Jazz Jazzes Up My Life

I started listening to jazz in university. As a singer, it’s only natural that I’m mostly drawn to jazz singers. My first favorite female jazz singer’s Dinah Washington. I remember I bought her CD in campus, I think there was some kind of a market or bazaar at the time. I love her “Teach Me Tonight”!

Then I stumbled upon the fabulous and scattilicious Ms Ella Fitzgerald! Her musicality is over the top, and like most people, I really admire her scat-singing.

When I’m in love or broken hearted, I seek comfort from Billie Holiday. Listening to her is some kind of emotional therapy for me. She’s just so full of soul, I really could feel every word she sang. Like this next song, it’s just so sad that I got teary eyes.

I always find thick voice fascinating, such as Sarah Vaughan’s. And it also has a hint of opera singer’s voice – so divine.

And who doesn’t know Nina Simone? This singer-pianist recorded “Feeling Good”, a track from the musical “The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd” for her album “I Put a Spell on You” that was released in 1965. This song was a hit, became a standard and got covered by many artists such as jazz crooner Michael Buble, the rock band Muse, and…me! Two years ago I was playing around with this app called VoiceJam on my iPod and was inspired to make a very simple rendition of the tune using only my voice.

For modern female jazz singers, I’m in love with Gretchen Parlato. How could somebody turn the 90s R&B group SWV’s track “Weak” into this super crazy rendition? (big props to Robert Glapser too!)

Many associate me with jazz, because I performed in jazz festivals. It’s true that jazz plays a big role in my musical evolution, but I can’t say that I’m a jazz artist because I’m still learning to be one. And I think I will keep on learning because it has so much to offer and every time I learn something new out of it, it makes me feel more and more alive! Thank God for music and thank God for Jazz! Happy International Jazz Day, peeps :)

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Renewing US Visa Without Interview (Interview Waiver Program)

So, that afternoon I received an e-mail from a US embassy official with the subject “Important Message Regarding Your US Visa”. I was instantaneously reminded with my US visa that was about to expire soon. The e-mail explained that there’s a new program called IWP or Interview Waiver Program in which a person with prior visa didn’t have to come in person to the embassy to renew their visa. But of course, not everyone is qualified for this program. To check whether you’re qualified or not, click here.

I was thrilled to find out that I was qualified for the program, meaning I didn’t have to wake up so early in the morning and then queue in front of the embassy while feeling anxious that the interview wouldn’t turn out well and all. So, yeah, I thought why not go ahead and apply? Turns out, the process is really simple once you understand all the required steps, but I found the website a bit complex (hence I made this blog post in hope that it can help anyone wanting to renew their visa through IWP). And it’s relatively fast too! I dropped off all the required documents on Thursday at the drop box location, and picked up my passport with the issued visa the next Wednesday.

Here are the steps for applying for US visa renewal with Interview Waiver Program:

1. Pay the NIV Application Fee

This fee depends on the type of visa you’re applying. Find out what type of visa you’re applying, and check the amount you have to pay here.

In my case, since I was renewing my B1/B2 visa, I had to pay USD 160.

There are two payment options: online or straight at a local bank. Because I don’t have any account in Permata Bank, I opted for the former. If, like me, you choose to pay at a local bank, you must first print out the deposit slip that you can find here and then take it to the bank.

You can pay at any Standard Chartered or Permata Bank listed here. At first I went to Permata Bank branch in Setiabudi as it’s closer to my house. After more than half an hour of queuing, it was finally my turn but contrary to what the website says, the teller told me that it took more time for the payment to be processed if done in their bank (5-7 working days) compared to Standard Chartered (4 hours after payment)! Luckily there’s a Standard Chartered bank nearby that’s still open so I went there instead. *phew* So yeah, I guess you better go straight to Standard Chartered instead if you don’t want to wait that long.

At the bank, I filled out the USA MRV Fee slip with my name as shown in the Passport, my Passport number, the visa fee amount and then sign it. I then gave this along with the deposit slip I printed at home to the teller. After validating them, she returned the payment receipt for the MRV fee and the Customer Copy of the deposit slip. Don’t lose the payment receipt, as you will need to submit it along with all other documents.

For step-by-step procedures of this payment, click here.

2. Complete the DS-160 form

Make sure you have a digital 5×5 cm formal photo in color with white background which was taken no longer than 6 months ago before you fill out this form as the first thing they’ll ask you is to upload this photo. You can read the photo requirements here but if you’re not sure you can take and edit the photo by yourself, just do what I did: go to the nearest  photo service and tell them you need a photo for US visa.

When you’ve already got the required photo, go to this link and follow the steps to fill out the DS-160 form. After you fill out the form, electronically sign it and submit it online, you will get the DS-160 confirmation page, which you will submit along with all other documents.

3. Retrieve the Drop Box Confirmation Letter

If you pay at the Standard Cartered bank, four hours after you made the payment (or one day after the payment just to make sure it’s already processed) go to this link, create an account and then login with that account. Even though with IWP we don’t have to make an appointment for an interview, just click “New Application/Schedule Appointment”. Answer the questions and after you finish, you will see “Drop Box Confirmation Letter” on the homepage. Click this and print it out.

4. Submit All Required Documents to the Drop Box Location

As stated in the Drop Box Confirmation letter, drop off the following documents:

  1. Drop Box Confirmation Letter
  2. Current passport and prior passport which contains your most recent US visa
  3. Original Standard Chartered Bank or Permata Bank payment receipt for MRV fee
  4. DS-160 confirmation page
  5. One color, white-background, 5×5 cm photograph (just use the same one as the one you submitted online when filling out the DS-160 form)
  6. Children under age 14: original birth certificate (which will be returned along with the passport once the visa is issued)
  7. Student (F) visa applicants: original form I-20; Returning students – evidence that you continue to be a student in good standing, for example transcript or grade card; Exchange (J) visa applicants: original form DS-2019
  8. Crew (C1/D) visa applicants: Sponsor employment letter from crewing agency

at the nearest RPX courier. You can find the locations of the courier here. You don’t need other documents beside those mentioned above, not even a bank statement.

And that’s it! Those are the 4 simple steps that you need to do to renew visa without having to go through the interview. Again, I hope you find this blog post helpful and if you have any question, just shoot! Hopefully I can help :)

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Two Nominations from VIMA Asia!

Another happy news in 2014!

“I Miss You” got nominated for “Best Pop Song” while Chymamusique’s track featuring yours truly, “Live Your Life” got nominated for “Best Genre Bender Song” by VIMA Asia :)

But we need your vote to help us win, and I promise you, it’s no hassle!

To vote, simply go to:

http://bit.ly/vimaasia-pop (for “Best Pop Song” category)

and

http://bit.ly/vimaasia-gbender (for “Best Genre Bender” category)

Then log in with your Facebook or Twitter account, click on the “Follow icon” or “human” icon at the bottom of the card and you’re done! It’s as simple as that :)

Voting will be closed next Monday, 10 February 2014, so please cast your vote before that ;)

Thank you!

Record of the Year!

It’s an indescribable feeling to know that others enjoy your music, it’s even more indescribable to know that your track was picked as one of the “Records of the Year”! Thank you friends at Volare FM! I’m really happy that my track for my beloved late brother Gede could touch your hearts…

A little update on the progress of my own EP, seems like we have to push back the date of release as I really want to make it special for you all… So please, do stay tuned, peeps!

Happy New Year!

I think it’s gonna be a very exciting year for all of us, thus….

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….shall we?

And on the first day of the year, you can download this special gift from me, a rendition of one of my favorite Musiq Soulchild’s tunes, “So Beautiful” from this link.

ENJOY!!!

Ho ho ho!

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South Africa – Indonesia Collaboration

Last year my friend Robert from Goodnws shared this information on Facebook about Chymamusique, a DJ/producer from South Africa, who’s looking for a vocalist to be featured on his new track. I really dig the soulful house vibe from the track preview and decided to give it a try and sent him the track I made for Sister Duke.

And turned out, he liked my voice! So he sent me the track via e-mail and I worked on the melodies and lyrics, recorded my voice and sent the tracks to him. And… he liked my work!

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This track will be on his album, out in early next year – don’t forget to buy it ;) In the mean time, you can listen to the preview below.

Are We Under The Same Moonlight?

In my previous post I mentioned that I was working on my own EP, hopefully can be released before end of this year.

And at the same time, my friend Nanda and I are working on our own original songs, and hopefully we can release an EP for our project Nengah & Nanda. We formed it three years ago, and we performed and recorded some cover songs and uploaded them to Youtube and Soundcloud.

Here’s a video of us performing a song from the super talented Esperanza Spalding.

We’ve already got one demo done, called “Moonlight”. Had so much fun working on the lyrics and melodies for this wonderful composition of Nanda’s.

So far Nanda has sent two other compositions to me. And I’ve done the lyrics for one of them and currently working on the other one. Can’t wait to finish them and start recording soon. Stay tuned for updates, peeps!

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I Miss You, IGmation

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So 31 August is my beloved late brother, I Gede Mahendra‘s birthday. And I have prepared some tracks for him. People were saying what I did was so sweet & complimented such a good sister I was. But actually that’s the least I could do for the best brother ever. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that.  Words cannot describe how wonderful he’s as a person. I’m sure people who know him agree with me on this.

He’s a very talented and humble artist (animation). His drawings are amazing; he drew this for my 28th birthday.

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He also made the animation for Kreyzie’s video clip.

And he shot beautiful photos of my fellow musicians and me on stage.

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He always tried to record my performances, edited the videos & uploaded them.

He’s always there with me through thick and thin, when I had doubt on myself he showed his faith in me. I was actually considering quitting music so many time but his trust, love and support kept me going. He’s one of my pillars of strength.

On his 34th birthday, I released a single under my own name (not Sister Duke) called I Miss You.

So here you go, ladies and gentlemen, I present you a tribute to the best brother ever:

Thank you Wisnu Prastowo, Joel and Doni Joesran for your wonderful contributions. And thank you SAE Institute Jakarta for letting us to record there.

There will be several songs coming up under this project, some of them are about my relationship with Gede, so stay tuned…

That Second Day in Java Jazz Festival 2013

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Hello! It’s been a while since my last post… And I’m well aware that this one’s long overdue since it’s already a month after the festival! Anyhoo, I still want to share my experience with you :)

Sister Duke got to perform on the second day of the festival, Saturday 2 March 2013. After getting myself beautified by Mbak Eka at Estee Lauder booth in Seibu, Grand Indonesia, I went straight to the venue and got there at around 5 o’clock. And as Saturday had always been the most crowded day of the festival, there were loads of cars queuing to get into the parking area of the festival. I was kinda anxious because I had to be at the backstage at 8. But thankfully we managed to get in way before that.

It was hot and humid at the venue, and crowded too, of course. I went straight to Brava Esquire lounge where my fellow new announcer was working as an MC (I had my turn the next day). He wasn’t on duty when I came, I had a quick chit chat with him and with some of my friends from work.

Two hours before the show, I was already at the backstage. While waiting, I watched the band before us, 57kustik, and they were awesome. They used to perform on the streets until they found Rumah Musik Harry Roesli and had performed in various gigs eversince such as TedX and even with Dave Koz! Watching their performance helped me ease that obligatory pre show anxiety. So did taking pictures with the others at the backstage!

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What happened at the backstage: taking pictures, trying to ease the pre show anxiety, busy preparing the stuffs for line check.

I was especially nervous because it’s the first time I’d be using iMPC and my vocal effect at the same time. And I’d be opening the show alone. I wasn’t sure I could nail that one man show thingy.

And… It’s show time! I walked to the middle of the stage, my heart pounding hard. “Oh dear God, could I do this without messing things up?” I kept thinking. But then came the adrenaline rush. Feeling kinda relaxed, I pushed the pads on the iMPC to make a beat. That went well! Then I made some vocal loops with my vocal effect. That went okay too! I improvised a bit on top of the beat and the vocal loops before calling the rest of the band one by one to come on stage. With the beat and the vocal loops still playing, we jammed on stage. Joel added organic sound with his upright bass, Rencong/Danger Dope busy doing some dope scratching with his turntable, Aldhan threw in cool sounds with his synthesizer, Rama was adding up the groove to the beat and Ade added some beauty with her beautiful voice. We had a good vibe and I think the crowd felt it too.

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And then on to the first song, “Symphony of Apology”. Joel changed the arrangement of the song into latin/samba feel combined with house beat. Totally different than the original version.This was then followed by “Senandung Untukmu”- we used my arrangement for Java Jazz on the Move last January.

4hero’s one of my inspirations when working on Sister Duke’s first album. Joel had the idea to sample their song “Look Inside” for the third song in the setlist, “Wanna Make You Mine”. I always love broken beat feel and had to give props to Rama for nailing it. Joel also showcased his skill in playing synthesizer.

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And after that we performed “MYOB” and “Kreyzie” that managed to get the crowd to clap and sing along with us :)

Being a Justin Timberlake fan, I was thrilled to know he’s releasing a new album this year. We performed his new single “Suit and Tie”, adding some twists to it. First, we performed the intro exactly like the original, then we turned it into some sort of swing, and before the second chorus, we stopped for a while and then changed the song’s feel-playing on top of the hip hop beat that Joel made before the show. But the surprise didn’t end there. Suddenly, Yacko appeared on stage, sharing her awesome vibe with us and the crowd loved it! Infolktainment even wrote an article about this on-stage collaboration, read it on bit.ly/10HHr2a.

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Always love sharing the stage with Yacko.
Photo taken from Infolktainment website.

As it’s a Jazz festival, we decided to add a Jazz standard song to Sister Duke’s setlist that night. Inspired by Verve Remixed albums, I had the idea to sing Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” on top of a house beat. Like in the intro, I started the song alone. I made the beat with iMPC and sang the song with my vocal effect. Then the rest of the band members joined me.

Joel and I planned to bring club vibe on stage through the medley of the last two songs in the setlist: “Terbang Tinggi” and “We Are One”. Joel transformed “Terbang Tinggi” into a really fierce dance tune, even adding Benny Bennasy’s sample in the middle of it. The crowd went wild! Good job, Joel!

In the bridge  between the two songs, I added a bit of Afro element (I always love dancing to Afro beats during aerobic dance classes) before the music was turned down a bit in the first bit of “We Are One”. On stage, I was happy I decided to do that because at the point I was feeling really tired (later I found out that I was actually sick) and I could sit down for a while. Hihi…

People thought it was an act, when it’s actually not :D
Photo taken from Instagram @ardiansyahiman

But as I mentioned, only for a while. Because soon after the music was turned up so I got up and started dancing again (I couldn’t help it! Haha!). I think the crowd couldn’t resist too – I saw them jumping and dancing to the beat. It’s always heartwarming to see people enjoying your music. The show ended really well :)

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So happy that my project was given the chance to perform again in Java Jazz Festival, and I’m so thankful I got to share the stage with talented musicians. Not just on stage, I’m also thankful for all the help I got off stage so that the performance went well. Thank you Joel, Rencong/Danger Dope, Aldhan, Rama, Ade, Yacko for the great vibe on stage. Muchas gracias Pei for being a good manager. Matur suksma my brother I Gede for the awesome photos. Merci beaucoup my favorite funky gurl Windy Setiadi for the sound. Terima kasih to all the crews that helped that day – Bang Doel, Rahman and Jaya, and also thanks to Mbak Eka from Estee Lauder.

Special thanks goes to Java Festival Production, especially Mas Eq Puradiredja, for giving Sister Duke the opportunity to perform. And also thank you everyone who came that day and showed your love. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I hope to see you all in the festival next year, hopefully with new songs (perhaps from new album? hm.).

P.S. If you wanna see more photos from this performance, click here.

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Left to Right: Windy, Aldhan, Yacko, Ade, yours truly, Rama, Joel, Rencong, Gede, Pei.

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