Afgan Syahreza

Afgan Syahreza

Afgan Syahrezah as won many plaudits for his talents. Amongst the various awards that already clutter the shelves are Best Male Vocalist (at the 2009 Indonesian Music Awards) and Best Male Artist (at the 2009 Planet Muzik Wards, celebrating engaging artists in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore). As well as his immense musical talents, he is currently looking to gain some exam success while he studies at the Monash University, Malaysia.

One thing about Afgan is that he is no ‘one-trick pony'. He consistently demonstrates his versatility in various musical genres. As well as pop, he excels in R&B, soul and jazz.

Malaysians like to identify with the young singer because, unlike some Far Eastern performers who have found fame in reality shows or cheesy talent-spotting contests, his talent is natural. This makes his meteoric rise to international fame all the more surprising. Afghan never received any formal vocal training as he was growing up. The second of four children, Afgan's family was of Minangkabau extraction. They describe themselves as reasonably musical, but when it came to exercising his vocal chords it seems Afgan was self-taught.

He set out on his artistic journey after getting together with a bunch of friends to record a private album. This was performed at the appropriately titled WannaB Instant Recording Studio. As soon as the resident studio producers heard him singing, they offered him a contract on the spot.

This led to his debut album, Confession #1. Amongst the eclectic range of tracks recorded for this smooth meld of jazz and pop were ‘Terima Kasih Cinta', ‘Sadis', ‘Tanpa Batas Waktu' and ‘Klise'. A music video of the former was recorded, produced by Thalita Latief, and directed by Jose Purnomo. His performance on this album led to his award at the 2009 Indonesian Music Awards. That same year he cemented his arrival in the Indonesian public eye by acting in the movie Bukan Cinta Biasa, alongside Olivia Lubis Jensen. As well as performing before the cameras, he sang the title track for the film's soundtrack album.

In 2010 Afgan made another acting appearance, this time in the film Cinta 2 Hati, as well as providing vocals for the soundtrack. Following on from the critical and audience acclaim for Confession #1, his second album was released the same year. Entitled The One, this was received with equal enthusiasm. Afgan performed the theme for the 2011 Southeast Asian Games, the biennial sporting event involving 11 Asian participant nations. That year it was held in Bangkok, Thailand.

One of the keys to Afgan's enduring success has been the way he can dip between different sounds. Check out his single ‘Sadis', from his first album. This allows him to spread his range over a soft piano refrain, which soon builds up with full-blown orchestration and a strident guitar solo. This song has the same vocal hooks and bombastic delivery that would fit extremely well into theatre productions, or even a Disney musical.

Known for his cheeky grin, handsome features and slightly ‘nerdy' image, Afgan is no dumb pop performer: far from it. As well as possessing an excellent vocal range, we hear he was studying Economics at the Monash University Malaysia. He is obviously aware that fame and success can be incredibly fickle concepts, especially where pop music is concerned.

God Bless – greatest YouTube moments

God Bless – greatest YouTube moments

God Bless, one of Indonesia's most consistent and influential rock bands, have accumulated an army of followers – over different generations, too. Founding member Ahmad Albar has presided over a band that first formed in 1973, and has released several popular albums since their eponymous debut in 1975.

To save you the trouble of sifting through piles of 70s progressive rock in dusty second-hand shops we've compiled some of the band's most eye-catching moments which can be easily tapped into via the wonders of YouTube.

Semut Hitam

A total of 606k viewers have tapped into this video, the title track of their third album, released in 1988. There are no actual visuals, but the music is strong enough to speak volumes. The riffing guitars punch out a strident melody, while the echoing vocals, together with backing harmonies, take the song to new heights. There is excellent keyboard accompaniment as well. At 3:11 the lead guitar hits some fluent licks – typical with a lot of 80s guitar music elsewhere in the world, it was aimed as much at pop audiences as the ‘serious rock fan'.

Ahmad Albar, Godbless, Gong 2000

This video showcase the music's trademark blend of dynamic instrumentation with upbeat, melodic rock. The driving guitars and full-on vocals carry the song along nicely, while the keyboard in the background, especially at 3:00, produces some menacingly deep bass chords. The chorus is infectiously catchy, and no-one could possibly listen to this joyous music without feeling their feet starting to tap along.


This is a slightly more progressive track than the former two videos. It is heavily keyboard and guitar-orientated, with some powerful licks and hammer-ons bursting through the Marshall stacks within the first two minutes. At 2:11 the song breaks down into an instrumental ‘middle eight' where the guitarist really gets to showcase his perfect command of his fretboard, as he scales up and down, reaching screeching high notes that carry the rest of the song. The longer the melody progresses, the more insistent these breaks become, until a key change launches the tune towards a powerful climax.

Maret 89/ayat setan romika

This features a montage of stills of the band, set against a particularly grinding hard rock tune. The guitar skills are exemplary – around 2:20 a solo kicks in, that by 2:40 merges with a dexterous keyboard solo. The main riff that keeps recurring in the song puts the listener in mind of some stadium band like Guns n' Roses at the peak of their swaggering fame. Indeed, the choruses are just crying out to be repeated back at the band by an arena packed with adoring fans.

Accompanying the music are various stills of gigs, ranging from close-ups of the Marshall stacks that produce such a fabulous rock n'roll noise, to shots of the many festivals the band have played at.

Syair kehidupan

Over 1m YouTube viewers have tuned in to this piece. It is a slow, heartfelt ballad, full of flowing acoustic guitar lines and plaintive lead guitar carrying the tuneful melody, before splitting into harmonizing parts. The vocals are particularly strong, with choir-like multi voices being applied during the powerful choruses.

Indonesian music to cement diplomatic ties

Indonesian music to cement diplomatic ties

With the imminent arrival of the 40th anniversary of the moment when diplomatic ties were established between Indonesia and Korea, music has rightly become centre-stage. More than any other form of artistic expression, music is capable of crossing international borders and creating harmony. For that reason, music is going to be used has enhanced the relationship between the Indonesian and Korean people.

Last November, a concert took place at the Ansan Sangnosku Gymnasium in Gyeonggi-do, South Korea. Under the title ‘Woorinen Hana Kita Bersatu!' which translates as “we are one” in the respective languages of Korean and Indonesian. The event drew large audiences together, both in person and via digital images. Amongst the artists featured in the show were Indonesia's Ridho Rhoma and Amir, and the Korean singers Wheesung, Ailee, Koyote, Tae Jin-ah and Eru.

The US-born Korean singer Ailee was a particular favourite with the bustling crowds. A mere 24-years old, she has been wowing audiences in Korean and beyond for some time, ever since her debut single Heaven was released in February 2012. When her second mini album A's Doll House was released last July, nearly all music stores in South Korea were sold out of physical copies within 24 hours. Her management company clearly had other markets in their sights, too. A version of Heaven was released by Warner Music Japan, propelling her into the spotlight of the potentially vast music devouring Japanese youth market.

Ailee's music, which typically blends a wonderfully irresistible pop vocal technique with some harder rock balladry, was an easy choice for an invitee for those organizing the special anniversary gig.

Eru Entertainment, a Korean agency and the Indonesian national broadcaster Trans TV, co-hosted the event. It was also sponsored by South Korean Ministry of culture, sports and tourism, and the Indonesian Embassy in Seoul, as well as Ansan City Hall.

Amongst the audience who packed into the gymnasium to listen to the music there were many Indonesians. The organisers have specifically invited visitors from that country currently residing in Korea to attend, in particular those who happened to travel northwards for economic reasons.

As the music one particularly arresting moment came right in the middle of the proceedings. Five workers from Indonesia, who had been specially selected by the Indonesian Embassy, got to be re-united with the families they have not actually seen for a considerable period of time. As the Korean singer and event co-host Eru stated: “I thought that now was the time to give back to my Indonesian fans who have given me so much love and support. I hope this will give at least a small but heartwarming present to all of them who have long been here in Korea, far away from their families back home”.

Indonesian pop sensations Noah

Indonesian pop sensations Noah

Of the most phenomenal successes in the field of popular music in Indonesia has been the band Noah. They were formerly known as Peterpan (in fact, when they renamed themselves in 2012, the some of the promotional material stated ‘Noah Known as Peterpan Band').

What Noah have always done is excel in a particularly ear-friendly stream of alternative pop and rock. They formed back in 1997, in the way of so many bands, as schoolmates. Hailing from Bandung, the line-up at that time consisted of Uki (Mohammed Kautsar Hikmat) on guitar, Andika (Andika Naliputra Wirahardja) on keyboards, Abel on bass, Ari on drums and Ariel (Nazril Irham) on lead vocals. They called themselves Topi. To become more proficient with their instruments, they tended to play cover versions of their favourite British rock acts. When the drummer left Topi, they disbanded.

Fast-forward to 2000. The keyboard virtuoso Andika found himself inspired to regroup his former colleagues from Topi. Two new members were introduced, a new drummer, called Reza (Ilsyah Ryan Reza) and a lead guitarist, Loekman Hakim. It was also Andika who came up with the name of the band Peterpan. It was a reference to Peter Pan, a fictional character from the children's stories of J M Barrie. He was the boy who never grew up.

Peterpan had a fairly low-key start, busking on the streets of Bandung, and playing unplugged gigs in cafes. Their setlist consisted of a cross-section of the most popular British, Irish or American alternative rock acts, such as Nirvana, Coldplay, Pearl Jam or U2. They were spotted during one session, at the Sapu Lidi café, by Noey. He was a producer who was planning a compilation album that would reflect up-and-coming Indonesian artists. Peterpan, having used other people's songs to master their guitar playing and song-writing skills, performed three self-penned numbers for him: ‘Mimpi yang Sempurna', ‘Taman Langit' and ‘Sahabat'.

The album was a reasonable success when it was released, shifting a respectable 150,000 copies. On the back of this exposure, Peterpan were offered a contract by Indonesia's foremost major label, Musica. Their debut album ‘Taman Langit' was released in June 2003, with a follow-up, ‘Bintang Di Surga', following a year later. The latter sold some 350,000 copies in the first fortnight, and by the end of 2005 the sales figures had ramped up to over 2.5 million.

Album number three was a movie soundtrack, for the Indonesian romance, Alexandria. Entitled ‘Menunggu Pagi', the album's release was covered by Indonesia's six largest national TV networks in parallel.

Alas, that old rock n' roll bugbear ‘artistic differences' reared its ugly head in 2006. Founder member Andika and his colleague Indra departed (the latter having also just lost a child, adding to his need for a new direction). The duo had made an agreement about allowing the remaining members to continue using Peterpan. They did so until the name change to Noah in 2012.

Noah continue to write music which has a legion of devoted fans in Indonesia. Rock audiences remember their record-breaking tour of 2003-2004, when, as Peterpan, they performed in six Indonesian cities in a day (Medan, Pekanbaru, Lampung, Semarang, Padang, culminating at Surabaya.

Noah broke this record between 15 and 16 September 2012, when they wowed audiences in Melbourne, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, then finally Jakarta. This basically took them between five countries and two continents, all in the space of 24 hours.