Isyana Sarasvati might be young, but she makes up for it with her immense talent and dedication to her music. The 24-year-old singer recently collaborated with another renowned singer, Raisa, releasing a duet entitled Anganku Anganmu, which has gained 11 million views on YouTube. Her debut album itself Explore!, released in 2015 under the Sony Music Entertainment Indonesia label, received rave reviews and yielded hit singles such as Keep Being You and Tetap Dalam Jiwa.
Isyana was introduced to classical music at the tender age of 7. As a soloist and recitalist, she has performed in various concerts and musical events. She occasionally sings opera and she is able to play various musical instruments such as the piano, the electone, the flute, the violin and the saxophone. She has collected a number of awards for her soprano vocal, piano and electone competitions, and thanks to her academic achievements, she received full scholarships to Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) in Singapore, as well as at the Royal College of Music (RCM) in London.
Recently, Indonesia Tatler sat down to have an intimate tête-à-tête with Isyana and talked about her musical style, her collaboration projects and her next album, which is expected to be released by the end of this year. Read on…
As a graduate of NAFA and RCM, what academic lessons have you incorporated in your musical career?
I have incorporated a lot of the lessons I learned—mostly musical theory. We are taught about structure, theme and motive. In composing music, I try to develop a motive into several parts while keeping the root in one theme so the song stays in place. However, the world is rapidly changing, and we have so many musical forms now, such as 21st century music, modern classic, neo-classical, minimalism and surrealist, all of which give us freedom in expressing ourselves. Thus, in composing music, I feel free to build my character as a musician.
Tell us about the songwriting process and where you draw your inspiration from for your songs.
I get inspiration mostly from my personal life experiences, my imagination and other people’s stories. For example, Tetap Dalam Jiwa was inspired by a friend’s love story in Singapore. She literally cried every day because she and her then-boyfriend were not destined to be together in the end—and finally I decided to turn it into a song.
I also have to admit that I am a very, very introverted type of person. I find it very difficult to share with other people about my problems. That is why I express everything through music, because, for me, music is not judgmental. When I pour everything into music, it becomes complete and it gives an explanation about what I feel.
What are some other musical genres that you want to explore in the future?
I want to explore all kinds of genres. Since childhood, I have been exposed to classical, jazz, pop, rock, R&B, country, and more. In composing music, I want to create my own genre: a mix of everything and not purely of one style. I am an explorative type of musician and I try to combine a few genres into one. Right now, I am also still actively singing opera and I have also mastered various musical instruments, which is helpful when composing music.
Sometimes, when an idea pops up, I go straight to the electone to play the song and record it. Often, I cannot actually repeat it because it is unplanned. As a side note, I have just finished recording my second album in Sweden. The album is expected to be released by the end of this year, if everything goes as planned.
Who are your music idols?
I like classical composers such as Olivier Messiaen and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. I am also a fan of opera singers and sopranos like Jessye Norman, Anna Moffo and Maria Callas. For non-classical singers, I adore Jamie Cullum, Coldplay, India Arie, Adele and Beyoncé.
You recently collaborated with Raisa. Are there any other musicians or music producers that you want to collaborate with?
Oh, you have no idea! There are so many musicians and singers I want to collaborate with. For me, a collaborative project is always fun because it is both exciting and challenging. Combining two ideas into one is not easy, but it is an enjoyable process. In my latest collaboration, Anganku Anganmu, a duet with Yaya [Raisa’s nickname], it went very smoothly. We were able to finish everything in just three sessions of recording. It was fast-paced and we had a very good chemistry and there was no clash of ideas. It was fun!
How do you cope with fame and how do you define your newfound success?
Before I achieved stardom, I rarely went out and I don’t really like to hang out, and this has stayed the same until now. I am a stay-at-home person, but I also consider myself flexible and easy-going, so I honestly do not really feel bothered with the fact that now people recognise me. I just want to focus on my career, composing music, and spending time with my family and best friends.
As to fame, I always try to be nice when I meet my fans because they have listened to my music since the beginning of my career. Of course, we cannot please everyone all the time, but I am fine when my fans approach me for a picture. As long as I have this attention focused on me, I want to be a nice person because it makes me happy to be able to do that.
What advice would you give to young musicians out there who aspire to be like you?
Don’t be afraid to be creative! If you are hesitant, it will slow you down. Music is not something that can be rated by numbers or points—it is a matter of taste. If your song is not well received by the public, it is probably because they cannot relate to your musical genre, not because it is bad quality. Just try to be free in expressing.
In my case, I never imagined that my YouTube channel could attract millions of views and followers. I believe that if you are honest, sincere and creating music you love then you can be successful. It’s not a cliché when I say that my motto is my single: “Keep Being You”. [Smiles]
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