Joshua: A gifted entertainer and very wealthy
By Endi Aras
JAKARTA (JP): By the age of two, Joshua Suherman hummed a new song everyday, a year later he had his first album. Now, the seven-year-old star is one of Indonesia's most gifted entertainers and...a billionaire.
Joshua, affectionately called Jo Jo, seems to be everywhere. He can be seen in television commercials, printed media, talk shows, quiz shows, sinetron (television drama), local comedy programs, even political campaigns.
Joshua's acting talents and sense of humor are adorable. His popular jargon Di Obok-Obok (all stirred up) taken from his hit album Air (Water) is used widely, from people on the streets to the nation's political elite.
For a boy of his age, his annual income (approximately Rp 2 billion equivalent to around US$286,000) from recording sales and commercial contracts can buy him heaps of toys. This amount excludes payment for regular performances which amount to at least Rp 9 million per show.
This seven-year old boy has become the country's most popular pop culture icon.
There was no special sign for his parents, Jeddy and Lisa Suherman, when their first son was born in Surabaya (East Java) in November l992.
But Joshua was really a gift from God for this couple who had been patiently waiting for seven years to have their first baby.
"We were very happy at that time. We used to bring Joshua and show him off to our friends and families," recalled the proud father, Jeddy.
His parents were quick to recognize Joshua's singing talents. "He would follow every music beat he heard and dance happily along," said Jeddy.
Jeddy, a former hairdresser, tried to write a song for him but the little Jo Jo refused to sing it.
Jeddy and his wife did not give up. They looked for good song composers to write children's songs for Joshua.
In l996, Joshua, met Sunarwan who wrote him a song Cit Cit Cuit , which was also the title of his debut album. To produce and to promote the album, Jeddy reportedly spent Rp 100 million and the album sold quite well in the market.
A year later, Joshua signed a contract with Selecta Record to produce two of his best-selling albums Kapal Terbang, airplane, and Air, water, or more famous as Di Obok-Obok,. The later was sold 1 million copies, a remarkable sale for a local album. An adult artist is considered successful if he or she can sell 200,000 copies. So far, Jo Jo has completed 14 albums including one gospel and one of traditional Javanese songs.
The song Air, written by Papa T. Bob, was inspired by Joshua. At that time, the music studio's air condition pipe was leaking. The floor was wet. "Tak obok...obok ya (I'm going to stir the water)," yelled Jo Jo in his strong East Javanese dialect.
It was Air which shot Joshua to stardom. Everybody is now chasing Joshua, from TV producers, film directors to business people who view him as a "hot commodity."
In the meantime, Joshua appears in episode-104 of sinetron Joshua Anak Ajaib (Joshua the Wonder Kid). He also hosts Kuiz Joshua at Indosiar. Joshua also stars in more than 10 commercials including Sakatonik ABC, Epson Stylus printer, Nutrisari and Loggo shoes.
An executive of PT Nutrifood, as quoted by Gatra magazine, said Joshua's image is very strong. "Our sales increased about 20 percent after Joshua stared in our commercial," he said.
Every where he goes, Joshua is surrounded by thousands of his fans. Mothers and pregnant women hope they can have children like Joshua.
Spending a day with Joshua is indeed pleasing and of course....exhausting even for an adult.
Last Wednesday (Feb.16), Joshua started early in the morning at the Studio Satria Kinayungan to shoot for a television program. At 12 O'clock, he had an appointment for a photo session for a commercial.
Joshua had another show that night. He was guest star at Ketoprak Humor, traditional Javanese comedy, Joshua Sultan Cilik yang Cerdik (Joshua, the young and smart Sultan) at Gedung Kesenian Jakarta, which started at 8 p.m., a time for bed and story-telling for most children his age.
Rarely complaining, Joshua seems to enjoy his hectic days. "Lumayan... om capeknya (not bad.. uncle) It is quite tiring, but I enjoy it," the little-star grinned.
Senior children's song writer A.T. Mahmud admired Joshua for his natural talents.
"He is very cute, communicative and funny. He is a gifted entertainer although his vocal technique is yet to be trained," said A.T. Mahmud.
Helmi Yahya, Joshua's manager, thinks Joshua is brainy. "We only need to guide him and explain the script then he just follows his heart," said Helmi.
No wonder, Joshua becomes the darling of TV advertisers and film producers. He has a long list of shows and a bundle of business contracts. His Saturdays and Mondays through the year 2000 will be spent on stage.
His parents along with his manager Helmi Yahya are clever enough to "sell" Joshua's fame. They established PT Joshua Merchandise which produces memorabilia and accessories bearing Joshua's name, from T-shirts, school bags, hats and books, to comics.
The company reaps millions of rupiah from sales of Joshua's merchandise on every show.
To deal with Joshua's fans, they also set up a special website at Obok.obok.com.
His father, Jeddy, however, strongly rejected the idea that they make Joshua their "gold mine."
Jeddy admitted that, in order to closely monitor his son's activities, he and his wife decided to give up their business. Formerly, they ran a beauty and hair salon.
"Now, Joshua is our breadwinner," he reluctantly conceded.
However, he said, we never force Joshua to grab all jobs offered to him. "We have been very selective despite an abundance of orders for commercials and performances," he said.
"We are trying hard to provide a normal life for Joshua. He plays with his brother and children in our housing complex," the mother added.
In many ways, the parents said, their son is a typical seven- year-old who enjoys playing with toys, skateboard, soccer and video games.
After rehearsals or shooting breaks, Joshua often works on his school lessons at the site or plays soccer with anak-anak kampung, rural kids.
When there is no shooting or shows, Joshua retreats at his cozy home at Taman Laguna, Cibubur, East Jakarta, which his parents bought from the sales of Joshua's debut album.
"He was frequently absent from school for several days a month because of his tight schedules but his teachers were understanding," admitted Jeddy. Joshua is a first grader at Bunda Hati Kudus elementary school near his house.
A tutor is ready to give him extra lessons. Joshua also attends courses on math, vocal lessons and music to sharpen his academic and music skills.
"Our car is maintained as Joshua's second 'home' where he can rest quietly or study," Jeddy said.
It seems Joshua may need a little bit more time for himself before his energy runs out.