Indonesians and Miley Cyrus

Indonesians and Miley Cyrus

There is a popular saying that equates taste with marmite, a sticky brown food spread that is widely used in Australasia, the Pacific and beyond. Because it has such a distinctive taste, it is known to polarize opinion – you either love it or hate it. Well the same could well be said about the young American pop singer, Miley Cyrus. Her increasingly provocative stage antics have certainly got tongues wagging and excitable fingers tweeting right across the planet.

Nowhere has taste been so divided than Indonesia. While many Indonesians have taken to social media to decry her attention-seeking outbursts, not to mention her formulaic pop singing, there are obviously droves of fans out there who can see beyond her shameless publicity stunts. After all, her most recent single, Wrecking Ball, has soared up the Indonesian Singles Charts.

Awards and Achievements

She can now be seen as one of the most successful artists who began their careers with the Disney Channel. Amongst her plaudits she has had no fewer than five consecutive number one albums in the US Billboard 100 (two being soundtracks to the series where she played the titular teenage character Hannah Montana). She recently ranked number 13 on Forbes Celebrity 100 – the annual compilation of most powerful celebrities, based on several factors, including total Google hits. The 2011 Guinness Book of Records named her ‘Most Charted Teenager', with 29 Billboard Hot 100 entries. MTV named her ‘Artist of the Year' in 2013.

Has often proved to be very difficult making the transition from child star to adult entertainer. But Miley Cyrus has managed to pull this off with some headline-grabbing stage performances. There is nothing new about overtly sexual acts being used to entertain audiences and, more importantly, sell records (check out Madonna!) But where Miley has really made an impact is in employing the modern phenomenon of viral advertising. Put it this way, until fairly recently, very few people were aware of the definition of the strange sounding verb ‘twerking'. Perhaps more than anyone else, Miley has been responsible for this word entering lexicography right across the globe.

This term basically covers any type of dance that is designed to provoke with a series of thrusting hip movements. It has been suggested that the word itself is a combination of twist and jerk, originating in New Orleans street-dancing. But the craze really hit the public eye when Miley Cyrus ‘twerked' while performing with Robin Thicke at the 2013 MTV awards. Images of her gyrating on-stage were beamed to television viewers across the globe, and then tweeted and re-tweeted ad infinitum on Twitter, and discussed and debated in blogs and forums right across the information super highway.

One of the reasons why Miley has been going to such lengths to get noticed is undoubtedly a desire to put distance between herself and the sweet, wholesome, Southern-accented Hannah Montana, the archetypal Disney star. But at the end of the day, the Indonesians who have been downloading ‘Wrecking Ball' by the thousands haven't been doing so because of some daft dance craze. It is because Miley does sing some very catchy pop songs. Like them or hate them, you'll find yourself humming her songs on your way to work in the morning!

Kotak – from talent shows to MTV fame

Kotak – from talent shows to MTV fame

It was Indonesia's TV7 2004 ‘The Dream Band' competition that set this band on the road to fame and fortune. At that event, vocalist Julia Angelia Lepar (aka Pare), guitarist Mario Marcella (aka Cella), drummer Haposan Haryanto Tobing (aka Posan) and bassist Prinzes Amanda (aka Icez) impressed the talent-spotting panel to scoop the competition prize. Following on from their success, not to mention the widespread exposure on the popular TV show, the so-called ‘dream band' began working on their debut album. This was eponymously titled Kotak and was released by Warner Music Indonesia in 2005.

There are 10 songs on this album, which capture the band's trademark sound of pop-orientated rock music, or rock-tinged pop, depending on which side of the musical spectrum you happen to be on!

As appears to be the case for a great number of rock bands, phenomenal chart success and fan acclaim was balanced with some turbulent internal politics. The line-up of the band seldom remained stable for any lengthy period of time. Pare and Icez departed in 2007, with the vacant lead vocalist spot being assumed by Tantri Syalindri (aka Tantri), and the bass guitar role going to Swasti Sabdastantri (aka Chua). Shortly afterwards drummer Posan took his sticks elsewhere.

The follow-up to the acclaimed first album was released in 2008 and entitled Kodak Kedua. A sample from this album, ‘Energi: Tendangan Dari Langit' or ‘Energy: kicks from the sky', was converted into a ring-back tone. As of 2013 this musical snippet has been downloaded in excess of one million times.

Two years later their third album, Energi, was followed by Energi Repackage. Prolific songwriters and recording artists, Kotak followed this with a further two albums over 2012 and 2013: Terbaik and KFC Adu Bintang.

Amongst the many accolades earned by the band was the title of ‘Favorite Breakthrough Artist' at the MTV (Indonesia) awards in 2009. Their vocalist, Tantri, accepted Best Rock Band/Group and Best Rock Album awards at AMI the same year. Kotak were also voted ‘Best Newcomer Group' by Anugerah Planet Music.

As well as being appreciated in their native Indonesia, the band has spread their wings, playing in Singapore after being personally invited there to perform at Muzik FM. This concert was arranged by Superstar and Legends, in conjunction with Raistar Entertainment.

There are many reasons for the enduring success of this young band. Having a strong female vocalist is always a plus in the rock world. Tantri can certainly belt out a rock song, coping well with being heard above the shrieking rock guitar and thunderous rhythm section. If you want to get an excellent idea of what Kotak are capable of, there are many exciting links available on YouTube. One of these is entitled ‘The Biggest Indonesian Rock Concert Performance by Kotak'. This shows a full-blooded clip of the band playing before thousands of adoring fans. The stage-set projects into the audience, allowing Tantri to strut across the stage, then march right into the crowd. You sense that the adoring fans closest to the front are more than delighted to receive such a fabulous ring-side view of their heroes – well, hero and heroines!

Kotak - greatest moments

Kotak - greatest moments

Ever since Kotak's members were first spotted on an Indonesian TV talent show and named ‘The Dream Band' they have made its their sole purpose to entertain. Since that moment in 2004 they have recorded increasingly catchy and commercially successful records.

If you want to check them out, a great place to start is to look their videos posted on the web sensation that is YouTube. Here is our selection of their most recommended video recordings.

Kecuali Kamu

Posted in October 2012, this four minutes 44 seconds video has gained a massive audience, accumulating 1.2 million hits. It commences with a swirling string section, setting the tone for the sophisticated music about to unfold. The camera pans in on singer Tantri, seductively lounging in a white dress against dark flooring inside a starkly decorated, contemporary-looking apartment.

As her sultry vocals continue, a vase shatters in reverse, and superimposed smoke effects drift across the action. In the background there are further images that seem to completely contrast with the steady melody of the song – smashed furniture floats around the room behind her. As she strolls past, a domestic scene is freeze-framed: a female apparently in the process of tipping a drink over her partner.

As she leaves the apartment, the music begins to build dramatically. We see that although she is dressed in virginal white, she is sporting large boots with stacked heels that look fairly imposing. The backdrop consists of a car, covered in autumn leaves and with a smashed windscreen, and various other objects captured in free-fall and frozen by the lens: cars, a random pedestrian and a grand piano.

When Tantri casually rests against the damaged car, it restores to its gleaming factory condition, as if she possesses some kind of magical touch. Likewise, with the same deft touch of her fingers, she reassembles the band's bassist, Chua.

The single itself is a strident example of Kotak's fiendishly clever way of splicing pure pop melodies with the dynamics of guitar and keyboard-driven rock music. The video itself as a cunning example of how a storyboard can be vividly brought to life via the imagination of a creative director. The theme of frozen aspects becoming animated continues, with Tantri strolling along past a house, saving groceries that suddenly tumble from an upended bag.

As Cella's guitars build up momentum, the song dramatically shifts key. The camera tracks through various fleeting images of fluid action that have been stopped dead, almost as if some unseen hand has been stabbing the ‘pause button' on a remote control.

This works extremely well with the narrative of this video. The images of people frozen in mid-air achieve an unnerving atmosphere. We don't know why this is happening. Sometime the effect is made doubly disturbing given the unnatural poses some of the protagonists are left in. At one point an attractive female is caught half-way through a dramatic backwards flip. Her serene expression could be one of bliss; or equally plausibly, death.

The vision of the guitar falling neatly into Cella's hands in time to perform the big solo in particularly effective. By the conclusion all the inanimate poses seem to have undergone a miraculous thaw, and the camera pans upwards, finishing on a high.

Maudy Ayunda - Indonesian popstar

Maudy Ayunda - Indonesian popstar

Not that many people are aware of Maudy Ayunda outside of her native Indonesia, but this is sure to change over the next few years. Born in 1994, this actress and singer is still a teenager (until December this year at any rate). Yet at the tender age of 19 she has demonstrated ample evidence of her outstanding talent.

Born Faza Ayunda Maudia in Jakarta, she made her 2006 film debut in Rena, the eponymous story of an 11-year old orphan. Her next project was in The Dreamer in 2009, which went on to become the opening film in the Jakarta International Film Festival on 2009 – the first Indonesian feature to hold this honour since the first ever festival 10 years previously. The Dreamer has the accolade of being the second highest-grossing Indonesian movie ever, with a total audience of 1.9 million.

Now a firmly-established movie star, even at such a young age, Maudy went on to perform in several roles throughout 2011 and 2012. She played the part of Mura in Angel Without Wings, a dramatic departure after some of her earlier parts.

What audiences can really identify with Maudy are her gutsy down-to-earth performances and characters. She herself states, that in terms of appearance, she regards herself as being girly but not overtly feminine. This is in contrast to many of her roles, where the characters love wearing jeans and baggy tops. In real life Maudy prefers wearing shorter dresses and matching heels. This, of course, makes sense. After all, any actor is merely playing a character, and very few are identical no matter what side of the camera they are on.

Maudy never takes her stardom for granted – in fact, you get the sense that she would baulk at that very notion of being referred to as a star. She once stated: “I feel very lucky. Every opportunity can just slip away if we do not take it. I believe that an opportunity may not come around twice, so I will definitely snatch it”.

She certainly takes her roles very seriously. In preparing for her character in her acclaimed performances in Paper Boat and Paper Boat 2, she was accompanied on Jakarta's public transport by the films' assistant director, in order to build an understanding of the character she would be playing. While doing this research she gained first hand experience of how frustrating the daily commute can be for the ordinary Indonesian public. She said “I was a bit shocked. I took the Kopaja public bus but it did not move for 15 minutes. This waiting may reduce productivity in the country as it makes the passengers tired and in a bad mood, affecting their performance at work”.

This did not affect her own performance in front of the cameras as she proved to be a consummate professional on set at all times. Like many actors before her, Maudy's critical and audience claim has inspired her to expand her horizons. She is now pursuing a career in music, having sung on two albums: Call Me, from 2011, and on the soundtrack to the aforementioned film, Paper Boat, from 2012. With her single By My Side currently setting the Indonesian charts alight, it seems as if there is no end to her talent.