Anggun C. Sasmi: Reaching
a whole new level

ANGGUN C. SASMI: (JP/Dian Kusmawandini)
ANGGUN C. SASMI: (JP/Dian Kusmawandini)

She stands out in the European music industry because of her Asian roots and the exotic Indonesian charm that distinguishes her from other beauties. But when Anggun Cipta Sasmi comes back to Asia, it is her international reputation that makes people notice.

No matter which way different audiences perceive Anggun, there is one thing they are all sure to observe: her talent.

This talent has taken Anggun all over the world, but has never taken her completely away from her homeland.

"I have lots of things to do in Indonesia this year," Anggun said, her voice brimming with excitement. "So just watch out for me!"

What is she up to?

"I'll be doing more work here -- promoting some brands and of course my new album," she said during her recent four-day visit to Jakarta.

But this time, things are different.

"Oh, I'm a mother now, you must have heard about that!"

Anggun's eyes sparkled as she spoke about her 13-month-old daughter Kirana Cipta Montana Sasmi.

"It's more complicated now if I have to leave home for several days. I don't want to take my daughter with me for some exhausting traveling, but I can't resist the longing I'd have for her."

Anggun, who turns 35 this year, is living in Paris again after spending several years in Montreal with her now former second husband Louis-Olivier Maury, a Canadian citizen. After her divorce from Maury in 2006, Anggun became engaged to 39-year-old French writer Cyril Montana. Kirana was born a year later.

"Kirana is just a mix of this and that when it comes to the culture we've introduced, especially the languages we've been using," Anggun said.

"Imagine this. Her father talks to her in French, her mother talks to her in Indonesian and her Filipino nanny talks to her in English with some weird accent!

"It's sometimes worrying to hear the nanny say things in her accent like, 'Kirana, eat your vegetabo-ol'. Well, she meant to say 'vegetable' but what if my daughter learns to pronounce it the wrong way?" Anggun laughed.

A therapist told Anggun that her daughter might have slow progress in learning how to talk because of her "exposure to languages".

"But I'm not worried because I was assured that my daughter would be more precise in using languages and is not going to speak like Cinta Laura," she joked, referring to a popular Indonesian soap-opera actress who speaks in mixed English-Indonesian with an undefined Western accent.

For Anggun, having a daughter has taken her to a higher level of life.

"I started working on my new album when I was expecting Kirana, and it was finished just after I gave birth to her," said Anggun, who breast-fed her baby for six months.

"I don't know why it was so easy to write songs during my pregnancy. The ups and downs that I had during that time inspired me a lot."

So Anggun seems to have had a good reason to call her fourth international album Elevation.

"It's like my autobiography," she said. "The title itself tells how I have risen to another level of life -- being a mother."

Collaborating with talented American vocalists Big Ali and Pras Michael, a member of The Refugees, Anggun enjoyed playing around with different musical genres to create her own signature style -- profound and poetic yet fun and playful.

"I made those songs like making Polaroid pictures -- the album is like a collection of snapshots of my life," she said.

Elevation has marked Anggun's success not only in elevating herself, but also in evolving into more than a pop icon.

As a fashion icon, Anggun has been associated with world-class fashion designers Dolce & Gabbana, Roberto Cavalli and Azzedine Alai. She was also appointed as ambassador for an environmental movement in France and as a United Nations spokeswoman for microcredit projects.

Soaring higher, Anggun made more pictures perfect when she secured lucrative endorsement deals with Swiss watchmaker Audemars Piguet, international hair care brand Pantene and New Zealand-based dairy company Anlene.

The last brand picked her over other famous Asian celebrities with international exposure such as Michelle Yeoh, but Anggun turned down the offer several times before finally signing.

"I don't really want to be involved in commercial jobs; I just want to sing. It's a big no for me just to put my face and body on some products," Anggun said.

"But I was assured my job would be to raise Indonesians' awareness of osteoporosis. I thought it is a silent disease, but no one cares enough about it. So after juggling with it in my mind for a while, I agreed to become an envoy for the brand."

With so many plans for her in the homeland, Anggun has promised to come back to Indonesia several times in 2009.

"I'll visit more places in Indonesia -- both small and big cities. You'll see me often, so I'll catch you later!"

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