Monday, February 2, 2009


Syaharani is one of the finest Indonesian jazz vocalist that also gifted in many ways. She’s smart, she likes to learn, she enjoy exploring new things and also loves to write. Her voice is just superb, it’s full with soul of jazz. With all these talents, no wonder she becomes the female jazz icon in Indonesia.

Right now she’s preparing a new album with her band, Syaharani & The Queenfireworks. This is a band that dare to explore many concepts and always eager to find new innovation. The formation of Syaharani & The Queenfireworks (ESQIEF), that performed on stage last night are:

Achmad ” Didit” Farid Saad - Guitar
Donny Suhendra - Acoustic & Synth Guitar
Syaharani (’ra) - Vocal

Contributor - Players Team:
Kristian Dharma- Bass
Aditya Wibowo-Drums
Ian Ingram-Trumpet
Cherry - back vox

She also wrote a book called “Syaharani Life Stage Delight” that will be launched very soon.

It’s really interesting to hear what she had in mind. She’s open minded, down to earth, very nice and full with energy. She told us many things behind the scene of her band, Syaharani &The Queenfireworks, also she let us know about jazz and beyond from her point of view. The interview took place at Cafe Halaman, Paris Van Java Mall during her performance in JakJazz Fever 2008 event.

Hi Ran, how are you? Tired?
I’m so happy! I don’t know, but I feel so alive right now

You always do (laugh).. I’d like to start with this question, how do you see jazz?
I come into one conclusion that jazz is… the life itself. There are many colors, there are many things. I can hang out with many musicians from other genres. And that can be proven from my collaboration with Didit . At first we had a project about cybernetic music, it was like, before others thought about it, we already did it. After that we worked together again in Magma (2002). In Magma we explored Trip Hop Rock with a little contamination from World Music. Since then we’re started to get crazy. The working system, the appreciation method, the way we discussed, finally I realized I found no border anymore. In my opinion there are many things can gathered together in jazz. So, now we see music as something like… if it’s a network, I’d call it global. We can’t seperate them in boxes anymore, and jazz already described itself.

But still many people trapped under these boxes right?
Actually there’s nothing new, it was already there for a long time, but maybe many people limit themselves and never want to go out of the boxes. We, on the contrary have sailed anywhere our minds go.

How’s The Queenfireworks dealing with Indonesian market?
In Indonesia it’s easier if you have tagline. Our tagline is: Jazzy, Power Pop and Lounge Dance. So we are right in the middle of those. If there’s a bit rocking touch, it goes under power pop. Jazzy is jazzy…About lounge dance, we all like to play dance music, but in the context of lounge.

You started your career with singing jazz mainstream and standard, changing some songs to jazz, then you tried trip hop. After that, you were part of some colaboration albums, and also performed at North Sea Jazz Festival 2001. How was it?
At North Sea Jazz Festival 2001 we played standard repertoire. It was really crowded! Nobody went home..I still remember, it was 1 AM local time, but still there are many people queuing in front of the door of our small hall where we played. I was amazed and thought it was funny when there were many people shook my hand, asking me where I came from etc..(laugh)

It happened not long after you started your career right?
I just moved to Jakarta at that time, and I felt really happy to get the chance. For me it means huge acceptance and I respect it a lot. That’s why I never want to stop creating something. I feel really thankful until now that I can meet partners whom I can discussed everything while being myself at the same time. We all learn through each other. I learned a lot about production. Speaking about giving soul to a song, eventhough I have been singing for quite some time, Didit has been given many advice. That’s why in all Queenfireworks albums, the released and the upcoming, you will find something new. There will be new style of vocal pattern, different technique and so on.

What else is new in the upcoming new album?
There will still be many love stories. But when we did this, we thought that the songs had to be closer to our red line. The Queenfireworks‘ red line is: “Less is more”. So, the arrangement has to be more simple but reachable. We want to give many details. We are an independent group, and we have been doing many experiments on technical side. For example, on the last album we decided to give a try to record my vocal on magnetically coated tape. I did it together with Didit. We also found many inovation in digital recording. So, we have done so many technical stuff which many people didn’t realize. We actually do that by ourselves. Today I can do a vocal take at home, and then send it to be edited by Didit. All the personnel of a band don’t have to meet and play everyday. Yes sometimes we still have to, but we simply just do what people should do today.

Sounds very interesting.. you don’t limit yourself only on entertainment..
There are many things we work on behind the curtain except having a performance or entertaining people. We design sound, there are thousands of different sound could appear from one instrument. Didit designs what all of us have. We are happy because we have new lessons and toys. Which is, maybe this is not the other artists do normally. Usually female singers would just sing and perform, caring about their look, then it’s done.. but for me, it’s better to go to hang out with Didit than going out to saloon. (laugh). This project really enriched each other. We complete each other as a team.

Too bad not many people know about your creativities behind the scene..
I wish I could record and tell people about our behind the scene activities. Simply because it’s very interesting. What we do always come from our own ideas, and nobody do the same like us yet. We are not a team that are afraid to face the market. We dare to face them and we see people like what we offer.

Is The Queenfireworks the peak of your career?
I’d rather say that The Queenfireworks is a blessing for me. It’s because I have achieved everything that I’ve ever dreamed in my life. Before I was just only a singer, then I got the chance to do a record out of nowhere, then I learned a lot from Didit about how to operate a digital recording. I learn how to write songs, and soon I will launch my book. So, I think God has given everything complete in us. I can’t say that this is my peak, because I believe no one will have enough. But I can say I’m thankful, really thankful, I’ve found so many things in The Queenfireworks. I learn from the team that we are all equal, and we can blend with anybody. Just like our daily life, we can bump and hang out with different people everywhere…so our way of thought are just like life philosophy, and music is a fruit of life.

You have many experienced collaborating as a guest star with many big names like Al Jarreau, Dave Koz, Keith Martin and Yellowjackets. Any interesting story about those experiences?
I start with Al Jarreau Concert. At that time I was still a new kid on the block. I had to perform a test before the event, and if I couldn’t fit the standard, I wouldn’t get the chance to perform on stage. I felt nervous, but still I tried. And the result, even Al himself asked me many questions, even asked my dad’s name (laugh). Dave Koz and his team were very friendly, and the songs were romantic, so was Keith Martin. What really interesting for me is Yellowjackets. They had the same vision like us. We are type of musicians that never want to depend on the instrument or any other equipments, because we are the music. At that time they came without bringing big crews, and I asked about that to them. They answered me like, “what for? if we need settings, we can do better than them.” They can do everything by themselves, they master their equipment.

The Queenfireworks are heading toward that direction then
We look forward to it, someday we’ll master the technical things and our own equipments. It’s also our job beside performing on stage as an entertainer. We wish to qualified in smartness and creativity as well. There are difficult technical problem that we can solve, but mentally we have to be ready too. Those are very valuable.

As far as I remember, you have been an actress too in some movies. Is there anything you got from that experience?
I played in movies because Mira (Lesmana) asked me to. (laugh). She gave me a chance to train for 1 month. In this field I found many actor/actress that are really amazing. I always say it’s like they have “clickable button” behind their neck that can be turn on/off just like that. Imagine this, for example, they have to be angry in their role, then the shooting stop for break, then after a while they have to be taped again and have to set their mood instantly. It’s different with music, which we just set our moods from the start, then we can just play all through the performance. But in the movie business it’s not like that.. I think you can go crazy if you’re not mentally strong enough (laugh). But I do enjoy it, and I learn a lot from many aspects of art. As I said before, I see no border in art.

Tell me about your upcoming book
I have a column at Tribun Batam for a year. I write articles about social life that related to entertainer, it could be tips/tricks, stories, interviews and so on. My book will be like that.

Similiar to Carrie Bradshaw (the main character in Sex and the City)?
Something like that.. the title is: Syaharani Life Stage Delight. The book right now is in the printing process, soon it will be launched. You’ll see my face on the cover (laugh)

In the 70s we had Margie Segers with her deep heavy voice, then in the 80s we had Ermi Kullit and Vonny Sumlang.. then there was Iga Mawarni and finally you. I wonder why deep heavy voice become like some kind of trademark for jazz female vocalists. From my point of view, I think for the modern era, you with your heavy voice is the role model. Any response?
Thank you.. but I see it this way… jazz is a soul that runs in your blood. You can’t pretend, you can’t make it up, you can’t change it and you can’t make it dissapear. I really like Led Zeppelin, I’ve been singing their songs and has been a part of rock community in Jakarta, but still no matter how hard I try to sing their songs, people still consider me as jazz artist. It’s a mindset that no one can change. In other side, it’s a beautiful gift to have a strong public acceptance. I don’t want to argue with that, or deny that, because they have their own point of view. But for myself, I think I have my own way, and I believe one doesn’t have to own heavy voice to sing jazz. As long as you have the soul of jazz running in your blood, people will feel it.

What’s your future plan?
We are happy to play anywhere, we just enjoy everything.. right now we are still trying to perform at Malaysian Festival, but we don’t know yet.. we want our music to expand, in technically and arrangement. I have many ideas in my head right now, for example, maybe someday we can do a blues project.


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