During these days post-Ananda Sukarlan Award, I had nice times hangin' around with many of the winners and finalists. Most of them are teenagers, with their dreams to follow, and most of them just had experienced their first love – or first break up. Anyway, I enjoyed immensely being around those young people. You can see love in their faces, in their eyes, in their mirada ; and it brings back memories – and therefore, inspiration !
Back to the present, or not so distant past. Sometime around 2004, lying in bed of a hotel room somewhere in Italy I watched on TV the re-election of George W. Bush, coincidentally with Walt Whitman poems with me in bed. I remember my feeling depressed, affirming to myself that WE choose our destiny, which sometimes means our destruction. D’you know, by the way, that most of the Jews voted for Hitler back in the 30s ?
Well, history repeats itself. And Bush continued his massive destruction : killing millions in Iraq and everywhere else, legalizing tortures, drowning the world economy etc etc. What Whitman wrote in his dark poem “I Sit and Look Out” is not so different than the situation during this first decade of our millennium. That horrible news on TV had triggered most of the notes and chords in my song. But then I had to head back home, and it remained unfinished – and forgotten …
...Until a few weeks ago. My friends, Bernadeta Astari “Deta”, Joseph Kristanto “Akis” and myself (well, no need to mention a nickname for this latter) talked about recording my songs. They are, in fact, new friends of mine. I met Deta just about 3 or 4 years ago, and Akis even more recently, through a common friend the conductor Tommy Prabowo whom I knew since I was a teenager (both Tommy and Akis will be involved in my opera "Mengapa Kau Culik Anak Kami"). Since then, those two have inspired me a lot, both as great musicians and as wonderful, humble, down-to-earth humans they are. I wish all those "superstars" around us would possess their technique, sensitivity and artistry !
At last, 24 from about 70 of my songs will be in that first CD. Now with the hope of Barack Obama for the next president I suddenly remembered my poor Whitman song, and thinking of Deta’s voice that has always, and will always inspire me, I looked for it among the heap of my manuscripts … and finished it. And we’ve recorded it in Jakarta a few days ago. So, it will be the only song in English in that CD. The rest is all my Indonesian songs … well, I’ll tell you later the titles. So, that 4-minute lament is doubly dedicated to Deta, and to myself looking forward to the end of GWB’s pestilence and tyranny. Still four months to go !
Here’s the complete poem of Whitman's "I Sit and Look Out" :
I SIT and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all oppression and shame;
I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men, at anguish with themselves, remorseful after deeds done;
I see, in low life, the mother misused by her children, dying, neglected, gaunt, desperate;
I see the wife misused by her husband—I see the treacherous seducer of young women;
I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love, attempted to be hid—I see these sights on the earth;
I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny—I see martyrs and prisoners;
I observe a famine at sea—I observe the sailors casting lots who shall be kill’d, to preserve the lives of the rest;
I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon laborers, the poor, and upon negroes, and the like;
All these—All the meanness and agony without end, I sitting, look out upon,
See, hear, and am silent.