Sound Check, vol. 8: Aya Anjani

By: Patricia Kusumaningtyas |

There’s no denying the effect of citypop to music fans of the internet. The appealing nostalgic music, the ethereal voice effects, and the art that accompanies the music is indeed a moving force in garnering emotions from the genre’s listeners. Citypop is growing in Indonesia, but no one does it like Aya Anjani. In her most recent EP, “Tak Ada Yang Hilang,” Aya Anjani takes citypop into new heights—transforming its Japanese roots with lyrics in Indonesian, while writing deeply personal lyrics that speaks to her listeners.

Her topic of interest spans a wide range through her lyrics. In “Mutual,” she talks about the beauty of reciprocated love, while communicating the importance of collaboration and support in the music industry as part of its promotional material. In “Kebahagiaanmu, Keputusanmu,” she sings about how progress is different for everybody and how happiness is not a competition. Aya Anjani also adds a playful flair to her music. In her single before the EP, “Kucingku,” she sings about her cats and their chaotic, unpredictable behaviour, accompanied with chaotic instrumentation that fits the lyrics.

I interviewed Aya Anjani on “Tak Ada Yang Hilang,” how globalization affects the music industry, and her cat Miki.

Hello from Speed of Sound, Aya! Are there any songs stuck in your head right now?

Yeah, for sure. It’s “Hurry Xmas” from the Japanese band L’Arc-en-Ciel. I went to a supermarket in a mall around BSD yesterday and they played that song, so I’m still humming it until today! Hahaha.

In your latest EP, “Tak Ada Yang Hilang,” you played with the city pop genre—a far cry from your last EP that’s more pop rock. Why do you choose to turn to the city pop genre?

There’s no specific reason, actually; I’m recently listening to a lot of city pop and I’m really into that genre. And if you look into the history of Indonesia’s own music industry, city pop is really close to Indonesian pop music during its time, and it makes me more excited to play with it—it all becomes natural.

You’ve written different kinds of lyrics in your career, from the serious “Kebahagiaanmu, Keputusanmu” to the playful “Kucingku.” How is your writing process? Is it more structured or spontaneous?

My lyrics-writing process is spontaneous yet structured (hahaha!). Obviously I cannot write every single raw thing that comes through my head. Even though the ideas of the songs come spontaneously and randomly at times, at the end, I will always process it for it to have a nice flow and an ideal structure, for it to be a real song. But if I were to compare “Kebahagiaanmu, Keputusanmu” with “Kucingku,” obviously “Kucingku” has more spontaneous lyrics.

In “Tak Ada Yang Hilang,” you covered a song composed by your father, Yockie Suryo Prayogo, “Juwita.” How does it feel to step into his shoes?

What I felt covering “Juwita” was more like, “Am I able to deliver the message of this song appropriately?” I intentionally did not change any musical arrangements, because I think this song has represented the stories of millions of Indonesians during that time, including my father, who composed the song himself. I didn’t want to alter that sense of representation. However, I want this song to be enjoyed by today’s generation while carrying a similar vibe to the song.

The visuals of “Tak Ada Yang Hilang” really represents the city pop genre you carried throughout the EP. How important is the role of visuals for the representation of a musician’s works?

Very, very important. In my opinion, the visual is the element that strengthens the message in each song. Through a musician’s visuals, musicians can be “unique” characters outside of their own songs. From my childhood, I am a woman who has a hobby of fangirling (haha) so maybe it could be one of the big factors why I really advocate for the importance of visuals for a musician.

You’re writing songs inspired by Japanese city pop with Indonesian lyrics, and like what you mentioned earlier, Indonesian songs in the 80s are really close to the Japanese city pop genre. 40 years after that period, what do you think is the effect of globalization that feels the strongest to you in influencing world music? And how does it inspire your composing process?

Yup, like what I mentioned earlier, Japanese city pop and Indonesian pop has really strong ties between each other. Maybe because we both come from Eastern cultures? But, definitely, it makes me more challenged as a musician, because I really want to strengthen my Indonesian-language lyrics, even though sometimes it’s hard to write Indonesian lyrics for it to feel not too cheesy. But, yeah, I am definitely more comfortable in using colloquial Indonesian for my lyrics.

And for globalization; we live in a digital era where all kinds of information is easy to get, so even local musicians could explore their references from music from all parts of the world, and they could also experiment further. Even in real life, the paradigm that only American/European musicians using English language could make global hits has definitely shifted. The effect of globalization and streaming services nowadays have allowed anyone from any country to be a global hitmaker. We can clearly see “Gangnam Style,” “Despacito,” “Senorita” being some of them.

You’ve collaborated with Petra Sihombing as the producer for your latest EP. Who would you like to collaborate with next?

I’m a really big fan of Ariel from Noah, so hopefully he’ll be next. Haha.

For the promotional material of your single “Mutual,” you’ve brought together many musicians to collaborate through the process: Vira Talisa, Pandji Dharma, Sal Priadi, toRa, Alexander Bramono, and Rayssa Dynta. What’s your favorite aspect from the Indonesian musician community right now?

Everyone is very supportive, the community is no longer about genre but it’s more about the same frequency, the same vision as musicians. It feels healthier to me. We’re helping each other grow.

A fun question for the last one: There is a real influence in “Kucingku,” but besides that, how has your cat Miki inspired you in music and life in general?

From all the pet cats I had, Miki is the only pet cat I’ve had since I was born, so our spiritual connection should be very strong. But, then again, cats are really confusing creatures. In “Kucingku,” I received a lot of inspiration from Miki, including the musical arrangement that has a very chaotic energy, much like his behavior at home. Because of Miki, too, I am really into black cats now.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity and translated from Indonesian.

Listen to “Tak Ada Yang Hilang” here:

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