Afgan Syah Reza: Rich in
luck and talent

JP/Dian Kuswandini

Luck often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you had left open. If you don’t believe that, ask new pop sensation Afgan Syah Reza.

It was just another day in 2007 for Afgan, when he and his friends came to an instant recording studio to record their own karaoke CD. Their day turned out to be as much fun as they had hoped.

But what happened next was beyond Afgan’s expectations. The studio, which had just become a record label, spotted his talent.

“After that day, the studio’s people were searching for me,” recalls Afgan, whose name was inspired by the war in Afghanistan. “They actually wanted to offer me a recording deal, but they just couldn’t find me.”

But luck is luck. Goddess Fortuna probably still had the boy on her list when she opened another door of opportunity for Afgan.

“A few months later, I came again to the studio. And the people there recognized my face,” he says. “They offered me the deal.”

He didn’t immediately say yes, thinking the offer was merely a joke. Besides, he was worried that as “a shy person with an introvert personality”, he would have problems later.

But the new label, Wanna B Music Production, chose not to give up. They believed this new talent had more to offer than just a genuine voice and good-looking face: He’s also too humble for anyone to forget.

Afgan finally gave in when the label said his idol Dian Pramana Putra would give him one of his songs to sing. Despite his doubts, Afgan agreed. But in recording his debut album, disaster struck: He was so shy about singing in front of the studio’s crew that he just stood still in front of the microphone.

“I thought if a ‘take vocals’ session can give me that much nerves, then how could I sing in front of the audience? I could even faint … I was really stressed out that time,” adds Afgan, who confessed he was once taken to the hospital because of stress.

His label, however, assured him that he could get through it all. And they were right. His first album, Confession No. 1, was finally released in 2008. And, just as they predicted, Afgan stole many hearts with his deep, soulful voice.

He showed up at just the right time, when music lovers were hankering for fresh male solo singers after all those band attacks. Afgan’s first single “Terima Kasih Cinta” (Thank You Love) has been a big hit, finding a place on many radio stations’ charts. His other single, “Sadis” (Cruel), enjoyed the same success. Afgan rocketed to stardom so fast he could hardly catch
his breath.

“It has been amazing. I just never expected that to happen that fast,” he says, puffing on a cigarette in a bid to cover up his timidity.

Afgan went on to win six awards, unprecedented for a singer of only one year. Among them were the prestigious 2008 MTV Indonesia Awards (Artist of the Year and
Favorite Male Artist), 2008 Nickelodeon’s Kids Choice Awards (Favorite Male Singer) and 2009 Indonesian Music Awards (Best Male Solo Singer).

Afgan, who is just a few weeks from his 20th birthday, admits that these awards put some pressure on him. However, “I see them more as motivators in maintaining my consistency in my music career. It’s like I’m pushed to always create something new instead of just old same [creations],” says Afgan, who, surprisingly, has never had any vocal training.

Even though he seems to enjoy the new vibe of his life, Afgan has decided not to stray too far from what he knows, even turning down a lead role in a movie.

“I’m actually grateful for those lead role offers. But I know who I am. I’m still too shy to act,” he says, smiling. “I still don’t have that confidence. I’m afraid I would let everybody down if my acting skill turns out to be poor.”

But he was curious about acting, so Afgan came up with a solution: Starting out with a cameo role. In Bukan Cinta Biasa (Not An Ordinary Love), which is currently in cinemas, Afgan appears as himself. “There was no dialogue, and all I had to do is sing, so I said yes!” he chuckles. Nevertheless, in the movie, he comes across as very shy.

And Afgan just can’t explain this. Shyness has been part of him since he was a kid. Back in elementary school, his teacher called his parents because Afgan was so quiet. It got even worse when he was in secondary school.

“I was such a nerd back then. People often underestimated me,” he confesses. “My friends were only those who were as unfortunate as me. That’s why I feel that my teens were such wasted years that I regret it now,” says Afgan, who’s now studying business at Monash College Indonesia, after pulling out of the University of Indonesia’s School of Economics.

He might not have had many friends back then, but look at him now: He hangs out with fellow celebrities and has been going out with some pretty faces (Eva Celia Latjuba, Arumi Dachtin and Olivia Jensen to name a few). And don’t forget, he also has girls scream out his name wherever he goes.

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