Interview Dawn Pang
As kids growing up, Christina Aguilera, Chris Rock, and even Barack Obama were bullied throughout their schooling years. Young’uns can just be so fucking mean at times. And while victims of this epidemic that’s never going to go away are likely to endure tough times, it might just also help them form an extra layer of steeliness upon themselves, and that’s just what Ratih Suryahutamy claims has helped her through to becoming a stronger person and finding herself. It’s also paved the way for Ratih, as Neonomora, to become the artiste that she is today, opening doors for a new breed of artistes who aren’t afraid to try something fresh and new – other talents of her own ilk.
“This was probably one of the reasons why I stood for equality and tried to break the stereotype, particularly in the music industry. Discrimination should be passé or irrelevant in our so-called modern world. Kanye West once said, ‘It’s not racism anymore we’re fighting against, it’s classism.’ Stereotypes, classes… we need to break those barriers. I think I have to thank the bullies for making me so much stronger of a person.”
And we feel that fresh is good. Just like fresh juice is the best juice, her brand of music takes the juiciest part of contemporary Indopop and is juxtaposed with multifarious influences from electronic, soul, jazz, and r’n’b. Individuality is starting to be somewhat a rarity amongst the flood of manufactured artistes in this region, but thankfully, Neonomora’s got that in bucketloads. Bursting onto the scene with her debut single ‘You Want My Love’ – a hefty mix of powerful vocals, traditional tribal-influenced beats and sterling ivory keys – she’s been unstoppable since then, receiving Best Album of the Year in 2013 and 2014 from Rolling Stone Indonesia with her impeccable EP and debut full-length Seeds respectively
Even so, she does believe that there is a place and time for the radio-friendly jiwangness that both our country and hers share an affection for. She says, “I do realise that most of the audience in the Southeast Asian region are into pop ballads; with songs that make your heart get torn apart by listening to the poignant lyrics accompanied with the melancholic arrangement of piano (sometimes acoustic guitar) and strings.” Conceding that pop ballads aren’t necessarily a negative, she continues, “Sometimes we need the medium to channel that certain emotion of being sad, [but] nonetheless, what I’m trying to do here is to deliver something new.”
But as we’ve seen with so many has-beens and starlets from around here, new isn’t necessarily something that translates into something sustainable, and with that she’s willing to do her best, take a backseat, and just let the multitudes decide what they want from her music – not that’s she’s not already blending almost every marketable genre in the scene right now. Her interest in the art of genre mixology stems from two influences; her mother and the city of Perth.
“My mom used to be a soul-jazz singer when she was a teenager. She taught me how to sing. I began singing since I was a kid, but I sang mostly soul, jazz, and r’n’b music by Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder, Roberta Flack, Joss Stone, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, and a lot more,” she tells us of her maternal influence. The city, meanwhile, widens the training she received in adolescence to the bigger world of pop music; “The knowledge about music developed when I moved to Perth, and just like Bon Iver and many artistes have stated; ‘Perth is the right place to write songs.’”
An ardent believer in astrology, It seems like Ratih’s living up to her stage name thus far; ‘Neonomora’ represents the sun and the moon in a neon spectrum of colours. She’s really lighting up the Indonesian music scene, and it probably won’t be too long before some of that light crosses over to our shores at the rate Neonomora is going.
Neonomora’s debut full-length Seeds is out now via iTunes.