Wed, 09 Mar 2005


Nortier, Medan-born composer of U.S. hymns

Puji Santoso, The Jakarta Post, Pekanbaru

It is common for patriotic Americans to write marches or hymns to celebrate their country. But what if the composer is an Indonesian, who has out-marched and out-hymned a songwriting great like Michael Jackson.

Nortier Simanungkalit is such a songwriter. His hymn for the American Red Cross beat out songwriters from many other countries, including Jackson's effort.

The song now accompanies every U.S. Red Cross ceremony.

"I'm very proud of my composition for the American Red Cross. It's the work of a Medan boy," Nortier told The Jakarta Post after receiving an award from the Central Board of Indonesian Journalists Association (PWI) in Pekanbaru recently, for his creation of the PWI hymn.

Many in Indonesia know of Nortier as a march and hymn specialist. The PWI hymn he wrote was first sung 15 years ago, when the National Press Day (HPN) commemorations took place in Menado, North Sulawesi.

Apart from the PWI and U.S. Red Cross hymns, Nortier has also composed the Indonesian Healthy Gym (SKI) music, which is played every morning throughout the nation as people do morning fitness routines.

He is the creator of Yogyakarta's Indonesian Islamic University hymn and has been commissioned to create the official songs for North Sumatra's North Tapanuli, Humbang Hasudutan, Central Tapanuli regencies and for the greater North Sumatera provincial government.

Among his hymns and marches, he said he two were his favorites -- the U.S. Red Cross hymn and the SKI march. "The Red Cross hymn is impressive because I managed to defeat Michael Jackson. The SKI march is now played every morning throughout Indonesia and two million SKI cassettes have been sold," said Nortier, who was born in Tarutung, North Tapanuli, on Dec. 17, 1929.

Nortier said playing music and writing was so march part of his daily life, he would be lost without it.

He has been a musician and a songwriter since he completed his studies at Gajah Mada University in Yogyakarta in 1950 and he said music kept him young.

With his Klaten, Central Java, born wife, Nortier has three children, all who are married and live abroad.

"Two of them with Batak husbands now live in America, the other with a German husband lives in Germany," he said.

Nortier expressed his gratitude to the PWI for the award.