Sun, 20 Jul 2003

Chrisye: Letting the music move him ... sort of

Hera Diani, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Chrisye has not silently accepted the criticism that his stage act is wooden and lacks excitement.

What really counts for a singer, he said in an interview in this publication last year, is not the frills, but the music.

"We have to teach the audience that what matters more is the music," he said. "In Europe and the United States, the audience appreciation of music is high so that they don't really care about the performance."

"Many criticize me, saying that I have to dance and stuff ... I just can't. It's not me. I tried once in the 1980s, using choreography and stuff. It was real torture!"

But in his most recent concert last week, Chrisye seemed to have decided to give it a shot at last.

He moved about on stage, he did twists, he pointed his fingers up and down like John Travolta gone bad -- but all were done with his usual rigid gestures.

He greeted the audience with, "Are you ready to dance? Are you ready to sing? I'm going to be all funky tonight!" At other times, he said, "Hey, look here, look at me!" before dancing like mad, generating laughter from some in the audience of 3,500.

The result was more hilarious than spellbinding, but it was still surprisingly entertaining.

Here is a man who has survived three decades in the music industry by sticking to his formula for success: the ability to evolve, albeit on his own terms.

And if it took making a fool of himself on stage in order to change with the times, then so be it.

The effort paid off.

Despite some flaws in the concert, mostly with dancers (too many, and some, embarrassingly, fell on stage), it was enjoyable. Either performing solo or duets with a series of guest performers, Chrisye's voice remains clear and pleasant.

And he was able to communicate with the audience in the real sense, walking down from the stage to greet them or asking them to sing along.

In line with his latest album Dekade released late last year, the concert offered a kaleidoscope of the Indonesian music industry.

The album comprises Indonesian classics from each decade since the 1940s, including many popular hits from the 1970s to 2000, plus a new song written by in-demand songwriter Pongky from Jikustik band.

The record is Chrisye's homage to Indonesian composers and legends like Maladi, Ismail Marzuki and Koes Plus.

"Eighteen of my 21 albums have been filled with new songs. I think it'd be very selfish of me not to record classic songs while they are truly masterpieces. It's just sad that younger generations don't even recognize them," Chrisye said once.

Backed by longtime collaborator musician-producer Erwin Gutawa and 85 musicians, including a full orchestra, Chrisye was often accompanied by the original composers and singers.

As 1970 projected onto the dark stage, a huge feature with glittering colors suddenly appeared. It was singer A. Rafiq, once a huge star in dangdut (the popular hybrid of Malay, Arab and Indian music), singing Pengalaman Pertama (First Experience), which was a huge hit in 1978, with Chrisye.

Moving forward to the 1980s, there was a duet with singer/songwriter Fariz R.M., singing the latter's excellent hit Sakura Dalam Pelukan (Sakura in an Embrace).

Despite being much younger than Chrisye, the now very gaunt Fariz could not deliver on his usually distinctive voice, sounding hoarse and almost unable to reach the high notes.

Other guest performers in include singer Ari Lasso and actress-cum-singer Sophia Latjuba. Although she cannot be categorized as a great singer with her flat, thin voice, Sophia stole the show, looking stunning as she sat on a gigantic twinkling crescent moon, in a tiny slip of a white dress and singing Setangkai Anggrek Bulan (A Stem of Moon Orchid).

She later reappeared with Ari and Chrisye to sing Kangen (Miss You), a hit from the 1990s for Dewa band when Ari was the singer.

Aside from classic songs from the record, the concert also worked as a flashback on Chrisye's career.

Born Chrismansyah Rahadi, his music career started back in 1968 when he joined Sabda Nada band, before moving on to Gipsy Band, a home band at New York's Ramayana Restaurant from 1973 to 1974.

Still in New York, Chrisye joined The Pro's with, among others, such top names as late singer Broery Marantika and musician Abadi Soesman.

Back in the country around 1975, he collaborated with Guruh Soekarno Putra and released an album Guruh Gipsy, whose music is an amalgamation of pop and Balinese ethnic music. One hit from the album, Chopin Larung (Floating Chopin), was sung at the concert.

His career as a solo artist, however, took off when Lilin- lilin Kecil (Small Candles), a song by noted songwriter James F. Sundah, won the Prambors Youth Songwriting Contest (LCLR) in 1977 and became an instant hit.

Afterward, he was unstoppable. In 30 years, Chrisye has released over 20 albums, each of them selling well and producing dozens of hits. He is also a songwriter, and won a Golden Record in 1989, for instance, for writing the huge hit Cinta (Love) for top singer Vina Panduwinata.

Critics have said his songs are too soft and lovelorn, but the truth is that they are good songs nevertheless, and ones which have survived the test of time. In 1998, Chrisye went to the MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles to accept the MTV Asia Viewers Choice Awards.

He is a survivor in a local popular music industry that is kind of short of male solo artists, unlike female artists who keep emerging and going strong.

So, for the time being, let Chrisye do his little dance on stage. Wooden he may be, but we enjoyed the music and the man.


1977: Single Lilin-lilin Kecil written by James F. Sundah, which won the first place in the popular Prambors Youth Songwriting Contest (LCLR). Released solo album Jurang Pemisah and soundtrack for the movie Badai Pasti Berlalu. 1978: Sabda Alam. 1979: Percik Pesona. 1980: Single Seindah Rembulan, a duet with Iis Sugianto. Solo album Puspa Indah Taman Hati. 1981: Pantulan Cinta. 1983: Resesi. 1984: Metropolitan and Nona. 1985: Sendiri. 1986: Aku Cinta Dia and Hip Hip Hura. 1987: Nona Lisa. 1988: Overplayed, endless hit single Kemesraan and album Kisah Cintaku. 1989: Single Hening and album Pergilah Kasih. 1991: Cintaku T'lah Berlalu. 1993: Sendiri Lagi. 1994: Single Kesan Di Matamu. 1996: Acoustic album AkustiChrisye. 1997: Kala Cinta Menggoda. 1999: Rerelease of Badai Pasti Berlalu. 2001: Live album Konser Tur 2001 - Legendary. 2002: Dekade.