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Claudiaexpat introduces us to Ananda Sukarlan, a superb Indonesian pianist. 


I have always been fascinated by artists, and whenever I move to a new country, I go out of my way to discover as many as possible. I was therefore delighted when the Indonesian Heritage Society, a fabulous association I joined when I arrived in Jakarta, organised a music morning with Indonesian pianist Ananda Sukarlan.

I arrived at the beautiful house where the event was to take place quite unprepared – I am still very ignorant of this country and its artistic traditions and culture – and did not know quite what to expect in terms of performance.

Ananda Sukarlan turned out to be a delight: a talkative musician, he introduced himself with a keen sense of humor before moving on to tell us the story behind Rapsodia Nusantara. He explained that Indonesia did not have its own rhapsody, which seemed a bit unfair to him. So he decided to start creating one, and to call it Nusantara, which is the ancient name of Indonesia. Then one day the former president of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who was on friendly terms with Ananda Sukarlan, pointed out that Indonesia should have 33 rhapsodies, like the number of provinces it has. Sukarlan is working on the project, and has written 16 rhapsodies so far.

The most astonishing thing, though, is that Rhapsody No. 8 was written to be performed with one hand only. This is something I had never come across and that moved me deeply. Sukarlan explained that he does a lot of work with Fundacion Musica Abierta in Spain, where he currently lives with his family. This foundation was established to allow disabled people to enjoy music as much as possible, regardless of their disabilities. Sukarlan played the rhapsody with his left hand only, and I had a knot in my throat the whole time, thinking of the beauty of an artist who takes time to create a magnificent piece of music in consideration of those who must live with one hand only.

ananda sukarlanSukarlan explained that he was diagnosed with a very mild form of Asperger’s Syndrome himself, and this brought him close to people living with disabilities. His song “The Voice of Silence”, which expresses his feelings in both his personal experience and his work with autistic people, had the entire audience in tears.

Sukarlan is also the founder of the Indonesian Classical Music Foundation, whose aim is to give access to classical music to children from poor families, by providing instruments and education. The foundation is actually always looking for all sorts of instruments, no matter in what condition (they can fix them), so that they can increase the pool of music students they train. Should you be in Indonesia and have instruments to donate, please contact the Foundation.


Claudia Landini (Claudiaexpat)
Jakarta, Indonesia
Gennaio 2015
Photo Credit ©Aarti


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