Hera Diani, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Everybody has their own way to celebrate their birthday. For noted musician Erwin Gutawa, who turns 40 on Thursday, it will be marked by holding a concert.
Not just another concert, of course, as there will be a bunch of famous performers on hand, including singers Ruth Sahanaya and Krisdayanti.
Konser Eg will present Erwin's many persona: band player, composer, arranger, conductor and producer.
""The main purpose of this event is actually presenting our local artists. I've organized several concerts, like for Krisdayanti, Chrisye and Rockestra. Now, I want various artists, in music, of course,"" he said recently.
""Since there are so many great artists here, I chose those who I have worked with, whether in recording or anything else.""
Erwin is known for having a Midas touch in music. Violinist Henry Lamiri, who will also accompany Erwin during the concert, praises his sharp intuition.
""As an arranger and producer, he possesses a great sense for good songs and knows how to make songs sell,"" Henry said.
Involved in music from an early age, Erwin's professional career took off in 1985 when he established and played bass in jazz band Karimata, along with top names Candra Darusman, Aminoto Kosin, Denny T.R. and Uce Hariono.
Until its members gravitated to other interests in 1991, Karimata was a respected and noted jazz band, paving the way for other Indonesian bands to perform at the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Hague after they played there in 1985.
Erwin's reputation as an excellent bass player spread; Malaysian singer Sheila Majid is a fan of his and asked him to play on her album and accompany her on a tour of her homeland.
When he was still with Karimata, Erwin had also acted as arranger and producer for other singers and helped them in attaining success. When the group went on semipermanent hiatus, Erwin saw it as a time to improve himself as an arranger and producer.
""I'd had enough being a bass player, performing on stage, traveling to places. I wanted to do something else. Basically, I no longer had the ambition as a band player,"" said Erwin, who holds a bachelor's in architecture.
He started his own orchestra, and his name rocketed to more prominence when, along with Ruth, he won the Midnight Sun Song Festival in Finland in 1992.
He was also a pioneer in organizing solo concerts for Indonesian singers with his Bass Productions, a company involved in music performances, jingle production and also recording.
In producing music performances, Erwin now always works with college mate, director Jay Subijakto, who handles the creative side of things.
""All we want is that a music performance is not just another performance. We want it to have a strong and integrated concept,"" Erwin said.
After doing last September's hugely successful Krisdayanti concert together, Erwin and Jay will put on another concert for her in Singapore in July.
""We were invited to do the concert there. It won't be like the usual promo tour nor performing in front of Indonesian people who live there. It will be a real concert, in an indoor stadium, in front of Singaporeans. So, it's very important to us,"" he said.
Erwin and Jay will also work together for a performance in the Netherlands around October. That time, it will be Erwin presenting his own work.
""I will play my nonindustrial work, which means, my work that has never been recorded. It's not in the form of a band, and no vocals involved. It'll be pure instrumental, and Jay will work on this animation or visual thing to accompany my works,"" he said.
He is enjoying his orchestra, especially as the latter have become the in thing for local musicians to perform with.
""I think it's normal if our musicians are mad about it, although I sometimes wonder, is it purely intentional or they're just being snobbish?"" he laughed.
""But, to put it in positive thinking, the orchestra is great because it's pure acoustic and can't be replaced by electronic instruments. However, here in Indonesia, the players are still few, while the demand is high.""
There is some criticism that Erwin's orchestral work is overdressed.
""Well, I'm just trying to do something. I always write my own musical score and arrangement instead of buying or getting it from the Internet. I don't want to do Miss Saigon or Phantom of the Opera. I want local music to be made like Phantom. If it's overdressed, fine, I'm still learning.""
With all his years of music industry experience, Erwin is concerned about today's ""stagnancy"".
""I see that record companies are being more transparent now, which is good. We now know how several groups can sell over 1 million copies. It's not a new thing, though, it's only that the companies are willing to be more transparent,"" he said.
Regarding the system and creativity, it is not getting better -- and perhaps is getting worse.
Royalties and piracy are still major problems, and promotion of western artists hogs the market, due to MTV and fast marketing and distribution.
""Concerning creativity, there are too many variations. Too typical. Indonesians are indeed copycats. But back in the 1980s, for example, music was more varied. We had jazz, pop, rock,"" he said.
""I think record companies hold responsibility for that. They just want a profit. There's no such thing as dedication and loyalty to the music itself. No wonder that certain genre are dead. Like jazz, or keroncong (Portuguese-influenced music).""
For his next project, Erwin said he really wanted to do another Rockestra, providing orchestral accompaniment to rock performers.
""It's just interesting to collaborate on rock music with an orchestra. One more thing is that I really want to do a solo concert for Iwan Fals. He's just great,"" he said about the legendary musician/singer /composer.