17 | 71: Goresan Juang Kemerdekaan

Wait, President Sukarno could paint?

That was the thought that crossed my mind while I was looking at the painting “Rini”at Galeri Nasional. The painting portrays a beautiful woman wearing a green kebaya paired with classic batik. The presidential palace painter, Dullah, made the sketch of the painting when he and the president went to Bali but he didn’t finish it. When Sukarno returned to Bali without him, he worked on the sketch and finished the painting.


It is one of the artworks displayed in the exhibition “17 | 71: Goresan Juang Kemerdekaan” (“17 | 71: The Strokes of Independence”) at the gallery. The 28 paintings displayed belong to presidential palaces of Republic of Indonesia (Istana Merdeka in Jakarta, Istana Bogor, Istana Cipanas and Istana Yogyakarta). Initiated by President Jokowi, the exhibition is held to commemorate the 71 years of Indonesia’s independence and for the first time the public can see these artworks with their own eyes.

Armed with my DSLR, I went there last Wednesday with the hope that I could take some decent pictures but turned out only the press is allowed to bring camera inside. But fortunately I could bring my phone and I guess it did a pretty good job.

The exhibition is free but you have to register before entering the gallery. The registration takes place inside a room situated at the left hand side of the gallery and all you need to do is to give your phone number and e-mail address. You could only take your phone and wallet inside, but don’t worry as there’s a bag drop in the same room as the registration desk.


After getting my left arm stamped (the ink bleeds quite badly so be careful not to get it onto your clothes), I made my way into the gallery. Despite the sunny day, it was quite chilly inside the gallery and you might want to bring your cardigan or jacket with you if you’re wearing sleeveless top like me.

I was mesmerized straightaway with the first painting displayed by Sudjono Abdullah, who is Basuki Abdullah‘s brother. I like the way he painted Diponegoro‘s eyes.

I’ve seen a couple of painters’ interpretations of Kartini but I found the one by Trubus Darsono to be the best. This artwork is the collection of Istana Yogyakarta which was painted during the short period of time when Yogyakarta was the capital city of Indonesia.


If you’ve seen the picture of the proclamation of Indonesia’s independence, you might recognize this painting by former governor of Jakarta, Henk Ngantung. It was displayed in the room where the declaration was made. Sukarno saw the painting when it was displayed at an exhibition in 1944. To him the painting symbolized how Indonesia should keep moving forward and wanted to buy it. Ngantung said that the painting was not finished yet as he wanted to perfect the arm part of it and needed a model for it. Sukarno offered himself to be the model and the painting was done within half an hour.


Besides paintings from Indonesian artists, there are also paintings from foreign artists such as Miguel Covarrubias who spent three years living in the island of Gods. I first encountered his work of art when I went to National Gallery Singapore for the exhibition “Reframing Modernism.” I really like to see his interpretation of Balinese women. Love the colors that he used too!


My most favorite artwork in this exhibition would be “Tara” by Srihadi Soedarsono. It portrayed his daughter Tara performing as a male character in a Balinese dance. I really love how he boldly used vibrant red color as the background.


Besides paintings, there are also photos of the activities of president and former presidents of the country, and the palaces’ collection of Chinese antiques.I really enjoyed my time inside the gallery but it would be great if there were more paintings displayed. The exhibition is held throughout this August so you’ve still got a couple of days until the month ends!

A Cuppa with Eq Puradiredja

I remember back when I was still in junior high, I saw a video clip of a new Indonesian duo Humania on TV. It caught my attention straightaway, as their music was really different compared to what’s considered popular in the Indonesian music scene at the time. Armed with their skills, the producer duo Eki Puradiredja (or more commonly known as Eq Puradiredja) and Rediyanto Heru Nurcahyo (Heru) released three albums and all of them were very well received. After releasing the third album in 2000, they decided to take a break.

But that doesn’t mean they quit music altogether. Eq Puradiredja went on to produce and co-produce the albums of other artists such as Indra Lesmana, Jamie Aditya, Maliq & D’Essentials, Andien, Tohpati and the Malaysian songstress Sheila Majid. His works got nominated and even won awards! He recently produced Art of Tree’s debut album and one of the tracks “Gibberish” was nominated for “Best Urban Track Production” by Anugerah Musik Indonesia (AMI).

I first met Eq back in 2007 when I was performing with Sister Duke at the after party for Jakarta Crossover Jazz Festival. What impressed me the most from our first encounter was his sincere and friendly smile. At the time he was in charge for artist selection for Java Festival Production (JFP)—the organizer of festivals such as Soulnation Festival, Java Rocking Land and Java Jazz Festival.

A couple of months later I got to perform for the first time in one of the biggest jazz festivals in the world. I was really excited since I had been a loyal goer since it was first held. And I was blessed with the opportunities to take part in it in the following years. Every year I witnessed how Eq dedicatedly went from stage to stage to check out the performances of Indonesian artists. He’s truly got what every good music producer needs—the sincere desire to support the artists and watch them grow.

I had the chance to have a (quite long) talk with Mas (a Javanese word commonly used in Indonesia to address a—not necessarily older—man with respect) Eq last Sunday at Excelso, Bintaro Exchange, while his beautiful wife Antie and their two sons were playing in a nearby play land.  Over a cup of caffè latte that he rated 8 out 10, we talked about music, why he decided to leave his post as the Program Director at JFP, and what made him interested in history.

Hi, Mas Eq, thank you for taking your time to talk to me for my blog. How are you? I heard that as of this year you no longer work for JFP?

Yes, I am now working for Electric Ocean Asia as the Creative Director and currently we are busy preparing for Habibie Festival to celebrate BJ Habibie‘s 80th birthday. The event will be held from 11 to 14 August 2016 and will showcase his contribution to Indonesia and the the country’s developments in technology.

 

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Although it’s still in line with one of your previous job descriptions, which is creating concept for events, it is not related at all to music. May I know why you decided to make a detour in your career?

I actually had already prepared to leave my post at JFP in 2015. But they requested me to stay and so I did. I had been working for them from the start and it’s great to witness how Indonesian artists finally got to the point where they received the appreciation and recognition that they deserved. It wasn’t like that initially; I had to convince them that there were a lot of people who’d like to see Indonesian artists too. And eventually they saw it for themselves, how Indonesian artists attracted so many audiences.

After working for them for a decade, I felt that I’ve made my point, done my job and it’s time for me to move on to the next challenge. And finally this year I got to work at a new office, fulfilling my vision in a bigger scale.

What is your vision? Would you please elaborate more on it?

Heru and I founded Humania in the early 90s because we wanted to break the notion that the kind of music we produce was unpopular in Indonesia. We weren’t looking for spotlight but we actually wanted to make changes, which was the same motive that made me join JFP. And we managed to make that impact with our first album, paving the way for other artists such as Singiku, The Groove, Sova, etc.

Humania is based on our desire to produce not just music, but also events, films, etc. There were some issues that we want to discuss and we believe that these mediums can help us deliver our messages. But after releasing three albums, we felt like we got astray because the industry shaped us in a way that people view us as a band, as celebrities, not producers. That’s why we decided to take a break.

What sort of issues that you are referring to?

I have been intrigued with spirituality since I was 15 after I witnessed my friend passed away because of a traffic accident. A couple of years later, the same experience happened to me again, seeing a friend died in an accident. These experiences made me ponder upon many things and piqued my interest in politics and history. It also made move to Sydney, Australia where I got to meet many people from different countries and backgrounds which broadened my perspective.

From 1998 to 2000, amidst the chaos that happened in Indonesia, Heru and I left Jakarta, moved to Puncak and set up a studio to produce our third album. There were several other musicians who came to the studio and spent time with us. We had a lot of discussion, mainly on the current situation of Indonesia. We channel all of our thoughts to the music and lyrics we made. I could see that Indonesia would be able to rise after everything that happened so we made a song called “Ya’ll Be There”, because we believed that although we had to get through a slow and painful healing process, this country would eventually get “there”—the point where it’s supposed to be.

If you didn’t tell me this, I would’ve never thought that your songs have such deep meanings as you convey your messages in a very subtle way. Did you do it in purpose?

Yes, because we want to relate with as many people as we can. We’ve been doing it since the first album when we made a track called “Kuasa” (power). The song is about God but you can’t find the word God or any religious reference in it. We wanted it to be universal so it could touch anyone.

I read that you’ve always wanted to be a music producer since you were quite young. Could you tell me briefly about it?

During the 4th grade of elementary school, I was asked to replace my brother’s position as the drummer in our school band in Hong Kong because my brother went back to Indonesia. He was already in high school so I had to play with other high school students. Then I moved back home and started hanging out with his friends, playing music and going to the studio for rehearsal and even recording sessions. I was really immersed in music and liked to pay attention to the details and read the credit on the inlay of the album when I was listening to music. After listening to Quincy Jones’ “Back on the Block” album which was released in 1989, I got the epiphany that I wanted to be a music producer.

You mentioned that you’re interested in history and I also saw you posted several things related to history in your social media. Have you always been interested in history since you were little?

No. I think it all went back to 1998, the crisis and tragedies happening in Indonesia made me wonder a lot about who I was, where I came from, how to find my roots. I believe that the history of Indonesia is manipulated, and I’m really concerned. There’s a missing link in the history showing the greatness of our nation and there were researches conducted on it in Gunung Padang, but unfortunately the most recent one was stopped.

This missing link induced the inferior mentality that lead to the notion that foreigners are better than us—I got to witness it myself in my effort to prove Indonesian artists could also attract many people to the festival.

It’s crucial that the truth is revealed so we can realize how great we are as a nation and can finally unleash our true potential. Also, history is the key because by having profound understanding on it, we can figure out what steps we should take now to make us ready for the future.

I actually made a song about being lost and trying to find the way back to greatness. The track is called “Coba Sekali Lagi” and you can find it in Humania’s third album.

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With his firstborn, Quenra.

Now I can really see why you were referred as an idealist in some articles that I read. Like you said before, you really wanted to make an impact?

Yes. As a father, I want to leave a good legacy for my children. We can witness that there are recently a lot of movements to make the country flourish. I think Java Jazz Festival can be considered as one of them.

I totally agree. There are more and more talented young musicians nowadays, like Joey Alexander. I bet in a way the festival made an impact on their careers.

Yes.

Do you find it hard though? Being an idealist yet at the same time trying to make a living?

I’m doing what I truly believe to make a good impact. It is indeed tricky. But if you have something that you feel strongly about, somehow you will be redirected to it again. Like I mentioned before, I felt like I got astray after releasing three albums with Humania. But here I am again.

So far people identify you as singer, musician, songwriter, music producer, DJ, ex bar owner, consultant, etc. What do you think define yourself best?

Producer.

As a music producer, which three albums do you think  have the best production?

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

Snarky Puppy – Family Dinner

Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life

And what are the three things that make the production of these albums really good?

The talent, composition, and the concept of the recording.

New Releases Featuring Yours Truly

Heya peeps!

Life’s been a little slow for me after the Eid al-Fitr holiday, so I’m very sorry for the lack of update. How’s your holiday, by the way? Mine was filled with food (of course!), books (I am finally reunited with my love for books~yaaay!), friends and family. Hope you had lovely time with your loved ones🙂

Anyway… I’m so excited to share with you two new releases featuring me!

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The first one is from this talented Indonesian female electronic music producer Audrey. End of last year MSSVKNTRL sent her track to me and when I listened to it, I was really intrigued. I don’t collaborate that often with EDM producers and I really enjoyed it. I actually got to meet Audrey in person a couple of months after that when we both participated in Hexa Culture event.

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Left to right: CVX, Dotty, DTX, the cat lady who sings :p, MSSVKNTRL, Audrey.

 

She released her EP entitled “Lovest(r)uck) last month, consisting of four tracks and one of them is a track called “Some Time” that features MSSVKNTRL and me. It’s a straightforward song about a person who’s still stuck in their past love (unable to move on) that they need time to accept the love from a new suitor. I guess everyone can relate to that, no?

One interesting fact (and totally unrelated to music) about Audrey, MSSVKNTRL and me is that the three of us are all cat people! Maybe we should make another track about the cute fluffy creature?😀

In case you want to get Audrey’s album (and you should ‘coz it’s awesome!), here are some of the links:

iTunes: http://apple.co/2aF2yPd

Spotify: http://spoti.fi/2a83oFn

And remember my post last year about my collaboration with South African Blaque Essence? His album is out this month and you can listen how British producer Jonny Miller smoothly remixed this track.

Out of the melodies that I made for other people’s tracks, so far this is my personal favorite as it’s just sweet and lovely.

Below are some of the links where you can get his album:

iTunes: http://apple.co/29YMNRj

Spotify: http://spoti.fi/2ar34Ue

Hope you enjoy these albums as much as I do!

A Cuppa with Wizzow

Wisnu Prastowo a.k.a Wizzow is my mentor in music production. We first met in 2005 when we shared the stage to support our girl Yacko (but being an “old forgetful man” that he is, he doesn’t remember :p).

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At Yacko’s crib, preparing for her show.

We then met again in 2008 at Yacko’s concert. He was there with Batik Tribe and they asked me to do a collaboration with me. A few days after, I went to the studio to lay my vocals down to this awesome track that Wizzow produced. The track is called “Give Me Your Love (Global Warming)” and was one of the tracks in their debut album “Melangkah”.

I have never met a person as passionate as Wizzow when it comes to music. With no formal training and proper studio gear, he produced, mixed and mastered Ras Muhamad’s debut album which was released in 2006. Amazingly this album landed an Anugerah Musik Indonesia (AMI) nomination for Best Reggae Composition in 2008!

So far Wizzow have worked with big names in the industry such as Glenn Fredly, Afgan, Dewi Sandra, Tompi, Malaysian singer-songwriter Nadhira, and many more. After my collaboration with Batik Tribe, Wisnu and I became good friends and we also worked several times in some jingle projects.

What I like best from Wizzow is that he happily and patiently answers all my questions regarding music production, from how to set the EQ to how to do a quick mastering. Back then I thought I wouldn’t be able to mix and master my own track but with the help from him, I managed to record, produce, mix and master this track below.

Wow, that’s quite a long introduction. I think it’s time for you to read my conversation with him over my favorite drink from Sharetea to know more about this amazing self-taught MC/music producer😉

Hi Wizzow! It’s been a while, huh? What are you up to now?

I just finished producing the debut album of a neo-soul singer, Bakhes. We were working on it for three years and finally it will be released this September. And I also just finished working on a religious compilation album entitled “Hidayah” with Glenn Fredly, featuring artists like Indra Lesmana and Kamila which was just released this month for the holy month of Ramadan. Right now I’m working on the debut album of Tiara Degrasia of The Voice Indonesia Season 1 and the soundtrack for the film “Ben & Jody (Filosofi Kopi 2)”.

You started your music career as an MC when you were a teenager. Why hip hop?  

I love basketball and the time I was a big fan of Shaquille O’Neal and Gary Payton. Every time I went to the court to practice, there’s always someone playing hip hop tunes. That’s how I fell in love with the music and started to learn how to rap. Besides practicing using the minus one inside the cassette that I bought for 10 thousand rupiahs (around 76 cents), I honed my skill by reading articles in magazines or newspapers in a fast pace, pretending like I’m rapping.

What made you intrigued to learn music production and how did you learn it? Were you relying on Internet and if so, was there any site that you frequented the most?

Back then I had a hip hop group and one of them was the producer. One day he looked at me and said, “Without me, you wouldn’t be able to make music”. I wanted to make music with other producers but couldn’t afford it. So I tried arranging music using a Technic KN 2000 keyboard and bought a computer afterwards. I made several tracks and sold each of them for 50 thousand rupiahs (around 3,80 dollars) that only covered for food. Having not enough money to hire a mixing engineer, I realized that I needed to learn it myself. So I gathered several different speakers in my room and learned the various characters of sound frequency by listening to Dr. Dre’s “2001” album using each speaker.

Do you have any music production mentor? What’s the one thing he taught you that you won’t forget?

Yudis Dwikorana. He taught me to compose song pattern and to differentiate the verse and chorus. For mixing, Nti told me that the first thing that needed to be mixed was the beat (kick, snare, hihat), followed by bass, other instruments, and vocals.

What is the most memorable experience in your music production career?

After listening to Ras Muhamad’s debut album, many thought that I did the recording and mixing in a professional studio when I actually didn’t use a proper studio speaker, only a simple stereo. We also only used a second-hand SM58 dynamic microphone during recording. That was truly memorable.

Do you consider yourself more of a analog or digital person?

Digital.

Who is your favorite producer and why?

Dr. Dre because he is a skillful MC and also really good in producing. With his good technical skills, all artists that he produced like Tupac, Snoop Dogg, Eminem & Mary J. Blige managed to go platinum.

What are the best three tracks produced by him?

Tupac feat. Dr. Dre & Roger Troutman – California Love

Snoop Dogg – Gin and Juice

Eminem feat. Dr. Dre – Guilty Conscience

You collaborated with Akil of Jurassic 5 for your solo album. I’m sure there are other artists you’d like to collaborate with. If you could choose, which artist would you feature in your next album and in which studio would you produce the track?

Talib Kweli, because he has a very cool flow and his lyrics are on point. It doesn’t matter in which studio I get to work with him.

What do you think about popular hip hop nowadays? 

I like new artists like Kendrick Lamar. He is really good. In general, the rapping style nowadays is more simple. Too bad most of the famous hip hop tracks now only expose fame, sex, fortune and drugs in the lyrics.

It’s obvious that you really enjoy producing hip hop, R&B and soul music. What genre of music that you surprisingly enjoyed producing?

EDM wasn’t my cup of tea before but I had to produce an EDM track for several projects and turned out I really enjoyed it.

Last but not least, do you enjoy the drink we had? What do you think of it on a scale of 10?

I had Avocado Coccoa Rocksalt & Cheese with additional pearl. I love how the smooth blend of Avocado mix well with the savory cheese cream. It’s really good so it gets 9,2 from me. Hahaha!

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I had a really good time catching up with Wizzow at his studio. It’s too bad that I had limited time. But hopefully I get to spend more time with him before he’s busy taking care of his baby boy who is due soon. Hope everything goes well before and during the D-day, Wizzow & Ivy!

One Fine Noon at National Gallery Singapore

I wasn’t really interested in museums until my first visit to Europe. Turned out that I really enjoyed spending time there, especially arts museums! I could spend hours looking at a painting that I really like (unfortunately I haven’t got to do that since there were usually other beautiful paintings waiting to be devoured by my eyes!).

When I was in Singapore two weeks ago, I was determined to put a visit to museum in the itinerary. While waiting for the bus, I saw the ad for Reframing Modernism, an exhibition in National Gallery Singapore. The exhibition is organized by the Gallery with Centre Pompidou, Paris. My eyes beamed with joy looking at the name of the artists: from Marc Chagall (loooove “La Joie“!), the maestro Affandi to…Picasso!

So the next day I hopped on the MRT and made my way to the City Hall stop. After taking a brief yet lovely walk passing the stunning St Andrew Cathedral, I arrived at the Gallery.

After entering, I made my way downstairs to buy the tickets. Since I’m not a Singaporean citizen nor a PR, I had to pay 25 SGD for the exhibition. To access other collections in the Gallery, they normally charge 20 SGD to Non-Singaporeans, but they have this offer in which you only have to pay an extra 5 SGD if you combine it with the exhibition. That was a good deal. So I thought…why not?

With tickets in hand, I went up to the third floor where the exhibition took place. It was divided into three different sections (or galleries) and of course I started with the first one. There were so many beautiful pieces including work of arts by names that I didn’t recognize before (since I’m still a newbie art lover!), like this beautiful painting by Japanese-French artist Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita entitled “In the Café”.

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Really “Parisian-ish”, no?

There were also works by Russian artist Natalia Sergeevna Goncharova. I love the color in her painting called “A City”.

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Like I said before, this exhibition exposed me to so many great artists previously unknown to me. Like Emiria Soenassa who was the first most active Indonesian female painter. Born in 1894, she actually started learning to paint when she was 40. She was inspired by Indonesian archipelago, showcasing the Indonesian people from the island of Sulawesi (where she’s from) to the indigenous people from Papua. In her work “Flute Blower and Full Moon”, she featured the landscape of Indonesia under the beam of moonlight.

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Besides Soenassa, there were  other Indonesian artists in like Affandi, S. Sudjojono and I Gusti Nyoman Lempad whose works showcased.

Also in the same gallery were some of the works of Marc Chagall’s. I first came across his works when I visited Nice and went to his museum.

After spending almost an hour in the first room, I proceeded to the second gallery. The first thing that took my attention upon entering was a listening station with four headphones. The exhibition collaborated with several Singaporean music students to create several tracks inspired by some paintings. I looked at the mini paintings displayed for a while before closing my eyes while listening to the electronic music tracks. Very interesting.

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On top of the listening station was a quote by Vassily Kandinsky whose works also displayed inside Gallery 2.

The highlight of my visit that day was Robert Delaunay‘s “Portrait de Madame Heim”. Displayed next to his other works (one of it was his collaboration with his wife, Sofia Delaunay), this piece made me return back to it for several times. I found the combination of pastel colors and geometric shapes very intriguing.

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Robert Delauney – Portrait de Madame Heim. This picture doesn’t do justice!

Still captivated with Delaunay’s work, I hesitantly moved to the third and the last gallery of the exhibition. Upon entering, I was greeted by a very friendly museum attendant. He pointed to my camera and said that I must have taken loads of picture. Then he mentioned about how excited I must’ve been to see Picasso’s work. I’d never seen his work with my own eyes before and of course I was!

“The Cat and the Rooster” was the Picasso’s work in the exhibition. What crossed my mind when seeing it was, “Did the cat kill the rooster? Or did it find it already dead?” Such a silly thought, I know.

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Also in the same room were “Ancient Dance” made in 1968 by Nguyen Tu Nghiem and “Yellow Horse” made in 1941 by Carl Henning Pedersen.

There were also fascinating abstract paintings by Ahmad Sadali. It’s mentioned that this Indonesian painter “merged his spiritual and religious outlook with his interest in abstraction, resulting in deeply philosophical and meditative canvases” which I found true. After looking at his works (especially “Banyuwangi”), you might experience some kind of tranquility that usually comes after meditating. So, meditative is the right choice of word to illustrate them.

The works of Sadali’s concluded “Reframing Modernism”. I got out of the room feeling content that the 25 SGD I spent was worth it (hahah!). I looked at my watch and found that I still have around an hour to get back to my mother who was waiting for me in Orchard Road. So I went to see the other collections that the Gallery had in other levels of the buildings. Turned out this Gallery’s massive! It occupies the former buildings of Supreme Court and City Hall and consists of many galleries.

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Until 17 July, still got time to go there if you’re interested!

One of the works that stole my attention was this portrait of Balinese high priest by Miguel Covarrubias. Always drawn to caricature and cartoon, it’s no wonder I found this Mexican caricaturist’s work fascinating. His extensive travel to Bali yielded to his book “Island of Bali” which was first published in 1937. I might try to look for that book later🙂

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There’s also this painting by Prayat Pongdam entitled “Feeding”. It illustrates a woman feeding four black cats. Of course it instantly reminded me to my dear mother, LOL! That’s why I found it very close to my heart.

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Mother, is that you? Oh wait, she never goes topless when feeding the cats :p

I googled Prayat Pongdam after I got back to the apartment that day and found that this late Thai painter actually liked to incorporate cats to his works (like “Cat and Fish“). I’m mesmerized by his works and fingers crossed that soon I’ll be able to visit and indulge in more of his works in Sombatperpoon Gallery, Bangkok.

Of course there weren’t only paintings in the Gallery. There were also sculpture works by artists like Edhi Sunarso and “Wayang Legenda” – a performance installation by Heri Dono.

It’s too bad that my feet were hurting and my mother was already waiting for me that I had to end my visit before I had the chance to explore the whole Gallery. It was indeed a fine noon there and I will definitely come back during my next trip to Singapore! (note to self: wear a comfortable pair of sneakers next time.)

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Parlez-vous français ? (Part 2)

FullSizeRenderAs mentioned in my previous post, my trips to Europe made me fell in love with the continent, especially France. And what’s a better way to immerse oneself in the culture better than to learn the language? So on that sunny day in July, I went to IFI in Thamrin to sign myself up.

I initially wanted to take the regular class so I only had to come for 1-2 times per week. But turned out the regular class had already started a couple of weeks before and the only class that I could enroll myself in was the intensive one. “Do you really want to sacrifice your beauty sleep every weekday morning?” I asked myself (I’m a night owl, you know).

But I didn’t really have anything going on in the morning and didn’t want to wait for a couple of months to attend the regular class. Also, taking the intensive class meant that I got to finish one level in two months, while regular class needed 6 to 9 months (depending on which level). So, why not?

And it was one of the best decisions ever!

The class commenced in the beginning of August last year. Knowing only basic French from Duolingo, I was surprised to find the intricacy of the language. Different groups for verb and each group has their own set of rules for conjugation? Are you kidding me?! I felt like I was running out of space in my brain to memorize all those rules, conjugations, tenses (Le Passe Composé vs L’Imparfait! Hmm…) and other stuffs. And ooh, not to forget the pronunciation? There are different words with obviously different spellings but similar pronunciations like “sourire” (smile) and “souris” (mouse). *pulling my hair

But thank God for Internet! I downloaded the app Vatefaireconjuguer to help me with the conjugations. To speed things up when I’m looking for a meaning for a word, I use the free dictionary by Farlex on my smartphone. And I also use the app iTranslate to help me with sentences. It must be really hard to learn the language before Internet and smartphones were available!

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Le sourire de la souris. Hey, that ain’t a mouse!

Although it gave me headache, learning French became really fun and not boring at all thanks to my classmates. We had good chemistry with one another and became good friends, more like a family – une famille française! I always looked forward to attend the class and spend time with them.

Besides that, everybody was smart and supportive to one another in learning this not-so-easy language. But doesn’t mean we didn’t like to have fun because we joked around almost all the time. I remember one time the teacher came in and was very surprised to find us playing Twister! Sometimes we also liked to go out together – for lunch, bowling, live music, and even out of town to enjoy the beach of Carita.

We also took DELF (sort of like French’s IELTS or TOEFL). Even though I initially had no plan on doing it, everybody was so serious preparing for it that it was somehow contagious. To make it even harder, most of us took DELF for level A2 while we’re still in that level. Yikes!

When the day of the test came, I was really nervous. Didn’t know why it became THAT serious for me because I actually took the course pour plaisir ;p But, phew! It went well. During the oral production test, the examiner asked me, “Combien de chiens avez-vous?” (How many dogs do you have?) after I told him that I share a house with cats and dogs. Yet I mistakenly heard “chats” so I answered, “J’ai trente-sept chats chez moi,” (I have 37 cats at home – it’s 38 now, by the way.). He then stared at me with disbelief. Haha!

After four months of being together, only a few of us continued studying in the intensive class. Some of my classmates had to depart for France for their study, some were busy with their own lives and I had to take regular class instead as I didn’t as much free time as I used to. But we still keep in touch regularly, exchanging news on our Whatsapp group.

The regular class for level B1 started early this year and I was delighted to find myself in the class with people with similar vibes as my former classmates – such a nice way to spend my Saturday mornings! But of course, the lesson’s not getting any easier. Right now we’re studying le subjonctif and I feel like my head’s gonna explode:/

So far the main challenge for me is to comprehend what the Frenchs are saying. They talk in this speed of light that it seems impossible for me to get it! I sometimes borrow DVD and CD from the library to (try to) get myself used to them speaking. My favorite French movie is The Intouchables, which I actually saw on the plane, starring the hunky Omar Sy. Do you have any French movie you recommend?

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C’est Jean-Nengah !

Okay, answering the question of Jean-Nengah: Parlez-vous français ?

Oui. Mais, soyez-patient, s’il vous plaît. Je parle très lentement !😀

(Special thanks to my good friend Vitri who snapped pictures of Jean-Nengah and me!)

 

 

Parlez-vous français ? (Part 1)

Two years ago I decided to embark on a 1-month-and-1-week journey (initially 1.5 month but I had to cut a week off due to chicken pox. Yes, you read it right! Got chicken pox in my 30s – ain’t that cool?) around Europe. The itinerary was: Paris – Prague – Rome/Vatican – Florence/Pisa – Venice – Milan – Nice/Monaco – Barcelona – Madrid – London – Paris. It was a trip of a lifetime, I must tell you. As I was backpacking (even though I also brought a luggage – not really a light packer), I stayed in hostels or used Airbnb and Couchsurfing for accommodation. I will share a more elaborate story about my experiences with Couchsurfing in my other post🙂

This trip made me fell in love with Europe. Although I only had the chance to visit two French cities, I fell in love with France the most – especially Paris! But I must be honest, my first impression of the city wasn’t that good. I arrived on a sunny day and found myself a bit surprised to see the view from Charles De Gaulle airport to the city center from the shuttle bus. It’s dirty, messy, dusty and somewhat reminded me of Jakarta. It didn’t get better when I got off in Gare du Montparnasse. I could smell some unpleasant aroma.

A bit tired after almost 20 hours flight, I dragged my luggage to Hotel Innova – the only hotel I stayed in during this trip as I was still recovering from chicken pox (didn’t want to scare other guests sharing the same hostel room!). I picked this hotel because it had good reviews, quite affordable (around 70€ for one night with air conditioner) and is in a walking distance from the Eiffel tower!

After taking a nap, I went out to see the famous tower. I wandered the city on my own, listening to John Legend’s “All of Me“. The song kinda suited my mood on that warm sunny afternoon in Paris.

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Saw this Indonesian movie poster on the streets of Paris!

Having bad sense of direction and no internet connection (wasn’t aware with the app Ulmon at the time), I was a bit worried that I would get lost even though I had a map with me. Luckily on my way I met a Syrian mother and her daughter who were also going there. I tagged along with them until I could see the tower from afar and we parted. I was excited when I entered Champ de Mars and saw the tower in front of me.

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Oooo weee! Finally got to meet this French beauty.

After spending some time around the tower taking loads of pics and enjoying several Pierre Hermé macaroons (I like Ladureé’s better), I took the metro to Gobelins L’École de L’Image. My late brother Gede really wanted to take summer course in that school and one of the reasons I went to Europe was that so I could go there even though I could only took pics in front of it.

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Hey Gede, I’m here!❤

Then I went back to my hotel to rest before flying over to Prague the day after. My thought on Paris after spending half a day there? Still not impressed to be honest. But that would change after 6 nights in the city of light before I headed back to Jakarta.

The second city in France that I visited was Nice. After 5 hours in the train from Milan, I arrived in this nice French city (yes, pun intended). Using Hostel Room, I booked a bed in a 8-bed room in Antares Hostel located right in front of the train station where I got off. That was my trick – find an affordable accommodation not far from the station and city center so I didn’t have to drag my heavy luggage (a nice man in the train looked at it and said, “why do women have to bring the whole house when they travel?”) for too long. When I got into the room, I met two sweet Dutch teenagers who seemed excited when I told them I came from Indonesia. We chatted a bit before they went out to explore the city and I took a nap. After a few hours of resting, I went out to see the city and took loads of picture.

During my three day stay there, I also went on a day trip to Monaco and Èze Village with my kind Taiwanese roomie in Nice, Holly. Èze Village is a medieval French village with hotels, cafes and restaurants. It’s really clean and lovely and it reminded me of those villages in Belgian comics (remember Johan & Peewit?) that I used to read. It’s really beautiful! I recommend you to visit it when you’re staying in Nice or Monaco. You can go to Monaco from Nice by taking bus or train (bus is cheaper) and from Monaco you can take the bus to go to the village. Click here and here for more info on this.

On the last day before I headed to Barcelona, with her and two other sweet Taiwanese girls who also shared the same room with us, Poca and Angel, I went museum-hopping, trying out local dish and ended the day on the beach. Too bad I didn’t bring my bathing suit. But it was still nice enjoying the warm sun on the beach while listening to some summer tunes like Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” which was put on repeat.

After weeks of exploring Europe, the train took me back from London St. Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord. This time, I didn’t explore the city alone. My good friend Bram who’s at the time studying and working in German flew over to Paris. We stayed in this tiny apartment we found on Airbnb. We were happy with our stay there because it’s very strategic (located near two metro stops) and had everything that we needed (kitchen, hot water, internet, etc). Paris was different this time. It wasn’t sunny and warm like the first time I set my foot there; it was raining and a bit cold. But we still had a good time! I actually was kinda happy with the change of weather as the summer sun was getting too much for me (got loads of it back home!).

And I finally got why everybody fell in love with Paris. The city is stunningly beautiful! There are loads of things to see and loads of things do like spending the afternoon in the beautiful Jardin du Luxembourg, exploring Musée du Louvre (I could spend days there!), taking a day trip to Château de Versailles, enjoying ice cream while strolling along Avenue des Champs-Élysées, enjoying the night with cool live jazz music, joining the crowd taking photos of and with the beautiful Eiffel, and the list goes on and on and on…

I loved my stay in Paris so much that I remember I posted a photo of me in front of the Eiffel on our last night in the city with the caption “Last night in Paris…I’ll be back!” on Facebook.

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And gues what…

…I did come back! Less than a year after the trip, my parents, my cousin and I went on a trip to Dubai and Europe. Even though it’s not the first time for them to be in Europe, my parents wanted to do a similar thing that I did so I made a quite similar itinerary for us. We stayed there for 4 nights and although the weather was quite bad for spring, we had a blast nevertheless. My parents were happy to be back in the city of light, especially my mom (shopping!).  I also took them to La Crêperie Bretonne that Bram and I visited before (and loooved so much!), and my dad said the crêpes were really good! Phew, such a relief since he’s hard to please when it comes to food.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t expect Parisians to be nice and friendly. I heard so many stories about them being cold and arrogant that I was prepared to have a hard time asking for directions since I only know basic French. But boy, luckily that wasn’t the case! Everybody I met was nice and helpful. Some people I asked help from kindly explained the direction with sign language because they couldn’t speak English. There’s even one time when a guy in front of me suddenly stopped walking, turned his back, and pointed me the way to the right metro line without me asking! Maybe he could read my mind or something?

So, answering the question of the blog – did I speak French at the time? Well, just a tiny teeeny bit (thanks to Duolingo!). But I will tell you how I finally can speak more than just “Bonjour” or “Au revoir” after enrolling myself in a French course a couple of months after my family trip. So stay tuned for my next post: “Parlez-vous français? (Part 2)”!🙂

A Night at the Prohibition Speakeasy

That Monday afternoon in end of January this year, I received a phone call from my music buddy Nanda who asked me, “Do you want to sing at the Prohibition?” and to that I replied, “Of course.” So the day after, I went there and had my first regular gig with him, Victor Prabowo (bass) and Afirniar Mustrin (drums).

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I’m lucky to be sharing the stage with these talented boys. Learned a lot from them and besides sharing good vibes on stage, we also liked to goof around and have lots of fun during the break!

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Don’t mind the guy in the middle :p

Last month, Sachiko Asada from the famous youtube channel Senang96, came with our mutual friend, Yoichi Ikeda to see us perform. I never met Sachiko in person but we became friends on social medias after she came to Sister Duke’s show in 2012 and uploaded it on her youtube channel (you can watch the show here). So it was such a pleasure to finally meet this Japanese lady who really supports Indonesian music scene❤ And it was also really nice to be able to reunite with Yoichi whom I last met twelve years ago!

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Thank you for coming and showing us your support!

She recorded some of the songs we performed that night and uploaded them on her youtube channel. Yoichi also took some cool photos of us on stage. It’s a good thing I made the right decision to wear slimming black dress that I got from my good friend Vitri hahahah! (Oh, I also had my nails done a couple of days before-can you see cool arts on my finger nails by two.cents? :D)

We opened the show that night with “Summertime”, one of the first jazz standards that I learned back in the days.

We also performed one of my favorite blues tunes “Moanin'”. I first encountered this song when the contestants of American Idol 2011 Haley Reinhart and Casey Abram sang it on the show.

Reminiscing back to my first moments as a band vocalist, that night we also performed Green Day’s “Basket Case”, a song that I used to sing with my first band in junior high. But it was performed with a twist!

Playing at a jazz bar, of course it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing! We also did a couple of swing tunes that night, including this soundtrack written for Irving Berlin for Fred Astaire movie “Top Hat”.

Those are four of the seven songs that Sachiko uploaded on her youtube channel. You can simply go to this playlist to see the rest.

We’ll be taking a break during the fasting month, but we’ll be back after that! So hope to see you on Tuesday nights at the Prohibition Speakeasy after the Ramadhan😉

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From Italy to Indonesia

How great is the Internet? Last year my late friend Robert (may his soul rest in peace) introduced me to an Italian Producer, Gigi Frassanito aka Soulbridge. After exchanging a few messages we decided to work on a track together.  He sent over this cool soulful house demo and I wrote the lyrics and melodies to it. He heard and liked the demo that I sent back so I proceeded with a recording session and sent the vocal stems over to him. All of this without meeting in person at all!

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The track title is “In the Moment”. It’s about two individuals who found themselves in a situation where they are aware that their attraction to each other can’t be taken further, thus one of them feel hesitant to give in to this feeling. But the other person believes that they shouldn’t resist the feeling and just enjoy being in the moment.

The best news is, the track is already out! Besides the original mix, there are also remixes by Guido P and Salento Soul (love the remixes!). You can buy/stream them online on various digital stores and streaming services.

Here are some of the links:

iTunes: http://apple.co/1OXubPJ

Spotify: http://spoti.fi/1NYpzxK

Enjoy!

A Cuppa with Melanie Putria

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A month has passed since I interviewed Yacko for the segment “A Cuppa with…” and this month I had the opportunity to interview my favorit Puteri Indonesia (Indonesian beauty queen) who also happens to be a friend of mine, Melanie Putria!

Melanie’s and my paths crossed in 2011 through running. With other fellow runners, we went together for Singapore Standard Chartered Marathon. Although at the time she had just been running for less than 6 months, she went there to do her first marathon (in which she got a quite good timing for a first timer who didn’t really prepare for it!) while I was doing my first half marathon (I obviously didn’t perform as well as her, you can easily tell who the fast runner is and who the fun runner is😉 ).

She’s such a lovely person that everybody loves. I got the chance to work with her once as an MC/Race Announcer. Although she’s more experienced than me, I can tell you that she’s not cocky at all!

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Partnering for Lippo Mall Kemang 10K – Run for Childhood Cancer.

Spending that afternoon with her and listening to her stories at Starbucks, Kota Kasablanka, made me realize how this person could even be more inspiring.

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Also met Helen and Joe that afternoon!

Hi Uni (an endearing term for sister used by the ethnic group of Minangkabau in West Sumatra), thank you for taking your time to have a chat with me for my blog. You are well known as a Puteri Indonesia who has a successful career in the entertainment industry. What inspired you to embark on this career?

It all started from singing. Thinking that I had the talent, my mother got me enrolled in a singing course and had to drag me there because I didn’t think that I had any sense of music. But mother knows better, of course! Eventually I started to really like singing and entered quite a lot of singing contests and became the winner. I became the backing vocal for a couple of bands, performed more and started to make my own money.  Then one day at the campus, I saw an ad for Puteri Indonesia and got intrigued. I thought to myself, “Why don’t I give it a shot?” All those experiences from the singing contests and on the stage gave me enough confidence to present myself in front of a crowd. Even though I was clueless when it came to beauty and modeling, I filled out the form and sent it over. Turned out I got picked as a finalist to represent West Sumatra and won the title. This really opened the door for me as a presenter and MC. I learned how to be an MC by watching my mother who often brought me to work as an MC for Minangkabau weddings when I was little.

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Caught her in the act in Jakarta Marathon 2014.

You’re also known to promote healthy lifestyle, being an avid runner and all. Can you tell us a briefly how your story with sports and health begun?

I used to be this chubby girl who hated sport and often pretended to be sick so I could skip physical education classes. After winning the title of Puteri Indonesia, I still didn’t embrace the healthy lifestyle–I didn’t exercise, didn’t eat vegetables nor fruits. I thought that I had no problem with my body until YPI (Yayasan Puteri Indonesia – the organizer of the beauty pageant) sent me a warning letter saying that I had to lose a couple kilograms. I felt shocked because it was the first time for a Puteri Indonesia receiving such letter. I wasn’t that fat, but I obviously didn’t look toned either. So I decided to join the gym and try to live a healthy lifestyle. It was the turning point. But I was too excited with it that I took things a bit too far for five years. I adopted the lifestyle of a bodybuilder – did their weight training routines, followed their diet without proper knowledge. It was extreme that my health started to be affected.

What made you finally found balance in this quest for a healthy lifestyle?

My body was so lean that it no longer produced estrogen. Doctor told me that I was already in a pre menopause phase and I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to have children. I went to see a gynecologist who told me to gain 3 kilograms and voilà, I got my period back one week before I got married!

What about running? How did you find your love for it?

After I gave birth to Sheemar, I wanted to shed those extra pounds. Going back to the gym was hard because I felt intimidated by other members who looked good and it didn’t help to hear my personal trainer said I looked like a double door fridge. I felt like I had to find other way and saw the running-related posts on social media by my friends Maylaffayza and Yasha. Then I found my passion and have done 5 marathon ever since.

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Our Singapore Marathon trip in 2011.

You just had your last marathon in Tokyo and you worked with Pocari Sweat for the preparation. How was it?

I underwent training for 2 months for Tokyo Marathon 2016. It was hard because I had only been running for a couple of years and had to follow a comprehensive training plan. Although the plan was made for athletes, I was still living my life like normal that I failed to follow the recovery program properly and got typhoid fever. I recovered one week before the marathon and the people from Pocari Sweat told me it’s ok for me not to go but I realized that I had this huge responsibility to finish what we’d started. When I managed to get to the finish line and broke my PB (personal best time), I felt really grateful. It made me realize even more that we could get what we wanted and there’s nothing impossible if we’re really determined and if we really honored the commitment we’d made to ourselves and other people.

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We could say that you’re a hard worker and a go-getter. What drives you to be that person?

I always tell myself to give 100% to everything that I do and to finish what I started. People who don’t know me that well would think that I shouldn’t be overly serious in what I do. I think part of it is because I’m an Aries–we’re known to be uncompromising when it comes to what we want. Besides of that, I had a bad experience at school when I was little. I was this chubby and lousy girl who often got picked on by other students. I want to show that I’m no longer that person. We can say that it’s how I avenge myself in a good way. Also, Sheemar is one of the reasons why I work hard. I want to be a good example for him and make him proud.

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Aww!!!

It’s a bit of surprise to know that a lovely person like you could be a victim of bullying at school. Would you mind sharing a little bit of the story with us?

In elementary school, almost all the girls in the class hate me. They accused me of snitching something to the teacher so the whole class got punished. One time the boys put glue on my chair so my skirt got sticky and dirty. Sometimes they liked to drop my things in front of my eyes and then gave me these mocking facial expressions. They also liked to make fun of me really bad because I was fat and it made me cry. But now things have changed and I’m obviously no longer that fat girl.

Hope you’re not bored having to answer this question but I’m really curious. How do you balance your family and career?

I must be honest, it’s not easy. It’s such a luxury for me if I could sleep 4 hours in a day. This is such a big challenge for me as I’m still figuring out how I can manage to take care of my family, have my own me time, but also thrives in my career at the same time. But thankfully I have a husband who understands me and is willing to remind me if I start to be overly focused on one aspect in my life and abandon the others.

How do you manage to stay fit to do all the things that you do? Where do all those energies come from? And also, how do you manage your mood? The entertainment business is quite a b*tch and it’s easy for the artist’s mood to be affected.

I’m actually a very moody person and I used to have a hard time in managing it. In the past, you could easily tell if I was sad or angry just by looking at my face. And it’s a big no-no in the entertainment industry, as you must not allow the camera or the crowd to capture that. Then I found my outlet in sports. I have to exercise to get the energy that I need to do my activities as well as to control my mood. If I don’t exercise for three days, I can turn to be this very cranky person. Yes, I’m a self-confessed endorphin addict.

So that’s why you always seem to be this pleasant and cheerful person?

Yes, exercising really helps me with that. But, here’s the thing. Back when I just found the key to control my mood, I felt that I was obliged to be this delightful person in front of everyone, that I had to please them. But we live in a world where people have their own agenda and sometimes your happiness is not in it. I used to try to understand these people and let things go their way. But it was tiring. Two years ago I realized that I actually had to be happy first so I could sincerely make other people happy. So I started to muster up the courage to say “no” or show how I’m unhappy with someone if that how I truly feel.

As a beauty queen, what is your definition of beauty? But please don’t say beauty, brain and behavior. Let us know what Melanie Putria really thinks😀

Beauty is when you feel comfortable. If you think you look pretty but you’re actually hurting, you feel awkward with the clothes and makeup that you wear, then you’re definitely not being beautiful. You exuberate beauty when you can be yourself and proud of it.

Now I get why the judges chose you to be Puteri Indonesia. *chuckles

Awh, you!

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Crowned in 2002 (picture taken from Tempo website).

Okay, this is my attempt to relate this interview with the title of the blog segment, “A Cuppa with…”  What are you having and how would you rate it out of 10?

Non-fat Green Tea Frappuccino with less ice, one shot of espresso di affogato and no whipped cream. I like it so much that I’d give it a 9.

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Back to you. Do you have any tips for people who want to be a successful presenter and host like yourself?

You can’t be a good TV personality and host if you don’t know what your strength and skill is. For me personally, I love to be connected to the people I’m talking to. So I try to have eye contact with them and it actually helps me to talk better, converse better with them. Also you have to know what makes you unique. What sort of image that you want the audience to relate you to? Are you a sexy MC? A funny one? Or a sporty one? And one more thing, always keep a good relationship with everyone in the industry. I’ve met quite a number of new presenters who stick their nose up in the air. Even though you’re very skillful and talented, you obviously can’t thrive in the industry with that unpleasant manner.

You have so many things going on in your life, so many achievements. Is there any particular project that you would like to realize in the near future?

I have one thing that still hasn’t come true yet. I want to release an album. I’ve discussed this with my husband Angga, but he said that I didn’t really have to have an album to be a singer. Well, I still feel the need to have a work of art that can be appreciated by others. Before we got married in 2010, Angga made a promise that he would help me make an album yet it still hasn’t come true! Hopefully soon.

As a singer, what three tracks that you love to sing?

Whitney Houston – I Will Always Love You

Melissa Manchester – Looking Through the Eyes of Love

Rita Effendy – Sebatas Mimpi

I know this is a typical job interview question, but how do you envision yourself in 10 years?

I will be a hot momma, hahaha! Well, I truly love sports and healthy lifestyle and I want to get as much knowledge as I can from this field. So I really want to be a good personal trainer who has certifications in nutrition and hopefully by being one I can eventually inspire and help many people.