, being a band, and there’s a contest…” she trails off, smiling, realizing she didn’t want to ruin the ending.

In the film, Karmela and Cinta Laura were the band’s fans and supporters, and her character has a romance with the SKJ bass player. She enjoyed working on the film, and was full of praise for her co-star.

“[Cinta Laura] is wonderful, I had a really great time working with her, she’s a pro.”

Besides her music work, Karmela makes time for other activities, such as teaching herself the piano and fitness.

“I’m into sports. I enrolled myself in a gym and I’m joining Muay Thai. You need a lot of energy to do this, for example, Alexa have gigs almost every day, and if they don’t keep their bodies fit they can drop.”

Karmela also enjoys going to gigs and is looking forward to the upcoming concerts of Kings of Convenience, Paramore (in Singapore) and Imogen Heap. She hopes one day she can open for a foreign act, and perform at rock festivals.

In the meantime, Karmela is dedicated to making her dreams come true, one day at a time.

“I hope I get to be a part of the music industry here, and be accepted, and people get to enjoy the music I deliver to them, and get to know me through my music.”

“Hasrat Cinta”, the first single of Karmela’s upcoming album, will be released soon. Follow the singer on Twitter (http://twitter.com/LalaKarmela) for more information. SKJ will be released in cinemas in April.


2005 – Bersama – Album, vocalist for band Inersia
2007 – Stars – Debut solo album under Warner Music Philippines.
2009 –”Buka Semangat Baru” – Coca-Cola single with Ello,
Ipang, and Beery of St. Loco.

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Julian Juwadi: Chasing away boredom


Sara Veal

Julian Juwadi can’t bear boredom, which is why he founded his own company. Association of Division (AOD) allows him to constantly explore new territory.

“What is AOD? Sometimes it’s clothes, sometimes it’s exhibitions… it’s only a space, and a creative studio,” the 25-year-old says.

Julian has avoided boredom all his life. After growing up in Bogor, he changed schools several times, whenever possible.

“Like in kindergarten, three times. In elementary school, it was twice… every time my parents offered me a chance to change, I accepted… I made a lot of friends!”

In 2003, Julian moved to Sydney to study business at university, on the advice of his mother, a successful and independent businesswoman. Although he “needs to know everything”, he found the degree tedious, but completed it anyway, playing guitar in a hardcore band in his spare time.

After university, he decided to apply his business skills to selling T-shirts a friend designed, which he funded with his “lunch money”.

“I didn’t know anything about fashion. I wanted to keep learning, explore something I didn’t know.”

The “rock-and-roll”, youth-orientated T-shirts, which he branded “Notorious”, were well received.

“I made A$1,400 a day. I went to each house with a bag and offered them products,” he says.

Although Julian loved Sydney, he returned to Indonesia in 2008, as “your home country is always a better fit” and he prefers communicating in Indonesian.

Building on his budding fashion empire, he added two more youth brands, Proud Parents for women, and Bizarre, which is unisex.

Opening a traditional retail store crossed his mind, but the restless entrepreneur felt that would be “monotonous”, so he came up with AOD, which would be a “pop-up” clothes store several times a year and a creative space the rest of the time, freeing him to implement whatever ideas struck his fancy.

Since AOD’s soft launch in 2008, the space has seen five fashion collections, and hosted several art and music events to support the local community, all of which have been met with enthusiasm.

These events included last year’s “We’re All Millionaires” exhibition, curated by C&C Projects in 2009 – offering contemporary artworks for Rp 1 million each while poking fun at the term “millionaire” and the elitism of art ownership.

In November 2009, again with C&C Projects, AOD hosted a playful exhibition for legendary Indonesian artist Teguh Ostenrik.

Most recently, throughout February, the space was transformed into AOD Records, a temporary record store that gave music fans the chance to sample 40 up-and-coming artists across genres, and buy associated merchandise. Free gigs were scheduled every Saturday from popular bands like Naif, SORE and Funny Little Dream.

“People came everyday. It was very tiring. I was kind of glad when it was over. But it was worth it. People said *wow’, it was really great for the bands,” Julian says.

“The customers tried other music, out of their comfort zones. We see that as a success.”

Julian supports the local community because it puts pressure on him to deliver and builds the AOD brand.

“We made a loss of AOD records, but that’s OK, because it’s good for the brand, it brought new people to AOD.”

Currently, AOD are working on a fashion-music collaboration, in which Naif and SORE will respectively act as brand ambassadors for the new collections of Bizarre and Notorious, with a small album launch at the AOD space.

Julian admits he roped Naif in through unorthodox methods.

“We sneaked backstage *at their concert* and gave them our clothes and they liked it!”

To further promote the new fashion collections, including Proud Parents, AOD is making short videos in with visual artists Joey Christian and Heru W. Atmaja, who have produced videos for Dewi Sandra. The two-to-four-minute films will be posted on YouTube and displayed at the upcoming Brightspot Market, between March 11-14 at Pacific Place.

After this project, another “We’re All Millionaires” exhibition is the works, as is an art-fashion collaboration with an artist he met at December’s Brightspot.

With all these plans bubbling away, one wonders if Julian ever gets a chance to relax.

“To save money, I bought all the console games, and play them in my room… if I have a holiday I’d spend a lot of money going everywhere,” he says.

Still even playing games is a form of work.

“I never work in a studio. If I’m in the office, that means I’m browsing, not working. If I’m in my room playing games, I’m working. I play a football game that I don’t really need to concentrate on, my mind is on other things, and if I come up with an idea, I just run to the studio.”

Julian says his fear of boredom and “hard-to-please” attitude has helped AOD, even if it often proves time-consuming, describing how he spent three weeks searching for the right fabric for a jacket in the new collection.

“I’m not good at making something, but I’m good at making things more interesting, because I’m easily bored,” he says, explaining how he works with his designers on concepts.

“Like clothes, if I don’t wear it I’m not going to sell it. If I come to an art show, what kind of art do I want to see?”

Friends, four of whom work at AOD, have also been invaluable.

“They’re the most creative people, so they help me to improve the concepts,” he says.

Julian notes he hasn’t always gotten it right, as in the case of a jacket priced at Rp 1.9 million, which didn’t sell.

“It’s probably because of buying power. *Jakartans* cannot experiment because if they spend money on something they don’t know, they might regret it.”

The company learned from its mistakes, these days items cost between Rp 150,000 and Rp 500,000. But Julian would prefer to make mistakes than play it safe.

“We’re still young, we make mistakes. I don’t want regrets when I’m 60 that I didn’t do something.”

AOD is set for expansion, with the upcoming collection being sold in Bandung and Bali, as well as overseas on-demand.

“We are accepting orders for this collection until June, only from the overseas market,” he says, adding to help generate international interest, he sent clothes to a London-based fashion blogger.

Julian will continue exploring the unknown, maybe dabbling with technology by holding a robot competition, and venturing into food and jewelry.

“AOD is like a platform for me. I can always do something different, so I can probably do it for the rest of my life.”


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Cult rockers battle the night


Sara Veal

For 15 years, alternative rock stars Placebo have set the music world alight with haunting tunes and unabashed debauchery.

Last Tuesday, Jakartans finally had the chance to see the naughty Nancy Boys in spectacularly acoustic action.

Since its 1994 formation in London, Placebo has gone through a number of line-up changes, but core duo Brian Molko and Stefan Olsdal remain as front man and bassist/guitarist, respectively.

Drummer Steve Forrest is the newest and youngest member, completing the official trio, and Tennis Indoor Senayan saw live support from bass guitarist Bill Lloyd and musical Girl Friday Fiona Brice on the keyboards, electric violin and theremin.

Before a large screen with narrative video clips, the band got down to business with “For What It’s Worth”, the spunky first single from 2009’s Battle for the Sun.

Placebo’s newest and sixth album was very much the focus of the gig’s 21-song setlist. After a soaring, insistent “Ashtray Heart”, “Battle for the Sun” more than earned its title track status, with Forrest’s thudding beats, Olsdal’s feverish strumming, Molko’s impassioned vocals and Brice’s violin accompaniment conveying apocalyptic bewilderment.

It was then time for a slight step into the past, with the powerful “Soulmates”, a heavier version of 2003’s “Sleeping with Ghosts”, from the album of the same name.

“Thank you very much Jakarta!” said Molko, looking far younger and fresher than you’d expect for his 37 years, and the amount of pharmaceutical experimentation to which he has happily confessed, before launching into the tinkling and relatively upbeat “Speaking in Tongues”.

“Follow the Cops Back Home” (Meds, 2006) followed, sorrowfully transforming the mood, and then a rousing rendition of “Every You Every Me” (Without You I’m Nothing, 1998) inspired sing-alongs and wolf-whistles, setting the scene for “Special Needs”, on which Olsdal especially shone.

“Breathe Underwater”, sure to become a fan favorite, upped the ante even further.

“It’s very funny for us every time we go to a new country, with a new audience, I’m surprised that people like us so much, so thank you for giving us your love tonight,” said Molko, while the band readied for “Julien”, which he introduced as a “song that begins in the gutter and ends with an ascent into hell”.

Battle for the Sun
continued to take center stage with the fiery “The Never-ending Why”, plaintive “Come Undone” and anthemic “Devil in the Details”.

Molko’s willingness to talk and sing about drugs was showcased in the playful “Meds”, frenzied “Song to Say Goodbye”, and of course, “Special K” (Black Market Music, 2000), which garnered the most enthusiastic response of the night.

After electrifyingly delivering “The Bitter End” (Sleeping with Ghosts), Molko and co said their goodbyes and disappeared into the wings, as a disturbing video clip of a ballet-dancer became a poor replacement for the band’s charismatic stage presence.

But with appropriate commotion from the audience, the band triumphantly returned for a much-wanted encore.

As Molko resumed his inimitable serenade, a suddenly shirtless Forrest, revealing impressive ink, threw himself into the delightful “Bright Lights”, which was perfectly complemented by “Trigger Happy”, an unreleased number that paired clap-happy beats with anti-war lyrics.

During the groovy “Infra-red”, a sweaty Molko literally threw the towel in, to one lucky fan’s evident pleasure, before the band closed the night with the classic “Taste in Men”, ending on a gender-ambiguous note, to thunderous applause.

“I thought they sounded great,” said student Meli Sastro, 22, who was seeing Placebo live for the first time. “All of the band had great stage presence and Brian Molko was looking fine, and the bassist’s sparkly pants were lovely.”

Placebo enthralled their Jakarta audience without theatrics or pyrotechnics. The glam rockers still have that special something.

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New artists sound off at pop-up record store


Sara Veal

Whether you’re a horror punk rocker or indie pop addict, next Saturday (Feb. 6) brings an opportunity to expand your musical horizons.

Inspired by New York’s CBGB music club, which served as a forum for the Ramones and Patti Smith, Julian Juwadi and Mirzie Arizaldi’s AOD Records offers music enthusiasts the chance to sample almost 40 up-and-coming artists across genres, including blues, metal, hardcore, jazz and ska, at its “pop-up record store” in Jl. Panglima Polim V, Jakarta Selatan, from Feb. 6 to 27.

There will also be acoustic performances every week from established acts such as Funny Little Dream, NAIF and SORE. The bands’ albums and merchandise will be available for purchase, as will refreshments.

“We have been supporting our community through fashion and arts,” says Juwadi, 25, founder of AOD, AOD Records’ parent company. “As music has become a strong part of our concept, we would like to show our support for the local music scene.”

Originally conceived while Julian was living in Sydney, AOD (Association of Division) has been, since 2008, a Jakarta-based creative studio, boutique and art space. Julian owns the space and develops concepts for events and fashion lines; partner Ade Sulistioputra is the finance director.

“I get bored very fast. By holding events, instead of just having a clothing store, I get to try out many ideas,” Julian say, adding that AOD accountant and event coordinator Pratidina Ratnanggani helps bring his concepts “down-to-earth”.

Revolving around three distinct fashion brands – Notorious menswear, Proud Parents womenswear, and the unisex Bizarre – the AOD studio has also hosted several events that to promote both established and emerging artists.

Past events include the C&C Projects-curated “We Are All Millionaires” in 2009, a group of contemporary artworks each priced at Rp 1 million, which poked fun at the cultural misconceptions of the term “millionaire” and addressed the elitism of art ownership.

In November 2009, again with C&C Projects, AOD exhibited a series of playful pieces by legendary Indonesian artist Teguh Ostenrik, continuing their shared mission to interest the younger generation in the often exclusive art world.

Along the same lines of inclusivity, AOD Records hopes to encourage music fans to step out of their comfort zones and consider bands they wouldn’t otherwise encounter.

“Plus, AOD has been strongly supported by the indie music scene,” Mirzie says. “By doing this temporary record store we, as AOD, are showing that we support them in return. These bands are doing their own thing, like we are. Plus the kids at AOD are music freaks!”

The 38 musical acts to be showcased at AOD Records beat competition, following a call for submissions via flyers and Facebook.

Interested acts that met the criteria – aged between 15 and 35 years, following “music enthusiast” or “art aficionado” lifestyles – were invited to enter their music, artwork and short biographies.

Pratidina, who went through the entries with Mirzie, said the creativity of the submissions was incredible, pointing out a woodcarving of a baying wolf from horror punk act Kelelawar Malam and a whimsical storybook by L’Alphalpha, an experimental acoustic band. But not all the artwork made the cut, as several overenthusiastic pieces exceeded the specified dimensions

“We want it to be about the music,” she said, adding they needed to ensure they had space for everyone in the 150-capacity venue.

Neither the acts nor the patrons have to pay to participate. Julian expects the Rp 30 million event, which required three months of planning, to break even through the sales of consigned merchandise, refreshments and an AOD Records compilation album, to be released after the event.

Julian credits friends – who have been generous with equipment and support – for being able to cut costs, as well as his and his staff’s DIY approach to transforming the studio.

“After *We Are All Millionaires’, I couldn’t walk for three days!” he says, referring to the painstaking installations required.

If AOD Records proves to be a success it will return in the future. In the meantime, the AOD space will host the launches of fashion/music collaborations with Naif (Bizarre) and SORE (Notorious) in March and April will see another “We Are All Millionaires” show.

Julian hopes that AOD continues to support local fashion, art and music for a long time to come.

“The creative world never ends, it’s always evolving.”

AOD Records
Feb. 6-27
Admission: Free
Jl. Panglima Polim V No.38
Jakarta Selatan 12610
021 72797514
Contact: Pratidina Ratnanggani
0818 0606 4076, dina@aodjakarta.com

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The greatest show that never was


Sara Veal

Michael Jackson’s death on June 25 this year was all the more poignant in that it was less than three weeks before he was to begin a series of 50 concerts.

The concerts scheduled to take place at The O2 arena in London would have been his “final curtain call”.

It would have been his first significant concert event since his 1997 HIStory world tour, and despite the ugly controversies that have dogged him since then, the public responded with wild enthusiasm and all 50 concerts were sold out in record-smashing time.

So it’s no surprise that Anschutz Entertainnment Group (AEG) Live, the concert organizers, decided to cobble together a concert film from the footage of Jackson rehearsing for the concert, which was reportedly meant for the star’s personal archives.

Michael Jackson’s This is It, “directed” by Jackson’s choreographer Kenny Ortega (Dirty Dancing, High School Musical), was released worldwide on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009, for an apparently limited two-week theatrical run. It’s both a chance to give the disappointed fans a little of what they missed out on – and more importantly, recoup the lost profits.

This is It certainly proves that the O2 concerts would have been truly unforgettable, and that it would have been more grand theatre than concert, with lavish, technologically ground-breaking set pieces accompanying Jackson’s greatest hits. More than 20 of his songs were featured.

“The Way You Make Me Feel” was set against a New York City backdrop, with silhouetted back-up clicking their fingers in a faux construction site. For “Bad” and “They Don’t Really Care About Us”, 11 back-up dancers, wearing futuristic army gear, were multiplied into a legion of 1,100 soldiers via green screen.

The most breathtaking sequence was fittingly the epic *Thriller”, with a haunting graveyard set, elaborately costumed corpse brides and ghoulish grooms, enhanced by 3D segments, where the audience would have enjoyed the creatures popping out of the screen.

Jackson’s support was impressive too, with the film sharing the extremely competitive audition process for his elite team of back-up dancers, and a chance to get to know his supporting musicians, such as backup singer Judith Hill, who was a clear, soulful set of vocal chords and lead guitarist Orianthi Panigaris, a Greek-Australian with a touch of the glam rock star about her.

All those working with Jackson are unanimously reverential, wildly applauding every rehearsed song and extolling the wonders of the man.

The star himself comes across well in the production, but there are no real insights into him, despite the tagline’s promise that it will show him “as you’ve never seen him before”. He seems childlike – using the word love a lot when talking about his work and his team, even spelling it out (“L-O-V-E”) several times – and a perfectionist performer. All things you would expect.

The only really startling element is the prolonged exposure to his frail state during the film – he looks so terribly thin, tired and aged, especially compared to his healthy dancers. He still had the moves, and the voice, but all his fire seemed extinguished – there was nothing left of his former raw sexual energy when reprising steps from “Beat It” and “Bad”. Jackson looks like a man who should have been resting and focusing on regaining his health – instead of pushing himself relentlessly for an overwhelmingly huge concert run.

While Michael Jackson’s This is It is certainly a must-see for his fans, and thankfully avoids the potential for sentimentality, it is a sad viewing experience, as with hindsight, every exertion seems to bring the star closer to his premature death. The awesome theatrics cannot distract from his fragility. Even so, the “This is It” concert run would have probably been the greatest show on earth – but the very fact of it was probably its – and Jackson’s – ultimate undoing.

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Monica Akihary: Singing the past to life


Sara Veal

Twenty years ago, Monica Akihary visited Indonesia for the first time, with high-school sweetheart Neils Brouwer, to study sculpture and batik. The trip inspired her to become a professional singer.

Today she is still making beautiful music with Brouwer in world jazz band Boi Akih, drawing on her Moluccan roots, adding a contemporary twist to old folk tales.

“I was at Asri, in Yogya; I came to study there for a year,” says Akihary, an ageless beauty with wild curls.

“Our house was across from a school that taught traditional gamelan music of Java. We also traveled around. When I came back, I was like, oh, these things are so beautiful, and it really inspired us for the rest of our whole lives.”

Akihary and guitarist Brouwer are the center of Netherlands-based Boi Akih (“Princess Akih” in the language of Haruku Island), which plays in a range of set ups, from duo to six-piece band. Earlier this month, they performed in Jakarta, Ambon and Bandung.

Akihary’s grandparents on both her mother’s and father’s sides emigrated from Ambon to Holland in the 1950s, fleeing the tense political situation. Despite living in diaspora, Akihary’s relatives made sure she was well-versed in Moluccan heritage, language and culture.

“They taught me as much as they could about the socially important things in Indonesia,” she says, listing respecting one’s elders, remembering ancestors and always making sure there is food in the house among the most important lessons.

This meant that her first visit to her homeland, where she still has countless relatives, was like returning home, although she found, to her amusement, that her vocabulary was old-fashioned, reflecting the 1950s language her parents had used.

Language is essential to Akihary, who can speak Dutch, Indonesian, English, German and French. She also sings and writes songs in the language of Haruku Island, where her father is from, because “this language … is very beautiful to sing in”, she says.

The Haruku language’s soft vowels and melodic syllables perfectly set off her rich vocals, forming the most distinctive aspect of Boi Akih’s sound. In fact, her confident, expressive use of the near-extinct language is doing much to rejuvenate it.

“Because I’m writing new stories, it is alive again!” she says.

“I’m working with two universities, one in the Netherlands and one in Australia, Monash University, and there are two professors who are keeping all these words that I have written, also the new ones, so they have noticed there is new development in this language.”

Bringing the past to life and retelling it in an original way is another characteristic of Akihary’s music. She once found old recordings of Moluccan music in a Dutch museum, which were immediately familiar, as she had grown up with them. She and Brouwer rearranged the compositions, incorporating jazzy improvisation.

“Of course people will say, oh, these are old, but actually, the nice thing with old music is that you can listen to it, and especially because music develops, you can think, hey, what can I do with it?” she says.

Indonesia continues to inspire Akihary, who includes techniques from the wayang kulit and traditional Balinese dance in her performances. As well as the lagu lagu (traditional Moluccan folk songs from the 1920s to 1940s), she is constantly stimulated by the archipelago nation’s incredible diversity.

“It’s about daily life. It’s about the way I see Indonesia, because Indonesia’s so different. All the islands have their own unique things, the way the people are living together, all the different languages, all the different makanan *cuisines*,” she says.

She notes that even Jakarta is more musical than people than realize, picking out the call of an unknown bird cutting through the ever-present sound of traffic and hum of bustling activity. All this she can use.

“I can hear so many things that I can translate into music,” she says.

Akihary’s music also reflects her preoccupation with living harmoniously with the environment and preserving it for future generations. One of her songs is about a fisherman on a quest for a rare fish, but he throws it back into the sea after he has caught it, rather than eat it, so others may be able to see its beauty.

“Music can do a lot of good, positive things for people, like make people happy,” she says. “Or maybe people will cry and feel sad because I have somehow touched them.”

She observes that her music seems to transcend cultural and linguistic barriers, with audiences everywhere responding regardless of whether they can understand her lyrics.

Boi Akih has toured all over the world, including South Africa, France, Germany, Italy and Mexico, as well as Indonesia.

“*Indonesians* are one of the few audiences that really get into live music . The first time we came here; people reacted immediately, in the moment. In Europe, it’s like OK, they like it, they will do like a little applause but very carefully, and then at the end they will applaud.

“But here it was immediately and at the end, because you do nothing, they will be quiet, and that’s so funny. And it is, because that’s the way it is, and it’s realistic,” she says, laughing.

Akihary is currently working on a new Boi Akih album, which will be released by a German label, as well as developing a contribution for a poetry anthology with a classical Greek theme.

However, rather than thinking too much about the future, she prefers to focus on the now.

“We just play, and if things are coming our way, we try to do something with it, and of course you have to look a little bit in the future, but most of the time, you just prepare for your concerts, and prepare your music, and try to grow your music, and see what happens.”

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