jueves, 9 de febrero de 2012

Original interview with Indonesia Tatler, Jan. 2012

Now that one of Indonesia's most prestigious lifestyle magazine Indonesia Tatler has published the February edition, I can post here the original (meaning the one that I sent them) interview which was then edited, cut and published in their January edition. Due to the limited space, the one published was just around half of the original interview, so enjoy this one.

1. New year concerts are common happening in Europe & America. Did the annual happenings intrigue you to create one in Indonesia? Why? Please elaborate.

Yes, I "stole" those ideas, but only the idea, not the content. We have to adapt it to Indonesia's situation, tradition and culture, therefore it's not done every 1st of January, but every first Sunday since our second edition in 2006. This year, since Jan. 1st falls on a Sunday, we do it on the 8th in Jakarta since people are still having holiday out of town during the first week. Also we want to make the program content as Indonesian as possible, as London does it as English possible and Vienna as Austrian possible. It would make no sense to make a new year concert with a Western content, as foreign people came to our concert to "feel" Indonesian as those who do to Vienna, Amsterdam etc. It has now become a landmark in Jakarta, and starting this year we do it in Surabaya (13th) and Bandung (15th) too, therefore the "J" in JNYC is changed from Jakarta to Java.

2. What are the pieces to be presented at the concert?

This is a groundbreaking program in Indonesia, never been done even in our 6 JNYC's before: two operas in one show: A Real Man and Suddenly Rich. We are taking a big risk here, since operas are still considered both "extremely high brow" and "boring" (too long? in a foreign language?) to Indonesian audience. The reasons we dare to do this are: 1. both operas are short (half an hour each) and in Indonesian, so the audience would understand. 2. Both are taken from two popular short stories by Indonesia's "father of short stories" Putu Wijaya, and the plots are quite simple, light but profound (both discussing single themes: the first about "what is a real man" and the second "if you have to choose, which one do you prefer: money or happiness?"). 3. Both are presented as comedies with twists in the end, so I hope this will bring joy and not a heavy burden for the audience. Imagine starting the new year watching a horror or thriller opera! Hopefully this will not only attract music lovers, but also literature fans as well as dance fans (Chendra Panatan, my favorite choreographer graduate from England is doing the stage direction and choregraphy).
The singers are considered the best young vocalists of today in Indonesia, since they have brilliantly won prizes at the "Ananda Sukarlan National Vocal Competition" 2011. They are still unknown, but they are THE Indonesian classical singers of the near future. Remember these names: Evelyn Merrelita (soprano coloratura), Eriyani Tenga Lunga (mezzosoprano) and two tenors Adi "Didut" Nugroho and Pharel Silaban. And let's not forget one thing: the Bank Indonesia Auditorium is not often open for public concerts, but in fact it is definitely the best hall, acoustically speaking as well as its luxurious design, for chamber music and chamber opera in Indonesia. It's amazingly good.

3. Any particular reason for the choice? Please elaborate.

Answered above, right?

4. Appreciation to classical music in Indonesia is growing. There are more concerts now as well as new venues - ie Aula Simfonia. How did you perceive it? How did you compare it with those in South Korea and Japan?

We are still way far behind those countries, since we lack one crucial thing: music education at school. It's true that we have audience that flock to classical concerts nowadays, but I bet you they are always the same people. I dare to say, perhaps around the maximum 3000 people in Jakarta who go to those concerts. Now, that's a very small percentage of the total inhabitants of Jakarta, right? And in my case, many expatriates are among the audience.

5. Does working with top musicians abroad means anything to you? Why? Tell us of your unforgettable moments with them.

Of course. I learned a lot not only from their immense knowledge but also their professionalism, musical craftmanship and artistry, not mentioning their contagious passion in what they are doing. It's amazing how, as a 20-year-old boy I learned about musical structures (the real one, not the one we learn from books) and how we play with psychological time and durations directly from masters such as Sir Michael Tippett, who saw the enormous potential inside me but also, in a nice and subtle way, told me that I was wasting my talent then and I should focus on less things. Greatness comes not from a huge talent, but severe self-criticism, hard work, passion, modesty and willingness to constantly go out of our comfort zone. And of course people like him really helped my career as he was the first "living legend" I met and the one who introduced me to the BBC for the first time, for example.

6. England has The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Does Indonesia need one? Why? Please elaborate.

We have already many orchestras, mostly not up to standards. We need quality, not quantity to represent Indonesia. What is more urgent is establishing the identity of Indonesian classical music and only good quality musicians can inspire composers to do that. And then we need public and sponsors who believe in supporting our own musicians, and understand that classical music indeed originates from Europe, but every country has developed its own identity of it. Indonesia has not. That's why me and my friends started those competitions for piano and voice, giving platforms for young musicians to manifest their talents regardless of where they come from and to help them start their career and to be known to a wider public.

7. In the days of 'Orde Lama' there were designs to build an art centre plus a concert hall in the class of l'Opera de Paris in the area surrounding Museum Nasional, Jakarta. Is it time to start again with the project? How instrumental is the opening of such a grand venue in enhancing the development of performing arts? Please explain.

Of course, but we have to pay much attention to acoustics. Again, we have many theatres, but very few with the good condition for presenting classical music without sound system. As long as the architect doesn't consider the hall's acoustics as a musical instrument, it is doomed to be a failure. Look, in a piano recital there are two musical instruments: the piano AND the hall. That has never been thought like that by architects in Indonesia. And as you consult a pianist if you want to buy a piano, you should consult (classical) musicians when you build a concert hall.

jueves, 2 de febrero de 2012

What's wrong with being Indonesian (or Chinese)?

For me, nothing. On the contrary, I am f***ing proud to be Indonesian, especially after having lived in Europe for the last 24 years of my life (which is the most part of it) and realized that we are no better or worse. And I will show my discomfort if I am being rejected not for what I have done, but for what I am, among which is being Indonesian.

A few days ago (in January) Chendra my manager sent me an announcement of a national piano competition in Indonesia (for teenagers and below) and .. here are two things that made me uncomfortable:

1. One of the jury members is Ananda Sukarlan (eh? what a surprise! Another pianist in Indonesia with that name? Or maybe he's not a pianist but a politician or a businessman, as it's pretty trendy now to have them as juries in a piano, nota bene classical music, competition in Indonesia, and therefore I don't know him).

I want to copy and paste what I have written just a few weeks ago in this blog (about fakely using my office to promote a Korean boyband) again here:
I might be the most badly bruised musician in Indonesia. My music has been pirated and used without my permission (oops sorry, I should say they indeed asked for permission, but after Chendra caught them red-handed). Not only my music: an article from this very blog has been published in a major newspaper in Indonesia under a different name -- and yes, translated in Indonesian, therefore it couldn't be categorized as plagiarism. And now just my name, not my work, is used. And this case of using my name is not the first time that it happened, but since this very moment those who does anything of this will have the honour of being mentioned by me in my facebook and twitter account. I avoid names in this blog since this will stay a longer time, but the name of those honoured are very clearly mentioned in my facebook & twitter.

2. For the repertoire, after all those Chopins, Schuberts and Bachs, "Indonesian and Chinese composers are excluded".

I immediately went to the mirror after I read this. What's wrong with being Indonesian or Chinese? Of course I am not an especially handsome guy (I admit I do have a low self-esteem about my looks), but think of ... emmm ... Jet Li or, since we are talking about music (in any genre), what do you think of Jay Chou? And in Indonesia, isn't that pop-singer "Ariel" who now went to jail for reasons I don't understand, or actor Nicholas Saputra, or Anggun who is highly adored by the French considered universally beautiful? What is it then, our noses? Our heights?
Oh, oh, it's not about looks? Then what, about brains? Well I don't mean to boast myself, but my IQ has been tested several times and the results are always higher than 150. Indeed, I failed to enter MENSA (the international club for the elite geniuses) since I am just a few points away from requirement of 160 to belong to their exclusive club. But I do believe there are many highly smart Indonesians and Chinese that have contributed to the arts and science. Just think of the new generation of Indonesian writers: smart, sharp and brilliant. Many Indonesians are now having top positions in Silicon valley and universities around Europe, the US and Asia (I will exclude China, it belongs to the same dustbin as Indonesia, right?).

Wait, perhaps it's about musicianship! We are not as musical as the rest of the world! Well... let's see. Then why did Debussy, Britten, even until now Peter Scuthorpe, David del Puerto, and even younger composers are so amazed and highly influenced by the gamelan, kecak dance and so on? And in case you don't know, our traditional instruments such as angklung is declared World cultural heritage by UNESCO. Gamelan music is now as universally acclaimed as music by European classical composers, Brazilian samba or jazz.

Oh, perhaps it's this. We, Indonesian and Chinese composers are not QUALIFIED enough, right? So, was I making a fool of myself (and of Indonesia) when I perform at Berlin Philharmonie, Concertgebouw etc.? Those conservatories or music faculties are making a mistake hiring me as guest lecturers, eh? And Tan Dun definitely didn't deserve his Oscar (and was it a Grammy too?) for his music for the film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. And of course, our brilliant young generation such as soprano Bernadeta Astari shouldn't have made her debut at the Concertgebouw a few months ago. Right?

And how about Indonesian of a Chinese-descent Indonesian composer or vice versa? A double negative is a positive, right? Do they deserve to exist?

D'you know that the great Spanish writer Miguel Cervantes said: "When there is music, there are no bad intentions"? Yeah, nice phrase, but it can't be more outdated.

Two things for sure after an afterthought on this. But remember, this is just a humble opinion from another Indonesian who is excluded.
1. It is not cool, smart or artistic at all putting all Indonesian and Chinese composers into one trash bag. Especially by fellow Indonesians!
2. From those two requirements of that Piano Competition, held in Indonesia for Indonesian young pianists, only one will be realized: Indonesian and Chinese composers are indeed excluded, as they wished. But Ananda Sukarlan won't be serving as a jury. I won't possibly contribute in the exclusions of my own fellow countrymen, and especially after they used my name to sell their product. Over my dead body.