Sun, 05 Sep 1999

Margie Segers back with 'blues' plan

By Helly Minarti

JAKARTA (JP): A high-ceiling mall -- part of the Lippo Supermall in Lippo Karawaci, West Java, which survived the 1998 May riots -- might not be a perfect venue for a jazz performance. The sound system was not perfect and the young crowd - those typical mall crawlers on Saturday night - didn't look like they were yearning for a jazz moment.

Yet, they enthusiastically clapped as the band played familiar instrumental pieces from David Koz at the Red and White Jazz concert performed by Ireng Maulana Associates last weekend.

When a female singer took over the stage to sing out a soulful jazzy version of Georgia on My Mind and the swinging Route 66, however, they seemed baffled.

Once dubbed as a jazz diva in the 1970's and 1980's, the vocalist, Margie Segers may be a stranger to the youth born in the 1980's.

"I quit from the jazz world in 1986 after delivering my son, Mark," said Margie, 49, backstage.

She said Mark needed her full attention. It was not until 1993 she made her comeback to jazz as Jamz - a jazz pub - was opened and she was asked to fill the regular gigs in the club.

What's surprising is her later remark. Though she has been identified during her music career as a jazz singer, Margie never thinks of herself as one.

"I never say I'm a jazz singer. That is what people call me," she said.

It was the late Jack Lesmana - a renowned jazz musician - who introduced her to jazz music and taught her to sing jazz songs. Spending her early youth in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, Margie came back to Indonesia in 1969. She sang a few times on television and once her neighbor, Nien Lesmana, Jack Lesmana's wife, recognized her.

"And soon Om (Uncle) Jack played records of Billi Holiday and Sarah Vaughn for me," said Margie.

Not only did he introduce her to the beautiful tunes, Jack also taught her how to sing like a diva and even played his guitar for her.

"True, Billie Holiday was known as a blues singer but according to Om Jack, she was the queen of jazz," said Margie. One thing led to another, it was also Jack who introduced her to the exclusive jazz circle and before she knew it, she shared the stage with noted jazz gurus like Jack himself and Bubbi Chen.

"I had gigs with almost all generations of Indonesian jazz musicians. From Jack Lesmana, Bubbi Chen, Jopie Item up to Ireng Maulana," she said.

Margie also recorded many jazz albums with her top hit Semua Bisa Bilang (Everybody Can Say). "I can't remember how many exactly - it's like three (albums) with Om Jack, another three with Jopie Item and some with the late Chris Kayhatu," she recalled.

Together with Rien Jamain, Margie was automatically linked with jazz in the 1970s, but the fact doesn't make her think that she's a jazz singer. "No. What is jazz? It's much too complicated music. And who the hell am I saying I understand jazz?" she added.

So, what does she think she really is?

"My roots are more blues and soul music," she said, naming Aretha Franklin as her idol.

Margie, born Aug. 16, 1950, is the third of three siblings. Her father, Anton Segers was a soldier in the Dutch KNIL force, who then moved to Netherlands with her mother, Maria Rina Pieterz, bringing all their children. Margie married an Ambonese man who gave her a son, Mark, now 13. Later divorced in 1994, Mark has now become her center of life.

"I came back to jazz because Mark encouraged me to. I could see that he could manage without my full attention, unlike before, so here I am," said Margie.

Clad in all black, complete with tight pants, high heels and leather jacket, at a glance Margie looks more like a rocker than a jazz singer.

Yet she has kept her voice intact and once onstage her singing seemed effortless. In the recent jazz festival in the Lippo Karawaci she played with the audience by including songs like The Girl from Ipanema or the popular Killing Me Softly. She also gladly responded to song requests.

So, Margie Segers is indeed back. On the verge of turning 50 she has a dream: to create a blues record.

"I know that's hard. Blues is not popular in Indonesia. So finding a sponsor is one thing. And besides I can't imagine singing it in Bahasa Indonesia, it has to be in English. But, who knows?."

For the moment she is just happy to have found a new friend who shares her interest - a blues guitarist with whom she will build a band and play in cafes. "We plan to insert blues songs between our standard ones." Her fixation on blues is for its soulfulness. "Many singers have a good voice. But very few can sing out of their heart. Blues makes you cry from your heart. And (I want to be) one of those few."