Sun, 14 Jan 2001

'I hate arrogance and stingy people'

Few celebrities, especially in the fickle Indonesian entertainment world, can rightfully be called a legend in their own time.Rhoma Irama, the king of Indonesia's own folk rock, dangdut, in the 1970s and 1980s, is one of the exceptions. Now 54, the former legislator today devotes most of his time to activities as an Islamic preacher. The father of "at least three", Rhoma opened up in a recent interview with The Jakarta Post's Bruce Emond.

If you had the choice, what would you be doing now?

Like always, doing my best for the good of the general public.

What makes you tick?

Being of use to others. That is what motivates me to survive and gives me my orientation in life. After all, this life is very short.

What traits do you most like about yourself?

It wouldn't be ethical for me to say, would it? But I'm happy that I'm healthy, I can work and that I have enough financially, not too much and not too little.

And dislike?

Of course, there are many things. Like I didn't finish my formal schooling, so I don't have a title like my friends. I also cannot manage my finances, I was a bit of a spendthrift up until now.

Whom do you most admire?

The Prophet Mohammad. In music, I like Deep Purple, Lata Mangeshkar and Broery (Maranthika). He had a great sense of interpretation and expressiveness.

What kind of clothes do you like to wear?

Those that are either black or white, casual clothes. I don't like formal.

What was the last book you read?

I read a lot, especially the Koran, religious books, encyclopedias, but I cannot name one recent book in particular.

Do you ever worry about your weight?

Often. I once reached 75 kg but I am only 160 cms tall. I was very fat, and I was worried about different things, my health, mobility, my appearance. I went on a strict diet and lost 20 kg.

What makes you angry?

When things don't go well during a live concert, especially technical matters, like if the sound system is humming. It gets really irritating.

What characteristics do you most dislike in others?

Arrogance and people who are stingy.

What makes you laugh?

I think I have a good sense of humor. I like to watch comedy performances.

And cry?

If I sin, or I remember my sins, I sometimes wail and cry.

What items do you carry with you at all times?

There is nothing fixed except my prayers. I don't have a bodyguard and, sometimes, I don't even bring money.

What's your favorite smell?

Of course, fragrant ones.

What makes life worth living?

Like I said earlier, being of use to other people. That is the value of life. When we are good to others, we are good to ourselves. If we hurt others, we hurt ourselves.

What is your favorite food?

Grilled fish, especially ikan baronan, eaten with chili.

Do you have a favorite song?

Of my own, Bersatulah (Unite) and Dua Ratus Juta (Two Hundreds Million). And Indian songs, like Ake Millate. My favorite western song is Killing Me Softly.

And movie?

I don't like going to the movies anymore, ever since I became a preacher. It's taboo for me to go into a movie theater. But I used to be a maniac about watching movies, especially action films. But I haven't been for 15 years now.

Would you ever have plastic surgery?

No, I'll keep myself natural.

What is the cost of fame?

You don't have privacy anymore. Sometimes it's like a jail.

What makes you sad?

Violence, anarchy, corruption, things which hurt the people.

When was the last time you were angry?

I don't remember, but I do get angry, even though I shouldn't. We can only be angry because of God.

If the world were going to end in 24 hours, what would you do?

Well, I cannot answer that because I don't believe it will end in 24 hours, or even 24 years, not in your or my lifetime. There would have to be signs. Actually, the signs are beginning to appear, and one of them is that women don't want to have children. That's going against destiny. The status of women and men today is competitive, and it shouldn't be that way. They should complement each other, not be rivals.

Can everything be forgiven?

Almost everything, except someone who commits adultery with another person's wife.

How would you like to be remembered?

As someone who was credible and honest.