I was in front of a TV during the last 17-Agustus celebration, with two senior citizens, when I switched the channel to MetroTV and found two young ladies being interviewed on Indonesia issues. The interviewer later introduced them as Bandanaira, a duo of Lea Simanjuntak (singer) and Irsa Destiwi (pianist), offering something patriotic to Indonesian audience. They were then asked to sing few songs from their album "The Journey to Indonesia" which was so stunning and heartwarming at the same time.
Believe me or not, the two senior people sitting next to me were weeping when they sang their new single 'Aku Indonesia' (well, I myself was close to tears too). I encouraged myself to ask one of them what went wrong. He said, "Something is crushing my heart. I fought the Dutch, I fought the Japanese, I'd die for this great nation. But, what about young people in this time? Are they willing to sacrifice for Indonesia too?"
GNFI has the honor to do an exclusive interview with Bandanaira. Here we go:
GNFI: Many bands/singers enjoy popularity and privileges singing mainstream music, but you opted to bring something really different to Indonesian audience. Aren't you worried that it'd be difficult for you to penetrate the market?
Irsa: Frankly, we didn't think of anything but making a great album of rearranged Indonesian national songs. We did it sincerely, no expectations.
Lea: Bandanaira is a long- term project. It will take years to educate the nation to love their national songs. We don't take it as a problem, though. As long as we can produce good work for our country.
GNFI: The journey of Indonesia. The idea of such theme isn't really booming in Indonesia. Did you intend to dedicate that album for the sake of your country, or also for commercial?
Irsa: For the sake of our country and nation. It was so sad to find that our children were no longer singing our own patriotic songs. That's why we wanted to reintroduce these great, beautiful tunes to the young generation. We created all new arrangements in order to attract the audience to listen to the songs.
Lea: We dedicate our album 'The Journey of Indonesia' to all our heroes, who delivered Indonesia to a new chapter of independence. Also to all the people of Indonesia who can now easily breathe in the air of freedom. In hope that they can achieve a new spirit of love for this country. We hope that our album can bring a change of perspective towards Indonesia, you know, for the nation, especially for the young generation.
GNFI: I do really like your duo name, Bandanaira. It reminds me of my good old days bands like Karimata, Krakatau; names derived from places in Indonesia. Any particular reason you chose the name? Or is it simply an easy-to-spell name? :) Have you been to Banda Islands?
Irsa: Yes, we simply wanted to name our duo something typical Indonesia. Me and Lea searched for names, there were few of them but we fell in love with the word Bandanaira. It sounded just right. I've never been to any of Banda islands. Yet I would really love to go. I want to experience bandanaira. I heard it's extremely stunning.
Lea: Why thank u... Yes, Irsa & I really wanted a name that resembles Indonesia. We did a vote, just both of us. And among all the other beautiful names of places in Indonesia, Bandanaira was the one we chose. We browsed a few sites about Bandanaira (no, we've never been there... yet) & grew to love the island. We hope that this duo can reveal true beauty, like the island itself.
GNFI: How do you see Indonesia nowadays, especially in this globalized and fast-moving world? Do you think that we are lagging behind our peers?
Irsa: Indonesia nowadays, full of intolerance people. and I loathe it. Yes in some points, we are lagging behind. iI only we all unite and respect each other, we could be such a great and strong nation. Moreover, catching up is easy whenever we're all on the same page. Moving forward together.
Lea: Lagging behind? Well in some points, yes. For example: education, health, etc. But I'm sure we are potential in many other fields, one of which is art. In my opinion, if we really want to catch up with our peers, we should start with fields we are most potential in. I hope that our government focus on giving us more facilities such as better concert halls, art centers, schools of art, etc.
Irsa: Hmmm I guess #4 answers #5. In my opinion, the young generation should be more creative in doing something, in order to bring Indonesia to be more acknowledged internationally. Do the best sincerely all the time. That would make some great contribution in the development of this country, I guess.
Lea: One of the barriers in the development of Indonesia is the lack of 'connectors' or if I may say, 'bridges' between the government & the people. Most medias show more unnecessary news rather than the ones that can actually give hope. This builds fear in the nation, especially in the young generation, which is why I think, is the reason why they're not giving enough for their country. It's really understandable why they're afraid, angry, and perhaps even disappointed at this country (this is what inspired us in writing our newest single 'Aku Indonesia'), but I hope they won't linger in that situation, for a nation has to rise. As an optimist, I say yes, of course we have time & chances to catch up. But of course there's a price to pay. And that, I shall answer in question #6. Haha...
GNFI: Share me your dreams about Indonesia 10-20 years from now.
Irsa: Well, I don't dream that much. So it's kinda hard to answer this question. I just have one hope for all Indonesians to go back to the great 5 principals of Pancasila. I mean, Pancasila is just the most suitable ...., hmmm what do you call it? Idiology... for Indonesia. Ya anyway. Oh and, kill and burn all the corruptors. Respect pluralism. Then, we can live peacefully.
Lea: A nation with inspiring stories about how the country survived. Healthier children with broad minds & big smiles. More Indonesian scientists, musicians, & athletes competing in international events! BUT... We sure have to go through a 'detox' phase, heheh... Yes, we should all go on a strict diet of selfishness, corruption, arrogance. And equip ourselves with more knowledge, produce more great local products (I love how young Indonesian designers are growing right now), and have enough love. You know... do every little thing to make a healthier, sexier Indonesia?
GNFI: Back to music. Do you think you'll compose more patriotic songs in your next album?
Irsa: It's possible. I mean, why not? Mixed repertoire would be very interesting, I guess. But still, the main theme of Bandanaira is collecting and rearranging old patriotic-national Indonesian songs.
Lea: Of course!
GNFI: Do you have fave singers/bands?
Irsa: Hmmm... personally, as a pianist, I listen a lot to Brad Mehldau. (Among) Indonesian artist I adore, Indra Lesmana, that's it. For singer, I heart Lea. She is one complete package of what you call an artist. She sings, plays instrument, composes, acts, dances. She knows what she's doing. There I said it Lea!!! Hahaha...
Lea: Aerosmith, Ari Lasso, and Barbra Streisand. Aww... I'm touched, Irsa. Thank u. Xoxo
GNFI: If you were appointed to be one of ministers in SBY administration, in which post you'd like to be, and why?
Irsa: None. Why would I be a minister?? Hahaha. I make music with all my heart. I'm sending all the messages through music. Don't you think its enough? Haha.
Lea: Right, this is one of those 'if I were a...' questions, eh? Perhaps education. Or Health. Look at our children today, nation-wide... You'll know why. And perhaps we should make a new Art Department. I'd vote for Ms. Irsa any day. She'd be perfect for it.
GNFI: Which part of Indonesia do you like most?
Irsa: Since I haven't been to many places in Indonesia, I guess Bali is still in top position. iIjust love the vibe with all of the tradition, culture, art, food, the nature, the people, etc, etc.
Lea: Ooooh... Not faaaair! Such a difficult question! Hahah! Well ok, I love the east. Maluku, Papua, etc. The landscape, the food, the culture. For Jakarta though, my favorite spot is that junction near Lapangan Banteng. Where the most beautiful church stands face to face with the most admirable grand mosque, as if to laugh at how we still let ourselves be driven to assault one another.
GNFI: What about Indonesia you are so proud of?
Irsa: That Indonesia owns tons tons of culture, languages, dialects, arts, traditions, religions, and so on. They're all in one whole package, called Indonesia. Amazing!
Lea: Well, I'm proud of how our people endure life.
GNFI: Message to our readers and your fans?
Irsa: Love your own cultures and traditions, respect the variety of them. As far as you fly high, always go back to the root. Get to know your Indonesia well. Im also still learning here :)
Lea: To my fellow Indonesians, especially friends who are still deeply hurt, angry, disappointed, either by our government, or a group of people... My heart cries with you. But soon we must get up! Arise! I've once read about 3 stages of being success. First, we are the victims. And a victim must rise, then he'd be called a winner. But being just a winner isn't enough. Because winners may fall, when situations get tough. Hang in there, finish a couple more races, and be an overcomer. Because an overcomer doesn't only win in his present life, he wins his past. And he'll surely win his future. So come on, Indonesia. Let's overcome!
Irsa & Lea: We hope it can be useful. Once again, thank u GNFI!
Bandanaira’s album entitled “The Journey of Indonesia” is an album with patriotic songs we have known well, “Indonesia Pusaka”, “Payung Fantasi”, “Sersan Mayorku”, “Sepasang Mata Bola”,“Cinta Indonesia”, “Maju Tak Gentar”, “Di Bawah Sinar Bulan Purnama”, “Ibu Kita Kartini”, “Hari Merdeka” and “Desaku”. All composed in Jazz. They have release their new single titled "Aku Indonesia".
Go grab 'em!
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