AT THE beginning of October, Payakumbuh, West Sumatra will welcome a special artist. He is an Indonesian who has been awarded the highest knighthood “Cavaliere Ordine della Stella d’Italia” by President Sergio Mattarella and in 2021 was listed as the 100 Asia’s Most Influential Artists of the year by the media group Tatler Asia (in Indonesia is published as Indonesia Tatler).

Praised by the Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) newspaper as “one of the world’s leading pianists at the forefront of championing new piano music”, Ananda Sukarlan is a pianist and composer born in Jakarta in 1968 and a graduate of the Koninklijk Conservatorium (Royal Conservatory) of music in The Hague, The Netherlands with Summa CumLaude.

After graduating in 1995 he settled in Spain, and until now Ananda Sukarlan lives in two countries, namely Spain and Indonesia even though he still holds an Indonesian passport. From our own country, he was bestowed with the title Sri Raja Pujangga Nusantara from Sripaduka Baginda Maharaja Kutai Mulawarman.

Why did this world-famous maestro visit Payakumbuh? Apparently, he was invited by the Payakumbuh Poetry Festival 2023, as a guest speaker and he will also play some of his works.

Payakumbuh is a small and beautiful town with many instagrammable spots in the province of West Sumatra, about 120 km from the province’s capital city Padang. Its population is only about 150,000 inhabitants. Since 2019 it has held the Payakumbuh Poetry Festival (PPF) which has put the town on the artistic map of Indonesia and even South East Asia.

Ananda Sukarlan is renowned, among others for the resurrection of the art song genre in Indonesia, known as “Tembang Puitik” which means making music based on existing poems. It was initiated in Europe by Franz Schubert and then continued by Robert Schumann and all over the world by Benjamin Britten (UK), Aaron Copland and Ned Rorem (USA) and many more.

Over the last few years, he has also composed music from various poems by West Sumatran poets, such as Heru Joni Putra, Riri Satria and Muhammad Subhan. It also happens that Ananda has been a huge admirer of the great Minang writer, Chairil Anwar whose poems have also set to music by Ananda for many years.

Before arriving to Payakumbuh Ananda will stop by The Indonesian Institut of Arts (ISI) Padangpanjang and give a lecture. He also invites several students majoring in classical vocals under the tutelage of Della Rosa to sing some of his songs on poems by the West Sumatran aforementioned poets and rehearse with them prior to their performance at the PPF 2023. The students who will appear with him are Sonya Mavi Ola, Reza Reswati Tambunan and Umar Batubara.

This year’s PPF event is the fourth to be held since it was first held in 2019. In this fast-growing three-year period, this poetry festival driven by dedicated writers has produced a number of poetry collections, as well as several new artistic creations based on poetry such as visual poetry.

In literary tourism, invited guests and festival participants will be guided by the committee to historical sites related to literary history, such as Chairil Anwar’s house in Simalanggang. Ananda Sukarlan will be in Payakumbuh for the duration of the festival, namely from 4th to 7th of October.

Payakumbuh has just lost one of its best men. Handry Satriago, the youngest CEO of General Electric in Indonesia and one of the country’s most admired motivational speaker passed away last week. His family was from Payakumbuh.

In the photo, Ananda is seen performing with Handry Satriago as a narrator in his orchestral work, “Malin Kundang”, based on a folktale from West Sumatra. Handry himself wrote the text for his narration, which was performed at Ciputra Artpreneur, Jakarta in 2018. []