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Monita Tahalea

Monita Tahalea

Meet singer-songwriter from Jakarta, Monita Tahalea.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m the second of 8 siblings. My parents are Ir. Johnny Alexander Tahalea and Brigita Margareth Tahalea. I am the wife of Bayu Risa who is also a singer and a coffee shop owner along with his friends. I have 4 sisters and 2 brothers- we lost a brother when he was 4 years old.

I am Indonesian with half Ambonese-German half Manadonese-Austrian Indonesian or you could also say a Betawinese since I was born and raised in Jakarta. Graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Visual Communication Design, I am now pursuing a career as a singer-songwriter.

I love making a personality quizzes ever since high school, and usually, I did these quizzes from a magazine. But nowadays it is very easy to get them from the internet. And this is how I get to know more about myself and people around me and how to communicate better with them. Because I’m not a people person, but we can always learn so we can be better at it. Based on the 16 personalities test, I am an INFP. And based on 5 love languages test (words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time), my highest score is words of affirmation and acts of service. I’m a cancer zodiac.

As time goes by, I realized that these personality tests result are changing according to my life’s season. I can see the way that I’m responding to things now is different compared to 5 years ago. So as the books that I’m reading, besides comics and fiction novels, I read a lot of self-motivation books and poems nowadays.

It is a blessing for me to be given the opportunity to make music because there are a lot of things were left unsaid in my heart and thoughts that I could write and sing. Music also broadens my insights and my socializing skills. Through music, I got to visit and discover places that I’ve never been to before.

My favorite time of the day is during breakfast and when the sun is setting. I love to travel, enjoy nature, listen to music and read. To me, traveling on a train is very romantic. Other than those, I spend my spare time doing house chores or relaxing and enjoying some quality time with my brothers and sisters. My hidden dreams would be to become a writer, a farmer, and a baker.

I also joined World Vision Indonesia as a Hope Ambassador focusing on a child protection campaign. I want to make the most of this opportunity. For me personally, the young generation have a very important role and we have the responsibility to pass them the right value and for them to carve a history for their generation.

 

Describe the city you’re living in and what it’s like to live there.

It’s always a love and hate relationship with Jakarta.

 

Basically, Jakarta is a very fun city to live in without the bad traffic and air pollution and its complicated bureaucratic system. Furthermore, life in Jakarta can be pretty harsh, ambitious and full of pressure. As days pass by, Jakarta is getting more crowded, noisy and chaotic, making me want a quieter city to live in.

However, I’m learning to look at Jakarta from a different perspective. To me, Jakarta has a beautiful dusk skyline and Jakarta in the evening with raindrops falling could become a chain of poetic sceneries. People of Jakarta also have a pretty high level of solidarity. There are many hidden gems / historical places that you can visit when you are bored with shopping malls. In principle, you can find anything you would ever need in Jakarta.

Before, I didn’t see Jakarta like this, though. But when I started taking public transports, I somehow had the time to think about a lot of things while walking to the station or waiting for the next train or bus in the afternoon as I was going home. I began to appreciate my time living in Jakarta.

 

Before, I didn’t see Jakarta like this, though. But when I started taking public transports, I somehow had the time to think about a lot of things while walking to the station or waiting for the next train or bus in the afternoon as I was going home. I began to appreciate my time living in Jakarta.

What is the best and worst thing about living in your city?

Besides family and friends, the best thing about living in Jakarta is “permak lepis” a.k.a. jeans alteration service that goes around your housing area, as well as midnight snacks such as martabak and kwetiau tek-tek.

The worst thing about Jakarta is its air pollution.

 

Give us 3 words that describe what it’s like to be a creative in your city.

Work-smart, self-discipline, and networking

 

How did you start your career in music?

I joined a singing competition -Indonesian Idol- in 2005 when I was in Grade 12. Never had I imagined before that the long journey would bring me to Top 4 position, together with the late Mike Mohede, Judika, and Firman Siagian at that time. Ever since, I became a professional singer. I was 18 years old and I was working while continuing my studies in university.

A lot of lessons I learned when I started my career. Following the demands at that time, I dressed up not like an 18 or 19-year-old girl. I was expected to look mature and glamorous when I was on stage. The clients wanted a celebrity persona instead of an “artist”, singing songs requested by them. Too many gimmicks were done in order to entertain the guests. This pattern continued for roughly 2 years, I felt so lost because I was losing myself, and empty because I lost sight of the beautiful meaning of the music itself. What a tragedy that is when a singer no longer feels happy with his/her own singing. Until one day, in the middle of my class in 2007, I received a phone call from Yovie Widianto. He asked me to come to his studio to sing “Kekasih Sejati” from his Kemenangan Hati album. After that, I received so many opportunities to sing along Kahitna and Yovie & Nuno. From the opportunities that Yovie gave me, my perspective toward the industry was broadened, I knew better what I truly wanted in my music.

In 2009, a chance came from Indra Lesmana to work on my very first album personally produced by himself. My debut album was called Dream, Hope & Faith released in 2010. Through the making of my first album, I went through such a process where I met God and rediscovered meanings and my purpose in my music career. I met and learned so much from Indonesian musicians. Their dedication and honesty in making music deeply inspired me. The way they perceived and lived up the music made me believe that music isn’t just a sound or a vocation. Every creation becomes a legacy that carries value and message. Making music is not just an expression or entertainment, but can also become a channel to voice out about humanity.

Since then, I dared myself to write my own lyrics and songs, up to a point where I continued my music journey by releasing my second album, Dandelion in 2015 where I worked alongside Gerald Situmorang. Now I’m about to release my third album in 2020 entitled Dari Balik Jendela which I am producing together with Indra Perkasa.

 

Making music is not just an expression or entertainment, but can also become a channel to voice out about humanity.

Were the people around you supportive of your decision on working as a creative?

To me, the people around us play a very important role in each decision that we make. I’m grateful that my family supports my career choice, especially my husband and my parents.

I am grateful along my journey in life, I met people who have a heart that want me to always progress in life. I choose to surround myself with people whom I trust who can speak truthfully to me whether I am in a good or bad condition. My inner circle who knows me and also build me to be a better person. People who celebrate me when life is up and patted me on my shoulder when my life is down and said ‘you have done your best’. I also learn to be that person for my husband, families, and friends. Where I am right now is not a result of my own efforts.

 

What are some goals and ambitions you have for your future work?

I want to write more songs. Happy songs that can make people dance. And I want to be able to share my music to festivals in Asia, especially in Japan.

 

I want to write more songs. Happy songs that can make people dance. And I want to be able to share my music to festivals in Asia, especially in Japan

 

If you could collaborate with any person in the world who would it be?

Burt Bacharach, Norah Jones, and Joe Hisaishi

 

How would you describe the women around you?

My mom, my grandma, my sisters, my road manager, my mentor, and my best friends are strong women whose heart is as deep as the ocean.

I’m surrounded by dominant women, and I think I myself am a little dominant too. Being dominant is not necessarily a bad thing, when we build a career as a woman, we have to know what we truly want to pursue, and live out the values and principles that we believe in. However, though, I think the dominating attribute in a woman cannot be applied in a marriage, because we are in it together with our husband whose role is the head of the family. Our values and principles have to be communicated and agreed together in order to build a loving and harmonious family.

Through the awesome women around me, I learned how to behave myself, to speak out truth with love. To be strong but still remain meek. Meekness doesn’t mean weakness, because the strength of a woman comes from the tenderness of her heart.

 

Meekness doesn’t mean weakness, because the strength of a woman comes from the tenderness of her heart.

Were there any local female creatives that you looked up to when you were growing up?

Of course, there are a few: Vina Panduwinata, Ruth Sahanaya, and Margie Segers.

Are there any challenging aspects of being a female in your industry?

I think someone’s attraction to music is through ears and heart. There’s no connection to gender, background, whatsoever.

Thirteen years ago, in some events or performances, it’s true that female singers were still perceived only as an “entertainer”. It was the same for me, where I was treated disgracefully where I had to go down the stage and ask the higher-ups to sing along with me from table to table, or I would get dinner invitation or karaoke with envelope containing money as a lure, or asking me to wear an “attractive” stage outfits, even when I was still a young 20 years old at that time.

But to me, values and principles that we hold as human beings have to also apply when we are on stage, behind the stage, and in our daily lives. This makes me brave enough to set boundaries, deny such requests, and learn to put myself correctly.

It is our part, then, to educate others about the values and principles that we hold by living a life based on what we truly value.

As far as I know, the industry that I’m currently in, both female and male musicians have the same chance for their music to be distributed well and listened to. And us as musicians, we all try to advance this industry that we are in, so that the listeners will also advance together. This is a fun era that we are in, whereby each of us supports fellow musicians’ creations. Every chance and performance we have is a platform for us to convey a message daringly.

Moreover, as female musicians, I think we, instead, have more chances and bigger platforms to partner with others in fashion, beauty, etc.

 

Be bold, be honest and be kind.

Do you have any advice to young women who are aspiring to work in your field?

Be bold, be honest and be kind.

 

 

Photos courtesy of Monita Tahalea, John Navid, and Syifa Syauqy A.

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