Rahayu Kertawiguna: Propelling Local Stars to Fame

WHO would have thought that a band that initially was viewed with disdain by Indonesian musicians because of its low class music – Pop Melayu – is now a brilliant achiever?

It is none other than the Wali band and its hit single Cari Jodoh (Seeking a life partner) which has been downloaded into more than 20 million ring back tones (RBT). The band has achieved recognition not only here in Indonesia, but an English version of the song has been made and sung by Fabrizo Faniello titled I No Can Do for the European market. What is fantastic is that since its release I No Can Do has been well received by the European public and for four weeks it topped the Top 20 Eurovision. In short now the negative views about Wali have been totally erased as its achievement is the pride of the domestic music industry and especially for the Nagaswara label, which has been associated with Wali up to this stage.

And the person behind the Nagaswara label receiving all the compliments is Rahayu Kertawiguna, who established PT Naga Swarasakti in 1999. Wali met Nagaswara in 2007 for the first time.

Just like any other newcomer the band was not asked to make an album immediately. Nagaswara tried to prepare the right combination and materials for Wali so that it would be acceptable to Indonesian listeners. But it was only in 2008 that Wali got the opportunity to release its first album.

“Sujana introduced Wali to us. Their music style used to be something like rock and they used to call themselves Viera, but we changed the name to 9 Wali (the nine pious leaders who spread Islam in Java) and finally only Wali. Why did we choose the name Wali? Well, so that they can become the best and convey the good message just like the nine Wali Songo,” explained Rahayu.

Actually this is not the first time that Rahayu has orbited a band to popularity. Previously it was Kerispatih and T2. Now with his lucky touch and sensitive ears he has drawn numerous singers and bands to work under the Nagaswara label. Currently no less than 200 of them are in collaboration or working for the company, including both new bands and established ones, such as Koil, Endank Soekamti, The Dance Company and even the legendary God Bless.

Rahayu was introduced to the music world due to his interest in the cover designs of cassettes and CDs and that is why he studied graphic design. After graduating he worked in a recording company making designs for cassette and CD covers and was made head of graphic design at Blackboard in 1986. Then in 1989 he set up his own printing company for cassette and CD covers and orders came from recording companies who became his clients. In 1995 he established a recording company, which only lasted for three weeks, but Rahayu did not lose heart. In 1999 Rahayu set up Nagasawara.

“Nagaswara started from zero. I had nothing, only a high degree of determination. Recording companies didn’t ask for immediate payment so I could use the money for one or two months from sales. That’s how I survived,” said the father of three.

In its early years Nagaswara did not produce local music, but collaborated with almost 50 foreign recording companies that sold house music from 1999 until 2003. After reasonable success in 2004 Rahayu ventured into producing Indonesian music.

“That was my marketing theory. I introduced Nagaswara in joint cooperation with international labels and when we had the top position in dance music I started to focus on domestic music. We only had Kerispatih at that time. Thank God Kerispatih was liked by the Indonesian public. After that we got a number of opportunities. There was T2 in 2007 and Wali in 2008. Hopefully there will be other bands like Wali for us,” said Rahayu who is also a guest lecturer at PPM Management.

It has been 11 years now since Nagaswara started its recording business. So, what is the secret of Rahayu’s success? “I make them feel comfortable working with my company and they are well rewarded. I am fair and open with them, and that’s what they like. So the first key is openness and the second one is a family-like atmosphere. So, when there is a problem we can seek a solution together. Your problem is my problem. There is a standard or a fair agreement on profit sharing in my company,” said Rahayu who prefers his label to be called “the big indie” rather than a major label.

Rahayu is now proud that Indonesian music is well accepted and fully respected in its own country and he said that the market is wide open and can be expanded further. However, the government should also pay attention to the industry. “Out of the 100 top RBTs almost 80 percent is Indonesian music and only at certain moments, like the recent World Cup, Shakira with her song Waka-Waka was in top position. Music is a highly profitable creative product compared with other creative industries. However from the business point of view the music business here is not healthy because 98 percent are pirated products and only 2 percent are original. But I am sure in the future it will get better,” said Rahayu, who is also a guest lecturer at the Indonesian Police Education Center.

Although pirating is rampant in the country Rahayu is still optimistic about the business. He not only loves to help singers and musicians in their career, but has also joined the struggle against music pirating. “For me music is a total struggle. It may sound strange, but it is true, because in our country the violation of Intellectual Property Rights is rampant. Music is the right of the musicians, composers, singers and so forth. That’s why I go with the police around the country to fight against such pirating,” said Rahayu, who received the Integrity Award in 2007 from the government in the fight against pirating for recording producers.

So, what are Rahayu’s hopes about Intellectual Property Rights and his future plans for Nagaswara?

“Today the law against pirating is still within the clauses on creative industries. I hope soon there is a clear cut law on pirating, for example, in the form of a government regulation. This is really my personal dream and currently I am preparing a concept on how to fight piracy which I will submit to the President. Nagaswara is still focusing on Wali and I hope next year it will be a good year for the company and for them as well. I also would like to franchise Nagaswara radio. We are also open for new singers with a good voice while appearance is number two. So, voice is top priority,” said Rahayu, the founder and secretary general of the Defenders of Intellectual Property Rights Front (FP-HKI). (Patra Matondang)

The Jakarta Post, September 08, 2010


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