Gita Gutawa: Starting young
to get ahead


Aluna Sagita Gutawa, or Gita Gutawa as she better known, arrived at a South Jakarta mall looking elegant and beautiful.

The 14-year-old was wearing a simple black blouse with jeans and her hair down. She looked mature for her age; so much so, that it was almost difficult to believe that just a year ago she was still a shy child.

The starlet had just returned from performing at a festival in Italy and finishing her junior high school exams.

She started by saying she had been exposed to many genres of music throughout her childhood, as her father, Erwin Gutawa, is a noted musician and orchestra conductor.

Gita said she always liked to watch her father when he was working. Seeing this interest in his first daughter, Erwin then enrolled her in a music education institute to learn the classical piano.

Gita said she was very happy to learn the piano. When her interest moved on to singing, her piano-playing skills proved very helpful, both for recording and for stage performances.

"I'm still learning the piano, only now I'm just starting to play the jazz piano," said Gita, who won best newcomer singer and best album at the AMI Music Awards 2008 in April this year.

When Gita showed a serious interest in singing, her father offered his full support.

"My father became my advisor and supporter," said the third grade student of Al-Izhar junior high school, who recently received a "New Kids On the Block" award from Indonesia's Rolling Stone magazine.

The public began to pay attention to Gita after she sang the duet "Yang Terbaik Bagimu" (The Best for You) with Ada Band in 2005.

It was not until February 2007 that Gita released an album titled Gita Gutawa. Her clear voice and fresh style saw her music video clip played on TV and her songs aired on radio stations.

A schedule that previously revolved around school soon included appearances on music programs and at product launches. Gita's performances kept her diary full, with requests for shows coming not only from Jakarta but also from big cities across the country.

In the beginning, her mother Luthfi Andriani, who is fondly called Lulu, acted as her manager and accompanied her on her trips.

But just when requests for Gita's performances began to increase, Lulu became pregnant. So, members of her extended family began to accompany her when she went on tour outside the city. "My aunt, my uncle, even my grandmother helped me," said Gita.

Gita's mother, however, still managed her schedule -- juggling school, stage lessons, courses and leisure time.

"Yes, every week I set aside one day on the weekend to hang out with my friends," Gita said, adding she would usually watch a movie, go shopping or enjoy a meal with friends in her free time.

"There are times when I want to laugh and chat with friends, so people can see me just as I am. And luckily I have friends like that."

The change in Gita from an ordinary girl to "Gita the singer" has, of course, brought other changes. She has started to learn the electric guitar and ways to improve her stage performances.

Gita now has her own support band in which all the members, apart from the drummer, are girls around the same age.

"For a long time when I had to perform live I had to suddenly find band members. So sometimes our performances didn't gel," said the girl who has a new baby sister.

Gita said she had learned to apply her own stage make-up but relied on Barli Asmara, a young Indonesian designer, for her wardrobe.

Gita won the grand prize in the 6th International Nile Children Song Festival in Cairo, Egypt early this year, where she sang "To Be One" by Ria Leimena.

Gita still performs in music festivals where she can boost her experience. Through her participation in the Nile Song Festival, she was asked to perform in Italy, where she visited Rome and Venice.

She now has a performance teacher, Catherine Leimena, but is also still accompanied by her father Erwin.

"Having discussions with my father always fascinates me," said Gita of the evaluation sessions she had with her father after her performances.

Even though Gita is continually busy with her stage activities, she wants to go to a normal school and not go through home schooling, which is often the trend with many young artists.

"No, because attending a normal school is more fascinating. I have more friends, I can learn to communicate and socialize," said the girl who will soon enter senior high school.

Gita recently gave a sinetron performance, but said she wasn't sure she would go down the acting path.

"Not now (anyway). I want to concentrate more on singing and playing music."

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