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Nidji: Long Journey Down The Rainbow Road

Taken From: The Jakarta Post

Given the tight competition among bands in Indonesia, members of pop-rock six piece Nidji say that they can not enjoy the luxury of taking breaks.

However, the fun they have performing in front of an audience keeps them sane while enduring their long tours.

The fickle nature of Indonesian pop music fans, who change tastes like dirty socks and the plethora of pop-bands on the Indonesian scene leaves little room for complacency. But Nidji has learned how to stay afloat from the experience of other bands, including Bandung's Peterpan and Sheila on 7 from Yogyakarta.

"Once they (Peterpan and Sheila on 7) took a break it was really hard for them to come back on the scene again. Just look how hard Peterpan had to work with their promotion when they returned. Now, they're back and doing well, but that took a lot of hard work from them. Same with Sheila on 7. We're just taking lessons from bands before us," curly haired vocalist Giring Ganesha Jumaryo, 25, said.

He said that, while international bands have an album launch-promotion-tour-holiday schedule, their routine is "album launch, promotion and then tour while still doing promotion and that goes on and on until we release another album."

"It's hard when we think about the competition and all that stuff. But when we stick to purely making music and have fun it becomes more enjoyable," guitarist Andi Ariel Harsya, 25 said.

Their hard work has paid off. Rolling Stone Indonesia listed their second album Top Up (2007) as one of the 20 best albums of 2008, a list that included indie bands Sore, Santamonica and RAN, as well as established bands Peterpan and Slank. Meanwhile, their single Laskar Pelangi (Rainbow Warriors), part of the soundtrack to the movie adaptation of the book of the same title, has ruled the airwaves. Two of their songs, Heaven and Shadows, are featured on the NBC (a US television network) series Heroes. But fans from Jombang and Bojonegoro in East Java still sing the hit singles, Disco Lazy Time and Hapus Aku (Erase Me) from their 2006 debut full-length Breakthru'.

The Brit-pop influenced rock band visited The Jakarta Post on a warm Wednesday afternoon last week to discuss life on the road, the not-so-glamorous-aspects of being Indonesian pop-stars and how their parents have formed a union around the band.

"We're maybe the only band with a parents union. Our parents have an association called the Nidji Parents Union, or the ION," Andro said, explaining that their parents call each other up and complain about how they do not get to see their children much.

Roars of laughter filled the air as the band joked around on the roof of The Post's building, while waiting for their picture to be taken.

Widi, from the band's label, Musica, said that the boys were the most jocular of their artists; "Giring's laughter is the loudest." perhaps this is due to the constant clowning of keyboardist Randi Danysta, 24, who has a penchant for dropping lame jokes with a straight face.

Randi, with hair as curly as Giring's, looked at the satellite dishes on the rooftop of The Jakarta Post under the blaring sun and said that they would make a good place to fry tempeh.

"And then people would wonder why there's a rustling noise on the receiver," he said, enticing a roar of laughter from the other band members.

During the interview, drummer Muhammad Adri Prakasa, 25, said that Randi has practiced Nidji's motto for the interview. "Ask him what Nidji's motto is!" the recently wed drummer implored.

With all eyes intensely on him, Randi said, in a soft scruffy voice: "Nidji's motto: First, be Energetic; second, be stylish; third...that's all".

Again, roars of laughter erupted from fellow band members. "I just wasted my time, listening to you," Adri rebutted.

Their jovial spirit and shared passion for music, is what keeps the band together. Bassist Andro Regantoro said that they are as close as family.

"We never get tired of each other," Ariel said. "What tires us is the traveling. Another airport, another eight to 10-hour-drive," he said.

"But again, it's all worth it when we get up on stage and perform," he added. Ariel is the one behind the song Hapus Aku (Erase Me), inspired by his relationship with singer Dhea Ananda.

Nidji's energetic stage performance has become a trademark; the opposite of shoe-gazers, the band takes their live act seriously.

"We conceptualize everything: the blocking; timing for when I come forward and when the others come forward. We're very detailed," Giring said.

According to Regantoro, who founded the band in 2002 with Ramadhista, the band wants to give the audience what he calls the "Nidji experience".

"We're very concerned with our stage act. Every detail is important. We don't want to play and then just go home. We want to give something to the audience, so when they go home they take something with them: The experience, the Nidji experience."

Aside from going international, their dream for 2009 is to make a spectacular stage show.

But in order to do this, Giring said, Indonesia has to do its part to develop the possibilities for live performances. "Otherwise, Indonesia's showbiz won't go anywhere", he said.

He cited Taiwan's hip-hop artist Jay Chow's concert in Singapore as an example of a spectacular show. "When he performed in Singapore he brought with him a huge stage set. It was really cool. If they can do it, why can't Indonesia?" Giring asked.

Giring showed a hint of nationalistic pride during the conversation, saying he did not really mind fans switching their support to other local bands. "Hey, as long as they support the Indonesian music industry. You know, buying original CDs and cassettes," he said.

Giring then discussed the problem of piracy in Indonesia. "People think that being pop-stars means that your filthy rich. That's not true man. I mean we have earnings, yes. But people in Indonesia, they don't buy CDs, they don't buy cassettes. They download music and share music from one cell phone to another using bluetooth," he said.

"We're lucky because we get endorsements and we get paid when we perform live, which is physical work. But what about the older musicians who don't perform anymore?" he asked.

The vocalist, who has a quarter of his head shaved, showed an idealist flair. Despite just having returned from Hajj with his mother, he holds on to Nidji's integrity as entertainers.

"We don't make religious songs," he said. Ariel seconded the notion. "Producing religious songs is like preaching. That's a big responsibility," he said.

Giring said that Nidji would make positive songs and said he did not approve of the recent trend among pop-bands of making songs that glorify infidelity.

"I don't think the trend of writing songs about infidelity is good. It's like saying that it's OK to do that. Even The Beatles never wrote about infidelity. They wrote songs about love," he said.

As do Nidji.

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