Beyond ‘Sherina’: In Search of More Indonesian Musicals – Art & Culture

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Radhiyya Indra (The Jakarta post)

Jakarta ●
Fri, October 14, 2022

2022-10-14
14:00
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Art & Culture
Indonesian music festival, musical, live musical, theater, eki-dance, festival
Free

With the number of Hollywood musical adaptations popular with local moviegoers, the question is, where are the Indonesian musicals?

Here’s an experiment: take a decent movie buff in Indonesia and ask them if they know the 2016 song “City of Stars” The EarthDisney animated movie parts Moana or whatever songs come to mind at the mention of Frozen. They will know these films and can even sing the melody.

In the traditional sense, these are films in the musical genre; the characters express their feelings through musical numbers in exchange for words. They are what audiences see in a musical theater performance or its adaptations, from last year’s remake of West Side Storythe famous years 2012 Wretched or even panning Cats and Dear Evan Hansen.

Indonesia has them too: the 2008s Laskar Pelangi, loved by many, has been adapted into a series of hit musical theatres. At Usmar Ismail’s Tiga Dara in 1956 is a musical film, and – perhaps the most famous – is also Sherina’s Adventure in 2000, which is loved by generations across the country.

But if these titles are the only answers most Indonesians have when asked about musical films or local theaters, one has to ask: are they all we have?

Large audience: TEMAN Musicals’ production “Gie Dalam Musikal” received a standing ovation at the Indonesian Music Festival (IMF) held last August. (Courtesy of sukadisiniaja/Courtesy of sukadisiniaja)

The state of local musical theaters

Not to say that the country is devoid of musical theatres. At the end of last August, there was a high-profile screening of the Indonesian Music Festival (IMF), which is the first-ever musical theater festival in Indonesia held at Ciputra Artpreneur, South Jakarta.

“The welcome was beyond our expectations. It was amazing,” said Rusdy Rukmarata, event director and dance company EKI. Jakarta Post September 4.

Major local musical groups, from Jakarta Movin and TEMAN Musicals to EKI Dance Company, performed various Indonesian stories during this festival. There was Ken Dedes’, Cut Nyak Dien’s and even Soe Hok Gie’s. Tickets, although free, didn’t take five minutes to sell out on the first and second days.

“Whether it’s because every company already has a loyal following or because the general public just wants to watch a celebratory show like this after a long [since the pandemic]the demand is quite surprising,” he added.

Initiated by Rusdy’s dance company, the festival became a program of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology, supported by the Jakarta Tourism and Creative Economy Agency ( Disparekraf) and the Arts Council of Jakarta (DKJ). The ministry funded the show and made it free because – as Rusdy also knows – Indonesia still lacks a sustainable base of performers and audiences for its musical theatres.

“Quality-wise, if we talk about the actors, musicians and choreographers, Indonesian musicals are already quite good,” Rusdy said. He noted that many musicals are performed on college campuses, television shows, and at corporate events.

But from an industry perspective, he said musical theater in Indonesia still lags far behind the local film industry. There are no Indonesian musical theater awards like the Tony Awards in the United States yet.

Either way, the projects that have come out are still respectable.

“Even in terms of choreography, there are some of our productions that can already compete with those of [the US’] Broadway or [the United Kingdom’s] West End,” Rusdy added.

Indonesia has a rich history of mixing music and drama, such as Ramayana dramatic ballet or even kecak dance. But the musical theater landscape we see right now is the modern – a Broadway format.

“The musical theater that people know these days is Broadway-style musicals. Suppose you go to the West End in London. In this case, it’s actually the same thing because modern musical theater is a uniquely American art form,” musical theater performer Lerryant “Lerry” Krisdy told The Daily Mail. Job September 6.

Lerry, who is currently completing his studies at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) in New York, explained how the modern musical theater format emerged in the US before the UK started to follow the trend and that other countries around the world have followed suit.

“In my opinion, Indonesians know about musicals because we consume a lot of American pop culture. So it’s more [because of] The internet, globalization and television that people know about these modern musicals,” he said.

Local Stories: Jakarta Movin's musical production, titled '9Sembilu', tells the story of nine heroic women farmers from Kendeng, Central Java. Local Stories: Jakarta Movin’s musical production, titled ‘9Sembilu’, tells the story of nine heroic women farmers from Kendeng, Central Java. (Courtesy of c.phan/Courtesy of c.phan)

Musicals in pop culture

“I think the musical films we have in Indonesia are still very few,” performer and photographer Abdul Razzak Jauhar told the Job September 2nd.

like someone who loves hair spray and watched the Wretched musical film “more than 15 times”, Razzak could only mention Ini Kisah Tiga Dara and Ada Cinta by SMA like other Indonesian musical films, apart from the popular Sherina’s Adventure and Laskar Pelangi.

“As far as I know, Ini Kisah Tiga Dara didn’t have many viewers in 2016 either, although it’s quite interesting and well-acted,” Razzak said. He noted that the musical numbers of said title and Ada Cinta by SMA “it could be better”.

“So I don’t know why very few musical films are produced. Is it because of the budget? The market? The audience?”

On the other hand, Sherina’s Adventure earned around 10 billion rupees at the box office in 2000, attracting over a million viewers.

Sherina was played many times at my house when I was young, and I always watched it with my siblings,” 23-year-old Nadya Khoyron told the Job September 6.

When asked why Sherina left a lasting impact more than any other musical she knew, Nadya replied that it was “because the song is catchy, and when you were that age, you can identify yourself with Sherina. It’s a musical and a children’s movie,” she said.

“I also feel like when movies use the music format, they end up being a bit gritty, you know?” she rated, mentioning several questionable musicals she had seen on TV before.

Lerry agreed with Nadya’s comments to some extent. If not done well, musical films can make or break the experience of the audience watching them.

“Sometimes some people react this way, like, ‘Why are they suddenly singing?'” he said.

This is why Lerry believed that Sherina’s Adventure — which inspired his musical theater and endeared musicals to future generations — didn’t have its cultural impact just because it’s one of the few musicals we have: it’s also very well written .

“I feel the main reason Sherina works is that the story hits. The writers know how to shape the story well enough that people aren’t put off by the musical aspect,” he said.

But Lerry has high hopes for future musicals in Indonesia. Aside from the big IMF reception, the festival is also planned to be an annual spectacle.

“It proves that musicals are on the rise in Indonesia. We just have to keep the momentum going,” he said.

Rusdy also said that there will soon be a first-ever educational institution for musical theaters in Indonesia.

“The word is that the Indonesian Arts Institute (ISI) in Yogyakarta will have a music department. They also contacted us at EKI Dance Company to collaborate,” he said.

More importantly, the nation needs “another musical like Sherina’s Adventure”, said Larry.

“We need another film that presents the form to future generations, because do we want to have only one musical that we know as a collective? That would be a shame !”


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