The Jakarta Post
Having a nation's president serenading 'Happy birthday' on the guitar in front of dozens of other international leaders is not something most people would expect in their lives, even if you are Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Russian leader, who has turned 61, received one of his most memorable birthday moments in Nusa Dua, Bali, on Monday, during a break in the first APEC Leaders' Retreat.
To the surprise of the other 19 leaders of the APEC countries who flocked into the room before lunch, summit host President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, an avid composer and singer, suddenly grabbed his guitar and took a seat.
'I'm sorry, I hadn't realized that [Putin's] birthday was today,' Yudhoyono joked. 'As soon as Mr. President [Putin] arrived I should have sung a song.'
The Indonesian leader then proceeded to play 'Happy birthday' while the audience clapped along, causing Putin to grin broadly.
US President Barack Obama and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-Jeou missed the rare celebration as they have not been able to attend the APEC Summit.
A birthday cake, presented by media mogul Chairul Tanjung, who is also the deputy chairman of the 2013 APEC Summit organizing committee, was then given to Putin, who immediately blew out the candles and shook the hands of Yudhoyono and the other leaders who offered him their best wishes.
'I thank President Yudhoyono for the birthday wish and it was a pleasant surprise,' Putin said in English. He repeated his gratitude for the unexpected gift when the two met in a bilateral meeting later on Monday.
The celebration looked like a return of the surprise Putin gave to Yudhoyono last year at the APEC summit in Vladivostok, Russia, although at that time Putin did not sing a song.
During the 2012 summit, most leaders in attendance were unaware that Yudhoyono was celebrating his 63rd birthday, until Putin, the summit host, made an announcement at the opening of one of the retreat sessions.
Yudhoyono is an accomplished musician with three albums to his name, all released since he became President in 2004. Many of the songs on his albums feature noted local artists.
' JP/ Bagus BT Saragih
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