Ayu Laksmi | From Local traditions to Worldwide ambitions.
Voted as one of Bali’s Ten Most Beautiful People by Hard Rock FM and chosen to be Bali’s Environment Ambassador, you could say that Ayu Laksmi has a well covered mix of talent and achievements up her sleeve. We figured it was about time we caught up with her for a chat…
When you were younger, which songs in particular had a strong impact on you for their beauty and message?
For me, every song is beautiful in its own way. What I always had on my mind though was an admiration for song composers. My father was an English teacher and he always embraced students to study the language in unique ways, like singing and playing guitar for the class. He created an interesting learning system, adding an artistic dose through lyrics and music and somehow he managed to introduce grammar with it. I was fed with music like ‘Yesterday’ or ‘Imagine’ from The Beatles since an early age, so I can’t really say which one is the best song, but if you ask which song I sang the most when I was a child, it had to be ‘Gunung Fujiyama’ (Mt.Fujiyama) from the age of four years old. In fact I remember begging my late grandmother to stop another kid singing that song because it was my favorite. It was hilarious how selfish I was, to not stop crying because I didn’t think another kid was allowed to sing my favorite song!
First time on stage; what’s the story and glory?
My first stage performance was when I was five, sometime in 1972 at a Children’s Singing Contest. I turned super nervous because I was a bit of a shy girl. I was singing parts like the interlude and chorus improperly, but it didn’t stop me from singing, I just flowed with the band, following the arrangement, and my song ended without many people knowing there were mistakes. Somehow I made it to first place and now it is an amazing memory to recall. Since then I’ve always looked forward to any contest or singing festival from a small village scale to a provincial level, even national.
So we can say that you have had countless stage experiences, any more of them that really stand out?
I was singing in Sumatra sometime in 1987 and I was in this hot, sexy lady rocker outfit: black tight leather pants with skull image print, hair falling down, and a tight top showing my belly. It was in a big stadium, on a big stage with good lighting and a great sound system. There were about 20,000 people there. I was halfway onto the stage and the crowd started to boo me and shout out rude phrases, saying I looked like a whore to them. Knowing that it was about the costume, I immediately went backstage and grabbed a big size jacket from one of the event organizer crew, headed back to the stage and asked the audience “Is this better…?” Thank God everyone let me entertain them to the last song after that. This is a lesson for me; a singer should always consider the venue, the community sensitivity, the outfit, manners etc to really perform well…
So was that the worst stage experience?
Well, one time in Mataram the crowd ripped apart the stage and burned the sound system, since the show was postponed for too long beyond the schedule. The crowd couldn’t be held back while the Event Organizer was still negotiating the payment with some artists/performers. We got ourselves out from the chaos though. The EO ended up going to jail for their irresponsibility. It was terrible!
Your reputation is very closely related with ethnic impressions. To what extent does it influence your life balance?
Ethnic pentatonic music has always been my favorite. I was shaped by folk song competitions but by the age of 20 I was breaking that ground by being a lady rocker, adopting classic rock music from my youth. Now that I feel stronger and able to determine my choice, I’m committed to keeping it the old way. Time has passed over 30 years and now that I have become a performer, I am no longer ashamed to play my original artworks to the public. Ethnic music is my foothold to work and perform on large-scale festival stages. One of my songs is on the “Tri Kaya Parisudha” album (i.e. Good thinking, good saying, good deeds). I’m grateful for this enthusiasm for art and I’m passionate to learn to identify and explore our cultural heritage.
After performing across the globe, which opportunities have truly stood out for you as amazing experiences?
In 2008 I was somehow chosen by famous film director Garin Nugroho to be an actress in his film ‘Under the Tree’, which was funny because I had never had any acting experience at all. I ended up being selected as a nominee for The Best Leading Actress in FFI and I was delegated to attend the TIFF (Tokyo International Film Festival) where the film had a total of 15 nominations. At the farewell party I was asked to sing by the head of the judging panel, Jon Voight (Angelina Jolie’s father), maybe it was because I was the only brown-skinned woman he could recognize! So I sang the ‘Song of the Universe’ using various sounds from glasses and anything else I could use to improvise sounds with. I also sang a Balinese Hindu Religious Chant “Wirama Totaka” which tells a story about the moon.
Any amazing collaborations in particular?
At the Ubud Bali Spirit Festival in 2010, the first time I was invited to the festival. I performed with three different bands at different times (Song of the ‘Dharma’, ‘Tropical Transit’ and a foreign band ‘Susu Ibu’). All three bands wanted me to sing with my own ethnic style, called ‘kidung’ (Balinese cult singing). What I do in my kidung is to glorify Mother Nature based on meditative and spiritual elements, so I set up the stage with a meditation mood, with Lotus flowers, incense and I also dance sometimes during the song. At one point a group called ‘Ganga Giri’ from Australia asked me to join a spontaneous jam session. I wasn’t prepared for it so I didn’t approve at first. But soon after they went on stage, on the first track, I could see they were very unique & ethnical with several types of didgeridoos, African guitars, percussion, plus a techno sound, so it made me change my mind. I immediately ran to the dressing room to change my clothes with a white sari and let my hair down, put on my makeup and grabbed a white umbrella (since it was rainy season!). And there I went with my ‘Gone Traveling’ song, expressing a person walking out in the rain, getting lost and having fun. In the middle of the song appeared a spontaneous dance from I Nyoman Sura to decorate my dancing, so we combined and improved the dance on the spot by telling the story of a traveler falling in love along the journey. At the end of the song I repeated a mantra as my thanksgiving to God, since he gave the opportunity to enjoy worldly pleasures.
What is on the horizon for you now?
I hope later in the month of September to release a solo album, ethnic style, after 19 years since my last recorded work. My songs are written in several languages: Kawi, Sanskrit, and Bahasa Indonesia, I will do my own production and the album will be called ‘Song Of The Universe’.
[via : beatmag]