Yesterday an article, based on an interview with me, was published at The Jakarta Globe, a leading English newspaper in Indonesia. There are a couple of things which I'd like to clarify & rectify, but first, here is a copy-paste of the article, by Juliwati Cokromulio .
‘Limitation is always a source of inspiration for me. In limitation, I find freedom,’ says Ananda Sukarlan. Powerful words from a powerful pianist. Ananda may be based in Europe, but that doesn’t mean his heart isn’t in Jakarta. The 42-year-old has used the money he’s earned over the years, coupled with his talent and experience, to bring the children of the city a chance they might not otherwise have had. His foundation provides scholarships to Indonesians accepted to music schools in Europe, and here in the city it is teaching children how to play their favorite instruments. That’s music to our ears.
What can you tell us about being a musician in Spain? Can you compare it to Jakarta?
Spain is a huge country that hosts a lot of great music performances, making it quite easy to survive as a performing artist.
The same cannot be said of Jakarta. It’s rare that a person can survive here as a musician. Frankly speaking, when I’m in Europe I’m earning money, and when I’m in Indonesia I’m losing money.
Yet you keep coming back on a regular basis.
I recently established a foundation called Yayasan Music Sastra Indonesia to provide scholarships to poor students who want to learn how to play music. I come from a poor family and had a difficult time getting a scholarship, so I know what it’s like. I thought it would be great if I could get a number of sponsors, including myself, to support children here in Indonesia.
We particularly want to help kids below 10 years old who are passionate about music — such as street children — but don’t have the funds to go to the next level.
We didn’t start the foundation with the aim of turning kids into professional musicians, but we wanted to at least introduce them to music so it becomes part of their lives. We hope to increase their awareness and creativity, and reduce the odds that they’ll turn to crime.
The foundation also assists young musicians who have been admitted to conservatories in Europe but can’t afford the fees. YMSI provides financial aid for the first few months.
How do you help kids in Jakarta who want to play music?
We provide teachers, lend the kids musical instruments and assign a mentor to conduct an evaluation every six months. Most of them are beginners and we get them to start off with classics by the likes of Beethoven or Mozart. It’s not that we expect them to become classical musicians, but classical music creates a strong foundation on which to build technical skills.
How many children have participated in the foundation’s activities?
We’ve only be around since 2009. Right now there are two children funded abroad, in Germany and the Netherlands, and about 20 street children in the education program funded by the foundation.
Is it tough to run a foundation in Jakarta?
We spend the majority of our time fund-raising. If we weren’t always busy trying to make money we would be more productive. In Europe, foundations are supported by the government so long as the financial reports are transparent. The people’s taxes filter down to the foundations and organizations. In Indonesia, we never really find out where our taxes go, and the government isn’t exactly bent on developing a music culture.
Have you had any firsthand experience working with the government to promote music?
I’ll give you an example of a case of poor management of funds here in Jakarta. The government awarded Rp 4 billion [$450,000] to DKJ [Dewan Kesenian Jakarta, or the Jakarta Arts Council] in November 2010 and the money was spent by December 2010.
I’ve attended concerts under their management, and more than half of the seats are usually empty. They fail to promote events properly and often end up giving tickets away for free.
In my opinion, audiences should pay for their own seats even if that means keeping ticket prices low. This will tell Jakartans that to enjoy art you have got to pay.
Often, audiences do not respect a performance given for free and walk in and out of the auditorium during the performance. Free tickets achieve nothing in the end.
OK, switching gears, you also work with disabled children.
YMSI now has a sister foundation in Spain for disabled children. The foundation consists of composers who write music for disabled children and provide special instruments. For instance, piano music for the left hand only, a piano without pedals, French horn music written to be played only with the left hand and Braille musical notes for the blind. I’m among those composers. ‘Just a Minute!’ is a piece I wrote to be played with just the left hand.
How does a Twitter user like yourself relate technology with music?
Twitter is powerful. I use it to announce coming events. From an artistic point of view, I am inspired by a writer from Makassar, Aan Mansyur, who writes poems on Twitter using less than 140 characters. That inspired me to write a piece entitled ‘Re-tweeting @aanmansyur.’ It only took 10 minutes.
The essence of the piece is about how to express something clearly and quickly — for me in a space of just 10 minutes — for him in less than 140 characters.
So, I'd like to talk about 2 things: The foundation in Spain for disabled children, and my piece "Retweeting @aanmansyur".
The foundation in Spain does NOT consist of composers. The foundation (called Fundacion Musica Abierta, or Open Music Foundation) commissions composers (most of them Spanish, such as Santiago Lanchares, David del Puerto or myself, if you consider me a Spanish composer hehehe ..) to write music for disabled children. Of course there are existing pieces for, say, left hand alone such as Ravel or Prokofiev's Concerto for left hand piano, but there are no, until this date, easy pieces for left hand alone or other disabled musicians. So that's what the foundation is contributing to the repertoire.
And about my piece, "Retweeting @aanmansyur", its duration is 10 minutes because the music consists of several tweets! You might wonder, what can one do with ONE tweet of 140 characters! I think there were 7 or 8 tweets of Aan Mansyur, I don't remember anymore. Anyway, it's not been premiered yet, since we are waiting for the winner of the Ananda Sukarlan Vocal Award in Surabaya next April to premiere it.