A Journey of Self-Discovery: A Review of ‘Kaharsa – A Musical’ at ICN 2024

The stage is set, the lights are dimmed, and the dulcet tunes of the kolintang play us in. For an incredible 13th time, the talented students of the Indonesia Cultural Night (ICN) Cultural Production from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have dazzled audiences with their latest production. 

This time, set in both the quaint villages of Minangkabau and the bustling streets of Jakarta, amidst the pulsating rhythm of Indonesia’s burgeoning music scene, lies the captivating tale of Kaharsa: A Musical

Meaning joy and happiness, Kaharsa is set against the backdrop of 1970s Indonesia. This evocative play comprises 15 scenes, each featuring original songs and choreography. It takes audiences on a poignant journey exploring themes of ambition, familial bonds, and the quest for fulfilment.

ICN 2024 Review - Conflict
Laras grapples with societal expectations and familial responsibilities to follow her dreams

At its core, Kaharsa is a story of dreams and discoveries — dreams that drive young souls like Galih (Richard Fernando) and his older sister Laras (Joanna Chen) to leave behind the familiar comforts of home in pursuit of stardom and success. Laras embodies determination and independence, breaking societal norms and leaves Minangkabau for Jakarta to chase her own aspirations in the world of acting. Galih, who follows in her footsteps, fueled by an unwavering passion for music, sets out on the daring adventure to Jakarta as well, his eyes sparkling with the promise of fame.

Yet, as the bright lights of the city illuminate their paths, both siblings are confronted with the harsh realities lurking beneath the surface of their dreams. The glitz and glamour they envisioned quickly fade, replaced by the sobering truth of the entertainment industry’s cutthroat nature. Through their trials and tribulations, Kaharsa delves deep into the complexities of ambition, identity, and the delicate balance between chasing one’s dreams and staying true to oneself.

ICN 2024 Review - Realisation
Galih deals with rejection and faces the true nature of the entertainment industry

The student-led cast breathes life into each character, each one bringing a unique perspective to the stage. From the steadfast traditionalism of Ayah (Hartawan Surya Santoso) and Bunda (Sharon Tjipto Santoso) to the endearing camaraderie of the trio, Jamilah (Margaretha Exaudi Siahaan), Juki (Stephen Edbert), and Jali (Ardi Syahda Ahmad Hakim), every character resonates with authenticity and depth. Their interactions create a captivating narrative that tugs at the heartstrings and leaves a lasting impression.

The set design of Kaharsa was expertly designed to capture the essence of each setting, enriching the audience’s experience with meticulous attention to detail. As the scenes transitioned between the quaint Mingangkabau kampung and the bustling metropolis of Jakarta, the stage came alive with distinct imagery that underscored the contrast between village and city life.

ICN 2024 Review - Cityscape
The trio Trio, Jamiliah, Juki, and Jali gives us a number dedicated to their relationship with Jakarta

In the Mingangkabau kampung, the the rustic charm of the rural village with intricate details transported audiences to another time and place. A quaintly set-up tuck shop adorned with traditional snacks laid out on display offered a glimpse into the daily life of the villagers. Buildings with tile roofs and wooden structures added authenticity to the scene, evoking a sense of nostalgia and warmth. 

Conversely, scenes set in the metropolis of Jakarta dazzled with towering skyscrapers and the iconic Monas standing tall as a centrepiece. The set designers masterfully recreated the urban landscape with architectural landmarks that captured the essence of more modern city life. The juxtaposition of gleaming high-rises against the backdrop of Jakarta’s bustling streets painted a vivid picture of the city’s vibrant energy and dynamism. The thoughtful distinction between the village and city settings added visual richness to the production and served to deepen the audience’s understanding of the characters’ journeys as the stark contrasts in lifestyle and environment shaped the experiences of Galih, Laras, and their fellow characters.

A previous interview with Kaharsa’s producer, Jason Jovi Brata, expressed the constraints of limited resources and scheduling conflicts. But despite the inherent challenges of being a student-led production, Kaharsa shines as a testament to the dedication and talent of its cast and crew; the team behind the production demonstrated unwavering commitment and professionalism. From the intricately designed sets to the seamless choreography and heartfelt performances, every aspect of Kaharsa reflects a level of skill and artistry that belies its student-level production.

ICN 2024 Review - Reconciliation
Ayah, Bunda and Laras reconcile after a turbulent journey of chasing one’s dreams

What further exemplifies the production quality of Kaharsa is its ability to transcend mere entertainment and resonate on a profoundly human level. As our co-stars Galih and Laras grapple with their hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, audiences are invited to reflect on their own journeys of self-discovery and personal growth. The musical’s message is clear: true fulfilment lies not in the pursuit of external validation but in embracing the beauty of the present moment and cherishing the bonds that unite us.

ICN 2024 Review - Triumph
Galih and the Trio, Jamiliah, Juki, and Jali stand triumphant after staying true to their dreams!

In the end, Kaharsa is a celebration of the human spirit and the enduring power of dreams. As the curtains drew to a close, one cannot help but feel inspired to embark on their own journey of self-discovery, armed with the knowledge that, like Galih and Laras, the truest treasures in life are found within the depths of our hearts.

If you’d like to keep up with news from ICN Cultural Production, be sure to check out their socials on Instagram and Facebook.

Photos by Brandon Chew 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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