Pop singer Marcello “Ello” Tahitoe says he is both proud and lucky to be Indonesian.
I think Indonesians are fortunate to have fellow countrymen who come from a wide assortment of cultures. That is something amazing to me,” he said regarding the heterogeneous mix of ethnicities Indonesia has.
However, he conceded that not everyone shared his view given the many ethnic and religious conflicts that have erupted in the country.
Indonesia has had a number of conflicts for more than a decade. There have been ethnic battles in Kalimantan, communal wars in Maluku and Central Sulawesi and anti-Chinese riots during the downfall of former president
This is not to mention the various forms of religious violence suffered by minority groups, including Ahmadiyah — an Islamic sect deemed heretical by certain Muslims.
That was why, Ello pointed out, people should start viewing pluralism in Indonesia as “the beauty and strength” of the country, worth it for everyone to “maintain and develop”.
“Mutual respect and appreciation are probably the best ways to maintain that diversity,” he added.
And, as a musician, how does Ello contribute to building a sense of pride in the diversity of Indonesia? Through a song, naturally.
Ello wrote “Come on Indonesia” (Ayo, Indonesia Bisa), which was written to cheer on the Indonesian athletes going for gold at the 2011 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
However, Ello said the song — whose refrain contains chants of “come on, rise and unite; come on, for we are here to support you” — was not meant to only encourage the athletes in competition.
“The song is about how the people of Indonesia must come together to support their athletes,” he said on the song that had received massive airplay throughout the Games.
“The moral message [of the song] is how we, as a plural and multicultural society, band together to support our national team in the SEA Games. Hence, [the song] calls out to not only the athletes, but all of us,” said the huge fan of the Juventus and Persija soccer clubs.
He added that he was “extremely elated” at the honor of singing at “such a big event” as the closing ceremony of the 2011 SEA Games at the Jakabaring Sports Complex in Palembang, South Sumatra.
“I am definitely nervous. I feel nervous when I sing in both small and big venues but I’m feeling more tension because the SEA Games has a wider scope,” he said during preparations for his performance.
During the closing ceremony on Nov. 23, Ello performed the song with his duet partner, Sherina, on a wide, circular glass stage illuminated by a dazzling spectacle of lights, as thousands of spectators, including Vice President Boediono, looked on.
“Wow, this is so great because we are talking about being part of history,” he said, adding that singing at the closing ceremony had a significant impact on the future of his career.
He added that the song — which he claimed was written quickly and recorded within two days — was his contribution of “positive energy” to the country.
“As a musician, I do not know any other way I can support my country [except] through the talent I have,” he said.
His prediction that Indonesia would become the overall champion was right on the dot. Indonesia garnered 476 medals, followed by Thailand with 329 medals and Vietnam with 288 medals.
He added that he was proud to have penned the song that he said has received positive feedback from athletes and music fans.
It was an added pride because he has “written many songs but never one that was used in a state event as big as this”.
“I have always thought that music and sports are the things that can truly unite so much diversity into one voice of support for the red and white flag,” he told The Jakarta Post.
Ello then pointed out that he learned all about uniting diversity from his home.
The 28-year-old musician’s father, Minggus Tahitoe, is Ambonese, while the singer’s mother, Diana Nasution, is Batak.
“I think my [home] is quite plural because one parent comes from the east while the other from the west. Their cultures, although some say are both strong, are very different. But it is very beautiful to be within that diversity,” he said.
He added that things can get quite loud at his home.
“It’s quite a hubbub. One likes to talk in high notes and one likes to speak loudly. You can definitely feel it,” he said with a grin.
And does he think that his career will make much noise, given that many singers sink after a handful of albums?
Ello has recorded three albums so far since his debut in 2005. His last album, Realistis/Idealis Realistic/Idealistic) came out in 2009.
“I think a musician must write songs continuously although we do not know which will become a hit because there is no formula in the music industry,” he said.
He added that continuously creating songs, including producing for newcomers as he is currently, meant keeping up his presence on the music scene.
“Speaking about singing, I will sing until I can no longer walk on stage. Once I can no longer perform on stage, I will call it quits,” he said.“