Friendship is one of the most precious things in life. A true friendship lasts a lifetime and real friends never grow apart.
True friends are those who are invited to look closely under the veneer of a seemingly smooth and tidy life, to feel the contour of your life’s cracks and crevasses, and accept its scruffy lines and raggedy edges. They’re part of your life. Through days and years, play and fears, laughter and tears.
It was one of those moments where all ends didn’t really meet. Exhausted, she was too tired to do anything. She strolled slowly to nowhere. Her eyes were telling no stories, or perhaps, too many stories.
It wasn’t sadness. Nor sorrow. Nor pain. Nor anger. She just felt at lost. Just too many things happened. Too many things to handle. Too many uncertainties. She whispered some questions but no answer was heard.
Several weeks ago, a beautiful 11 year old girl named Josée died in a sledding accident at the hill at the Mooney’s Bay, a park where I walk regularly. This was her first winter in Ottawa. Her entire family moved from Lebanon just 6 months ago, to build a new life in Canada. The story broke my heart. “Life is so unfair,” I told J. “Life is cruel,” he replied.
The day I heard about what happened to Josée, I planned to record my part of “A Quiet Place” from TAKE 6. For most a cappella singers, singing Take 6’s song is likely an item in our bucket list. The original music of the song itself is simply beautiful. But what makes Take 6’s take extraordinary is its marvellous arrangement. To sing each part alone does not make sense, it comes with much suffering for those who overhear it. But once all voices are put together, they culminate in richly textured and exquisitely woven harmonies. Beyond that, its altered chord progressions are not only eargasmic, they also fit the message and the lyrics so wonderfully.
Typically, it’d only take about 8-10 minutes to do such a recording. But this time I struggled to find a place to sing it from. And, yet, as I started singing, I found that place. My quiet place is neither religious nor sacred. It is a place of love, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness in my heart that I always go to, especially whenever my soul is crushed, and my hope crumbled. There, my faith in humanity is renewed. Life can be cruel. Thus, there’s more reason to be kind and loving to each other. To let yourself love others and be loved in return. To add sparks of hope and beauty to life, to the world.
My Edoens soulmates Fani, Rino, Bram, Ben, and Novel l thank you not only for helping me checking off my bucket list’s item and harmonising with me, but also for creating our quiet space together and emboldening me to embrace each day as a new day with love for all mankind.
Sometime last year, I wrote a series of short pandemic narratives in English. Then they were translated into Indonesian, to be recited as part of the Virtual Concert (of Indonesian community) “Senandung Merdeka”. In this 3 minutes video, I weaved these narratives into one continuous pandemic narration titled “When It Is Over”–in Indonesian with English subtitles–and illustrated it with my own one-line-drawings.
I hope you find a spark of hope in it.
Tahun lalu, saya menulis beberapa narasi pendek seputar pandemi dalam bahasa Inggris yang lalu diterjemahkan ke dalam bahasa Indonesia dan dibacakan dalam acara Konser Virtual “Senandung Merdeka”. Dalam video 3 menit ini, saya menjalin 3 narasi menjadi satu narasi pandemik yang berjudul “Ketika Semua ini Berlalu”–dalam Bahasa Indonesia dengan subtitles Bahasa Inggris–yang diberi ilustrasi coretan-coretan satu garis.
I took this Italy trip after the Dutch police called me that I needed to leave the country by early October or otherwise I’d be deported. The full story is complicated, but in summary: my plan to pursue a PhD fell apart due to errors caused by the university’s administration (on a departmental level) and made worse by the Dutch’s immigration.
While walking along this bridge, I told myself that I’d be back to Europe to get that PhD.
I didn’t tell anybody this story, not even my parents and my best friends. And then lived in nomad, quite literally, all over the globe within the next 1.5 years; financially supporting myself with various freelance projects and fellowships. I came back to the Netherlands to start my PhD in 2003 with scholarship and completed it in 2005.
Thanks to the administrative and immigration screw-ups, I had not-so-easy yet interesting, colourful, and rich 1.5 years of nomad living.
a traditional song from my hometown, in Sundanese, my mother tongue
Music: spontaneously sung and played on piano by yours truly in the evening of november 12th, 2020
Visual: papercut artwork by Jane Kurnadi (who spontaneously and amazingly created it after listening to my playing, thanks Jane ).
I merged them and edited the video so they’re seamlessly blended to make the papercut version of me singing and playing the piano under the moonlight gaze.Enjoy!
… let the moon rise on the waters of your heart and I’ll play you a song about …. a roasted moon.
Bubuy Bulan is a somber love song. It tells a story of someone who is falling in love with a person who’s passing by every morning, but too shy/afraid to express it or even to ask that person, and can only imagine about being loved.”Bubuy” (Sundanese) is a cooking technique using fire woods, similar to ’ember roasting’ where you take full the heat of the embers. In this song, “bubuy bulan”—ember roasting of the moon—is poetically used to illustrate the feeling of being slowly burnt/consummated underneath a silent calm surface.
The roasted moon; toasted stars; the grilled sun.
They may sound weird in English, but in this Sundanese song, they are exquisitely accurate–visually, audibly, and emotionally—in expressing an associated feeling.