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Tulus ventures into new territory

Wening Gitomartoyo
Wening Gitomartoyo

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Mon, October 8, 2018  /  05:52 pm

Singer Tulus recently released his newest single, “Labirin”, which seems to feature a somewhat different approach to his earlier music.

Currently one of the most popular singers in Indonesia, Tulus has created a particular concoction of pop, jazz and swing since his 2011 debut album,Tulus. His distinctive voice, tender yet powerful, is unlike any other.

His success hardly came overnight. Though the first album enjoyed plenty of radio airtime and his name was mentioned in the media, it took three more years for the architecture graduate to be fully recognized. His second album, Gajah (2014), sold 60,000 copies within two months, making it the fastest-selling album by record label demajors.

That album made him a powerhouse, a singer and songwriter whose songs are known for their honest charm. Tempo magazine included it in its best albums of the year list, and the now-defunct Rolling Stone Indonesia magazine named it the best album of the year. In 2015, he brought home five Anugerah Musik Indonesia (AMI) Awards trophies, more than the other winners, including one for Best Album. He also won four awards at last year’s AMI Awards, including Best Album and Best Male/Female Soul/R&B/Urban Singer.

His third album, Monokrom (2016), featured a more confident Tulus, who ventured into previously untouched territories, with sweeping, sparse ballad “Pamit” (Goodbye) as the first song. And with the upbeat “Labirin”, the singer continues to surprise through small yet conspicuous touches of electric guitar and strings.

Throughout the three albums, Tulus has collaborated with producer Ari Renaldi. “Labirin” is no different, though this time the song was written along with fellow singer Petra Sihombing.

“It is something I did deliberately,” Tulus said during an interview with The Jakarta Post recently, on the new approach with the new song. “I want it to represent the exploration I’ve been taking for the past couple of months. I want something totally different [in my music].”

Read also: Indonesian singer Tulus to hold debut concert in Malaysia

At the time of writing, the “Labirin” music video has been viewed more than 1.5 million times, while its lyrics video, released beforehand, has been viewed more than 2 million times. Many have commented that the new approach was surprising, yet Tulus blended right in. His listeners also noted his quirky use of the Indonesian language, with words not often heard in love songs.  

As a songwriter, Tulus said, he was well aware of people’s expectations of his music. He dealt with this through a 70 percent-30 percent scheme, where “70 percent represents the area I can freely express myself and the 30 percent is where the market comes to mind,” he said frankly.

“Writing music is a personal expression, but I can’t deny that I also keep the listeners’ interests in mind. Perhaps that is how I’ll always write songs. I find it very human,” he added, saying that that strategy had started during the making of his second album.

Reluctant to say whether “Labirin” could be the teaser for a new album, Tulus said he was still in the process of writing and collecting new songs. “Lately I’ve found a new hobby of writing bizarre but wonderful sentences that could be turned into songs,” he said.

With a new, fresh single and hopefully a new album in the near future, Tulus said what remained stuck in his mind was the first day he entered a studio to record his first album. On that day, he acknowledged that his singing and writing talent were entrusted to him, and that they would only count if other people could listen to them as well.

“To this day, I still hold that thought dearly, that I am entrusted with bringing joy to other people. I also keep in mind that I come from Bukittinggi [in West Sumatra] and that I enjoy singing very much since I was a child,” he said. “So if music happens to be my career, I don’t ever want that joy to disappear. I won’t ever let this bliss be depraved by unnecessary demands. The way I felt when I first entered the studio, that’s what I will always hold onto: how carefree I was.”

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