Sat, 05 Apr 2003

Siti to give new frontiers a try

Novan Iman Santosa, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Artists, like singers or painters, are blessed with sensitive feelings regarding humanity and values of life. And the cute, lovely Malaysian singer Siti Nurhaliza is one of them.

Following in the footsteps of many of the world's singers, who have released anti-war songs in their latest albums, Siti includes a peace-themed song in her latest album titled E.M.A.S., which means "gold" in both Malay as well as Indonesian. E.M.A.S itself stands for Edaran Muzik Aliran Semasa (Releasing the Flow of Contemporary Music).

The song, Oda Bumi Anbia, or Ode of the Anbia Land, which was composed by Mat SW with lyrics written by Ad Samad, tells about war in a land called Anbia, which Siti said was somewhere in the Middle East.

"War will only cause destruction and can only be waged by arrogant people," Siti told reporters at the Mulia Hotel last Tuesday when promoting her latest album as well as performing at several local TV stations here.

The 10-song album was released in Malaysia on March 3 and there is no way that Siti or her label record company Suria could really have predicted the start of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, though we all knew that by then, U.S. President George W. Bush really wanted to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"I believe all human beings do not like war except those who want to show off their power and influence like Bush."

Despite her age, the 24-year-old Siti is not only capable of showing her concern against war through her song, but she also proves that she is already mature enough in the business.

After being in the business for about eight years, the singer now has five pop albums and another four traditional Malay albums under her belt.

In the newly launched album, Siti even co-wrote lyrics for six of the 10 songs on the album. One of the six, Bukan Cinta Biasa (No Ordinary Love), was co-written with Indonesian singer-cum- songwriter Dewiq, while the song's music video was made by Indonesian director Rizal Mantovani here in Indonesia.

"Actually this song has been ready for about a year but it was kept on the shelf because I was working on a traditional Malay album called Sanggar Mestika (House of Precious Stones) last year," Siti said.

Siti, who is trying to release two albums every year -- one pop and one traditional, emphasized she had not wanted to write so much on the album but sometimes the composers or song writers came to her asking for her opinion.

"I just wanted to co-write lyrics for one or two songs but the composers kept coming back to ask for my opinion on the lyrics. Sometimes they asked me to change some words here and there to make it sound better. I had to do it quickly as they asked me in the studio during recording sessions."

The Malaysian singer is also open to cooperating with any Indonesian song writers and composers.

"Dewiq is under Universal Music management just like me. So I think that's one of the reasons why she was chosen. But if I am allowed to choose, I would like to work together with Melly Goeslaw. But I do not have the chance yet.

"Melly's Menghitung Hari (Counting the Days) is one of my favorites. Her work on the Ada Apa Dengan Cinta? (What's up with Cinta?) soundtrack album is very marvelous."

Despite her stunning singing career, Siti is now looking for new challenges, like taking part in theatrical performances, especially musical ones. But she still wants to improve her singing career before jumping to other professions like acting.

"Despite my achievements, I still need to learn more. But I really want to act on stage, especially in musical plays. I can still sing a lot of songs in musical plays," she said with a smile.

In her prime, Siti surely still has a long way ahead of her but she has already thought of other possible careers.

"I have thought of trying my luck in trade and commerce as well as running my own beauty parlor and boutique," she said. "But I do not have the skills yet to manage such a business. I have to wait."

Her younger sister was taking a beauty course and once she had enough experiences, she could open the beauty parlor, she said.

"But I still have a long way to go. Those plans can wait. At the moment, I am focusing on my concert tour back home in Malaysia as well as planning a solo concert here in Indonesia. Then I can take a break for a moment and think of my future plans," she said.

Despite her "diva" position, Siti relies on simple methods to maintain her voice, as well as her beauty and physical fitness.

"I avoid iced drinks to keep my voice from becoming hoarse. I used to like cold drinks and have to live with the consequences. On the other hand, I can eat anything, even hot and spicy food -- the hotter the better," she said.

Exercising is now a luxury for her, considering her busy schedule, forcing her to take vitamins to stay fit.

And although she wishes to own a beauty parlor of her own, it turns out Siti takes care of her beauty in a simply way: Washing her face before going to bed in order to allow her skin to breathe.

As a celebrity, she has another tip, to keep smiling. And whenever she is under pressure she acts just like many other women do: "Usually I go window-shopping with my friends or members of my family".