Fulfilling Dreams Through Melody: A Preview of ‘Kaharsa – A Musical’ at ICN 2024

Indonesia Cultural Night (ICN) Cultural Production is set for its 13th edition, unveiling the production set to debut on 3 February 2024 — Kaharsa: A Musical.

Kaharsa invites you to join Galih, a young dreamer from a small village in Minangkabau, as he pursues his passion for music in the bustling city of Jakarta. The narrative unfolds against the dynamic backdrop of the 1970s — a period marked by economic growth and the infusion of foreign cultures into the heart of Indonesia. Galih’s quest for fulfilment takes centre stage, providing a relatable and timeless narrative that resonates with the pursuit of dreams against the currents of societal expectations.

Just like its predecessors, Kaharsa was produced entirely by the Indonesian students of Nanyang Technological University (NTU), diligently handling every aspect of the production, from scriptwriting, directing, composing, choreography, and more.

ICN 2024 Preview - Cheerful Crew
The cast and crew of ICN 2024 are keeping their spirits high during their weekend rehearsals!

What sets Kaharsa apart from its predecessors is its commitment to not just storytelling but to cultural immersion. ICN Cultural Productions promises a harmonious blend of Indonesian and Western styles, showcased in the music, dance, costumes, and set design. The result is a vibrant and evocative portrayal of Indonesia’s cultural heritage, brought to life with meticulous attention to detail.

To bring this production to life, we ventured behind the scenes to unravel the creative minds shaping Kaharsa. In exclusive interviews with the producer, scriptwriter, artistic directors, and leading cast members, we uncovered the passion, challenges, and dedication that infuse each element of this production. Their insights provide a glimpse into the inner workings of a student-led production that is sure to charm audiences when the lights dim and the curtains part.

Producer & Scriptwriter: Crafting Stories & Spectacle

In the context of ICN 2024’s storyline, what specific challenges and responsibilities do you face as the producer to ensure the narrative’s compelling portrayal and overall success of the production? 

Jason Jovi Brata, ICN 2024 Producer: As the producer [of ICN 2024], there’s the challenge in which we always want to integrate the committee as much as possible, while also delivering a clear and coherent storyline, with a great performance that the audience can enjoy. 

But, as most of our committee members are university students, they only have minimal to no experience in embarking on a journey of [creating] a musical performance. So, this is one of the biggest challenges I face as a producer.

Another challenge as a producer is dealing with the recent rise in cases of COVID. It’s another hurdle we need to overcome to advertise ICN 2024 and further promote the culture of Indonesia to Singaporeans.

ICN 2024 Preview - Producer Producing
Jason Jovi Brata, comes back for his second time as producer of ICN.

How did you align the cast and crew with the central theme of ICN 2024 while taking into consideration the historical context of 1970s Indonesia? 

Jason: At first, we developed a story with our scriptwriter, Rafi, in which he wanted to introduce the culture of the 1970s. [Rafi] wanted to celebrate this era as many people of our generation may not be aware of the significance of the 1970s, but at the same time also attract the older generations. 

So, in order to portray the elements correctly, we had a lot of auditions and revisions, where we then created our own choreography, music and sets in order to portray the 1970s [Indonesia] on stage.

Of course, we also sourced some references from our parents who lived through that era, in which we tried to incorporate into the characters on stage and also the choreography. This shows that the 1970s is an era that both the young and old generations can enjoy and relate to.

What inspired the storyline for 2024, and how do you ensure it resonates with both the cultural elements and the broader mission of ICN?

Muhammad Rafi Adzikra Sujai, ICN 2024 Scriptwriter: For me, the inspiration lies in my personal observation of how people I surround myself with live their lives, how these people approach their lives and view their goals in life.

I would ask my parents and grandparents, who lived through the time, about how they viewed their lives during that time, what their goals were, what their childhoods were like, and how they treated their children. In the show, I wanted to explore how this kind of thinking is expressed in everyday life and behaviour. 

In terms of making the musical resonate with Indonesian culture, instead of the traditional route of celebrating Indonesia through its history, such as with stories from the Kingdom of Indonesia, I made the script resonate more with Indonesia’s psychological culture, where the history of behaviour and mindset change is expressed.

ICN 2024 Preview - Scripwriter Interview
Muhammad Rafi Adzikra Sujai, walks us through his creative process of writing the script for ICN 2024.

Can you share insights into the creative process of developing an original script for ICN 2024?

Rafi: For me, my biggest creativity boost comes from when I visit completely new environments.
When I was writing the script, I visited a lot of new cafés, and always seeked (sic) out new environments.

And I actually have an interesting story to tell! I would go onto the street outside my house in Jakarta at 4 o’clock in the morning to write a story. I felt that when I did that, I got a wave of new ideas that immediately streamed into my mind, and it really helped the creative process.

Artistic Directors: Visionaries of Artistry

As an Artistic Director, can you delve into your collaborative process with the cast and crew to emphasise the central theme of ICN 2024 through your artistic direction?

Billy Muliorahardjo, ICN 2024 Co-Artistic Director: As the director in charge of the acting, vocals, props, and equipment department, the collaborative process involves a lot of combined practices with all cast and crew.

So the focus of the combined practices is to integrate all departments, so that they can get a feel of what the stage will be like on the day.

We also do smaller combined practices focusing only on acting and vocal, vocal and music, dancing and acting, so the cast will be used to each other.

ICN 2024 Preview - Artistic Direction
Bringing acting, choreography, and singing together through the vision of Artistic Directors — Andrea Adriana Prawono and Billy Muliorahardjo!

Andrea Adriana Prawono, ICN 2024 Co-Artistic Director: As the Artistic Director in charge of the dance, music, makeup and wardrobe departments, I first set out the artistic direction for each of the departments. I started with the dance choreography to see what style of dance was suitable for the music of the 1970s. Then, I moved on to makeup and wardrobe and picked the style suitable for that era. 

Afterwards, we collaborate with the acting department, where they learn the choreography and music, followed by the lyrics and the script.

Actors: In The Spotlight

How do you prepare for a role like Galih, especially considering the character’s journey and the cultural and historical context of the narrative?

Richard Fernando, Actor of Galih: For me, Galih is like a friend from a different time. We lived in totally different eras, being the 2020s and 1970s, and we had different ways of doing things.

But both Galih’s parents and my parents are very traditional and expect big things from both of us, and that is how I relate to him.

So, to find references for the historical context, I’ve been discussing with the directors and acting coaches on what they think the character should be like. We used sources such as YouTube and our parents, even though they didn’t grow up in the 1970s, for inspiration and asked ourselves, “I wonder how they would’ve lived during this time period?” or “I wonder what musicians were like during that time?”.

It has been challenging to adapt to the historical context of the musical, but I relate more and more to his journey every day.

ICN 2024 Preview - Galih Performing
Richard Fernando debuts in his first production and gives us his insight into how he portrays the lead role, Galih!

Can you share any challenges or rewarding experiences you’ve encountered while portraying Galih in ICN 2024?

Richard: It has been both challenging and rewarding for me.

As this is my first time ever performing on stage, and to be singing and dancing on top of that for a musical was not easy, given the significance of ICN 2024. And because of that, I really appreciate the chance that the directors gave me, and I feel very proud to be trusted with the lead role of ICN 2024.

I feel very honoured for the ICN [cast and crew] to go through with me!

As the actress playing Laras, how do you approach bringing a character to life in the context of ICN 2024’s cultural themes and narrative?

Joanna Chen, Actress for Laras: There was a lot of exploration and research on my end, especially when I was not particularly familiar with the culture of Minangkabau.

Recently, I just learned that [the Mingankabau people] are matrilineal, meaning that the heritage is passed down the female line.

So I think that helps me understand, in terms of culture, how Laras would be feeling in some of the scenes, and why she really wants to go out and pursue her dreams, and why she would have conflicts with her parents.

On top of that, there was also a lot of research on the entertainment industry in the 1970s [in Jakarta] to find out what people were wearing, listening to or what the trends were back then.

ICN 2024 Preview - Laras Performing
Joanna Chen resonates with her character, Laras, as they both share dreams of finding what life has to offer!

What aspects of Laras’ character do you find most compelling, and how do you connect with her in your performance? 

Joanna: I think what I find most compelling about Laras is her free-spirited nature and her courage to pursue her dreams and passion.

I really relate to her as she too, is a girl from a small village moving to a big city, Jakarta. I also had a similar journey where I grew up in a small city called Balikpapan in Indonesia and moved to Jakarta to pursue better education. Then, I moved again to Singapore to pursue an even better education. So in that sense, I do relate to the character on wanting more of what life has to offer!

The team and I also did a lot of characterisation for Laras, where we did a lot of off-script understanding of how [Laras] might have felt regarding her relationship with others, what she was like as a child, and what hobbies she had. Because of this, I was able to understand the role of Laras a lot more.

ICN 2024 — Kaharsa: A Musical 

Mark your calendars for Saturday, 3 February 2024, as Kaharsa takes centre stage at the Drama Centre Theater, National Library Building, for two performances. The matinee performance begins at 2:30 PM, offering a daytime spectacle, while the night performance, starting at 7:30 PM, promises an evening filled with cultural enchantment!

Date: 3 February 2024
Time: 2.30 pm and 7.30 pm
Venue: Drama Centre Theatre, National Library Building
Address: 100 Victoria St., #03-01, Singapore 188064

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the ICN Cultural Productions website.

Photos by Brandon Neo of the DANAMIC Team.

Jeffrey Lee

A Singaporean raised abroad, you might want to see Jeffrey's different take on things — especially if you frequently find yourself swinging around a climbing gym or with a crossword in hand.

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