The majority of foreign (read : non-Indonesian) public like to ask me whether my music is “Indonesian music”. I guess nobody would’ve dared to approach Manuel de Falla or Isaac Albeniz and ask them whether their music is “Spanish”; it was pretty obvious, eh? But not in my case. Not only that my music doesn’t sound quite “Indonesian”, but also because the definition of “Indonesian” in music is still not clear. Therefore the answer to “my” audience’s question is not that simple, and whether you like it or not, it automatically relates to the question “What is Indonesian classical music?”
Let me tell you a bit of my life. I was born and raised in Jakarta, a metropolitan city where traditions and culture had disappeared long time ago. Jakarta is worse than a melting pot : it is a place where people’s eyes only focus on one direction : to the USA. I was like that during my teenage years : I wanna be anything American. I was like that until my early 20s when I already lived in Europe for a few years and discovered that there is a LOT to be proud of to be Indonesian, culturally speaking. But I have lived in Europe since I was 17, and even before that, I missed absorbing that thing called “culture” of Indonesia, except through some small examples through recordings of gamelan music or very few programs on TV. So, I can say that my perceptions of Indonesian traditional music and culture are like any other European’s, although I had the big advantage of experiencing the Indonesian way of living, thinking and of course its language. And music, any kind of music, is born from its culture and language and they way we feel, express and talk.
But then Indonesian music is not just gamelan. Gamelan is only a teeny weeny bit of Indonesia, and even gamelan music has different kinds of scales, timbre and “style”. And I must say that I have been influenced more by the classical music that I listen to and love, from Bach to Britten, from Scarlatti to Stravinsky. And I have more composer friends in Spain than in Indonesia, with their strong character which not only influence MY musical language, but the whole Spanish classical musical scene of this period as well. So I might say that my brain is like a melting pot of so many spices and ingredients, and hope that something delicious comes out of it, eh?