Life

Melly Goeslaw's 'Diam'
touches society's sore
spot

JAKARTA (JP): Jakarta stood drenched in blood. Parents grieved for teenage children burned to death amid looting and arson. Tears flowed of innocent women who were sexually abused.

In a quiet and safe corner of the city, a young woman ached. On a sheet of paper, she expressed her sorrow as a woman:

You showed me your face/I remained silent/You insulted me/I remained silent/ Your tore at my hair/I remained silent/You forced me to do it/I didnot remain silent/ Oh...oh...it was too much/ Oh...oh...I can't forgive you/I can't forgive you.

The grim verse is now included in Diam (Silent) which is sung by the young woman herself.

She is none other than Melly Goeslaw.

""This song is somewhat controversial, especially with its visualization of a bathroom in the video clip,"" Melly, 25, said at her house-cum-studio in Rawamangun, East Jakarta.

""Some consider it too violent. Some women have protested; one of them even asked her daughter to switch off the TV if the video is shown. She thought her daughter too young to accept it.""

The song tells of a woman traumatized by a man's abuse; in the video, thewoman, played by Melly, shakes as she relives her nightmare experience.

Many may be uneasy over the disquieting theme, but Diam, included on her third album Potret (1999), brought Melly the award for best interpretation of a song from Video Musik Indonesia.

Controversy is no stranger to the Bandung native. She has garnered acclaim and notoriety for penning provocative lyrics for her band Potret.

Take Terbujuk (Seduced) from Potret's 1995 self-titled debut album. Melly's lyrics smoldered in a tale of the ultimate material girl:

All that I give you/you alone/Just to fulfill my wish/What I want is justthe contents of your pocket/ If later you know later/If you become aware/ Who I am/What I intend/ I do not care in the least/Because I do not love you.

The song was a top-seller and Potret, founded in 1993 by Melly, her husband Anto Hoed and their friend Ari, was an immediate hit among teenagers.

Melly acknowledged her songs were deliberately antagonistic.

""I was fed up with lyrics in which women were always the object of suffering, while the realities of life around us were never the topic.""

She writes teasing lyrics on material women (Terbujuk), misbehaving women(Mak Comblang, Matchmaker) and even those with inclinations some might termsexual deviation (Tapi Tak Mungkin, But It Is Impossible).

""My limit is issues of ethnicity, religion, race and intergroup relations, especially political matters,"" Melly said.

She skewers her subjects with the finesse of a deft satirist. ""There are a 1,001 ways to convey something, aren't there?""

In elementary school, Melly enjoyed writing poetry (""I was happiest when doodling on paper, writing my poetry).

Her songwriting dates back to high school.

""I recorded my humming with the aid of a Walkman because I could not playany musical instrument.""

She scribbled the lyrics on paper napkins, in schoolbooks and any materials available. ""It could be said that I am a reserved person so I need to write to express myself.""

Her husband and friends have opposed her efforts to learn an instrument. ""They fear I will not be able to compose songs freely, that I would be restrained by my musical instrument.""

She said the best-selling of her more than 100 songs were usually the easiest to write.

""If I write a song smoothly and rapidly, it is usually accepted by the public. But if I get stuck for a time, I'd better forget about it. Even if I continue with the song, it will not be satisfying in the end.""

Melly took four days to write Menghitung Hari (Counting the Days) which, sung by Krisdayanti, has won several international awards. She also wrote four other songs at the same time.

Memes, Ruth Sahanaya and Mayangsari also have done covers of Melly's songs. Melly treats orders from other artists in a professional way by scrapping the antagonistic lyrics. ""As a composer, I am also required to follow a client's wishes in carrying out orders.

Songs with typically biting lyrics are reserved for Potret albums. However, in the second Potret album released in 1996, Melly included the melancholic Bunda (Mother).

She acknowledged her close relationship to her mother, who raised her alone after divorcing famous singer Melky Goeslaw.

Despite her celebrated family name, the teenage Melly held no ambition tofollow in her father's footsteps.

""I wanted to be a background vocalist with Elfa Secioria,"" Melly remembered.

With that job, she paid for her high school studies in Bandung. The elderof two children, she decided to devote herself to music instead of continuing to university.

""I was not in a position to continue my studies. I was not a high-rankingstudent and, besides, I had to consider the high cost of university studies.""

She also was confident she could earn a living from music. ""Of course, dedication is necessary. That is why I try my utmost."" Her total dedicationhas led to her putting off her plans to have a baby.

Melly is busy finalizing her debut solo album and the fourth Potret album, hopefully for release this year. She described the music as resembling that of her favorite singers Tory Amos and Enya.

""I did this intentionally in order to avoid clashing with Potret's music,which also means confronting myself.""

Melly is going deeper in the exploration of her lyrics; she said some of her ideas were picked up from suspenseful movies and her favorite novels byAgatha Christie.

""There is a song about a prisoner on death row,"" she said.

Although she does not say it, the uniqueness of Melly Goeslaw's lyrics isdue not to a yearning to be different, but because of her concern for the darkness around us that we choose to block out.

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