In a largely superstitious country, where a fascination with black magic forms part of the archipelago’s tapestry — think banyan trees that are said to house spirits and the high reverence for medicine men — a new magical figure has arrived on the scene. He is the one-name-only Cyril.
While his repertoire features more charming disappearing acts than heartless evil spells, the internationally renowned magician by the name of Cyril is providing Indonesians with the opportunity to indulge their craving for alchemy, already seen in the many locally produced magic shows.
Viewers of the magician-cum-travel program Simply Magic, which arrived on pay TV station AXN in November, get the chance to see the magician perform some pretty wacky magic, as well as seeing Asian locations as the .
“It’s about a magical journey through Asia,” Cyril says.
“The other magic shows airing here in Asia are all based in America. I’m doing magic in Asia with Asian people, which people here are more likely to connect with compared to shows based in America.”
The three-episode program centers around Cyril performing magic as he explores the culture, people and attractions of Malaysia, Taiwan and Singapore.
“The program, about my relationship with the people [I meet] and each unique country, inspires me to perform magic.”
Depending on how well the show is received, he plans to film in more Asian countries, and while nothing has been confirmed, he hints Indonesia may be on the cards.
But reaching this stage of his career was no easy ride for Cyril, the exotic mix of a Japanese father, Moroccan-French mother and Hollywood upbringing.
His teen years were an unsettling time for him, and by the age of 15 he was expelled from school.
Upset by this development, his parents sent him back to live in Japan. But on a stopover in Tokyo on his journey to his hometown, he got off the plane and never got back on. He wound up as a street performer, which proved to be a particularly trying time for him surviving on next to nothing.
These hardships did not deter him from his affair with magic that began when he was just a boy.
“I saw magic for the first time when I was about seven years old, and it was all I could think about for the next three years,” Cyril says.
“I’ll never forget the feeling of seeing a magician [perform] for the first time; it truly changed my life.”
His passion for magic became ever more consuming, and by the time he turned 10, when a family friend gave him 10 private lessons with a magician for his birthday, he had begun forging a path to become one of the most acclaimed magicians worldwide.
“Those three years when I totally believed in magic were very important to me and made me who I am today,” he says.
Cyril’s career as a magician began to look up when at 17 a Japanese businessman took notice of his busking skills and employed him to perform at his hotel. This opportunity led him to form his own live magic show at the hotel, and encouraged by his manager, he began entering magic competitions.
It didn’t take long for his skills to be recognized, and in 1991 and 1994, he was awarded the top prize by the international magic governing body, the International Federation of Magic Societies.
He continued to hone his skills, and in 2007 was named Magician of the Year at the 39th Annual Academy of Magical Arts Awards — the Oscars for magicians.
“It took a lot of dedication and practice for me to get this far. I had to believe in myself.”
But for Cyril, it goes even deeper than believing in just himself.
“I believed in magic and still believe in it,” he says. “That feeling when I first saw magic is what I want people to experience. That’s the impact I want to make on others.”
In addition to the energy he invests into his career, he’s also careful to use magic correctly.
“We live in an age where magic has now become a money-making business where people sell secrets of the trade for profit.
“People are now buying tricks and calling themselves proper magicians,” he says.
“Here’s an easier way to explain it — you don’t go to the convenience store and buy packaged food and call yourself a chef.”
He says those who are interested in creating magic must go back to the basics and learn how to create it for themselves.
“Have you seen the film Karate Kid?” he asks. “It’s starts with a wax-on wax-off.”
“You have to do magic for the art — not because you want to impress a chick.” He pauses, then chuckles.
“Well, you can, but that’s not what being a magician is about.”
When asked if he has a favorite trick he likes to perform, Cyril says he has so many it wouldn’t be fair to pick just one.
“If you have five children and I asked you which one is your favorite kid, that’s unfair, right?”
Even though this allegory-minded man can’t choose his favorite, his magic remains impressive and appears to defy logic.
One of his popular performances is known as the “Hamburger,” where he approaches a billboard of a hamburger. He plucks a real hamburger from the picture then takes a bite from it before he puts the burger back in as a 2D image — with a chunk bitten out.
This “magic” undoubtedly leaves audiences bewildered, so it’s a shame that Cyril can’t experience the same feeling of wonder.
“The drawback of being a magician is that it’s my business to know how magic works,” he says.
“So when a magician shows me something I can’t figure out, I don’t try to because I love the feeling [of amazement]. It’s rare for me to experience it nowadays.”
This is a rare indulgence, however, for the magician, but he says there are some great upcoming artists arriving on the scene.
“One day, though, somebody’s going to come out and kick my butt right off the stage. But that’s good it’s the magic that I love.”
For the time being, Cyril’s butt remains firmly planted on the stage and he continues to affect his audiences with his grand illusions.
“We need to forget about our worries from time to time and hopefully my magic is able to put a smile on someone’s face, even it is only for a minute.”
Simply Magic took a little over five weeks to film. A three-episode pilot premiered on Nov. 19.