Indonesian singer eyes global pop stage

Afgan will be in Singapore for a one-night concert at the Esplanade.
Afgan will be in Singapore for a one-night concert at the Esplanade. PHOTO: ESPLANADE

Singer-songwriter Afgan, one of Indonesia's most prominent male pop stars, is not one to rest on his laurels.

Keen on taking on the global pop music world, the 27-year-old has already started adding English-language songs to his repertoire, in his fourth and newest album, Sides.

"As a singer and a songwriter, I want to grow and I want my listenership to grow as well, not just in Indonesia, Singapore or Malaysia.

"I want to have a wider audience and that's why I choose to write English songs," the R&B-pop singer tells The Straits Times in a telephone interview ahead of his show at the Esplanade Concert Hall on Sunday.

For the new album, Afgan, whose real name is Afgansyah Reza, enlisted British producer Mark Hill, who is known for his works with English pop names such as Ed Sheeran and Craig David.

The process was like "a dream come true" as he is a big fan of both Sheeran and David.

"Hopefully, next year I will be able to record a full English album," he says.

  • BOOK IT / FASHIONVALET PRESENTS AFGAN – SIDES

  • WHERE: Esplanade Concert Hall, 1 Esplanade Drive

    WHEN: Sunday, 7.30pm

    ADMISSION: $48, $68, $88, $118 and $148 from www.esplanade.com/events/2016/afgan-sides

Afgan's upcoming set, part of a regional tour to promote Sides, marks his return to the Esplanade Concert Hall, where he played three years ago.

"The first time there wasn't really a concert, it was more like a showcase," he says. "This time it's going to be a bigger production, but still I want the vibe to be intimate."

He is no stranger to Singapore - he regularly flies in for shopping trips and holidays.

"Singapore is one of my go-to places whenever I have a day off," he says, adding that he frequents the Orchard Road shopping belt as well as the Universal Studios Singapore theme park in Sentosa.

Singaporean singer-songwriter Taufik Batisah is a close friend of his. The two of them worked together to write one of the songs in the new album, Knock Me Out.

The collaboration was not a calculated move for the singers to appeal to fans in each other's country.

Afgan says: "He came to Jakarta and stayed at my house, where I have a studio. He started to work on this song and I said, 'I love it, can I use it?' Then I wrote the Indonesian lyrics."

Born in Jakarta, Afgan found success early in his career. His debut album, released in 2008, Confession No. 1, was a success and won several awards, including Best Album and Best Male Artist at regional Malay music awards show Anugerah Planet Muzik.

Besides his solo works, he is also known for his popular duets with fellow Indonesian pop stars such as Raisa Andriana.

Besides his music career, Afgan, who is an economics graduate, helps out in his family businesses in the property and entertainment sector, and has taken on acting roles on the small and big screens.

His most notable roles are the leads in romantic movies Cinta 2 Hati (2010) and Refrain (2013).

While acting has been on the back-burner for him as he concentrates on his music, he says that he wants to try new challenges when he goes in front of the camera again.

The bachelor says: "I would love to be someone who is really different from who I usually am. I always play the cool guy, someone who is very calm.

"I want to play someone who is angry... because that's the whole point of acting, right? Getting to be outside of yourself."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2016, with the headline 'Indonesian singer eyes global pop stage'. Print Edition | Subscribe