My Kemang : SHARON ROSE LEASA

A body artist specializing in tattoos sheds light on the subculture

Body art became popular in Kemang in the late 1990s, with the arrival of backpackers and skateboarders who made body piercings and tattoos as common as clothing accessories. Today, Kemang is still the place to go for quality tattoos and piercings. Sharon Rose Leasa is a body modification artist at Skin Media Studio in Kemang and a member of Indonesian Subculture, a body art organization founded by Indonesian tattoo artist Ucha Cyberborg

How long have you been a tattoo artist? 
I’m not a tattoo artist. What I do is body art, which has always been my hobby, and I just happen to be into body modification, also known as piercing and tattooing. I’ve been working as a body artist for about two years, learning mostly from my friends.

Okay, so have you ever given a tattoo to anyone?
Yes, of course, I’ve tattooed many people, but I don’t do it every day. For me, tattooing is artwork. It’s another media of expression, just like paper, canvas or TV.

How do people react under the needle when you give a tatoo?
Usually someone who wants to get a tattoo kind of knows what to expect. It’s painful Photo dissy eKaPramuditabut the excitement usually tops that. Before I start the whole process, I always do a small line, to see how they react. Then I ask them if that feels alright before I continue.

Do you think a tattoo has to be meaningful?
Well, that depends on the person, but I would suggest getting something meaningful because that way you won’t get bored of it and you will have a story behind it.

So what do your tattoos mean to you?
Well, I was really close to my father when he was alive. Some of my tattoos are for him. I have his name on my right arm, and his zodiac which is a tiger on my left forearm. The flowers behind it remind me of him as well, because when I was little my dad always commented on these particular flowers.

Which part of the body is the most painful place to get a tattoo? 
On my foot, that was the most painful for me because it’s just bone. When I did the henna tattoo on my left foot, it was more of an experience to see how painful it is. I finished it, but if you look closer you’ll see it’s a bit chaotic.

Recently, your other half, Andy Besi, pierced your back and made it into a corset at a Subculture event in Kemang. Did that hurt?
Not at all, he’s a great artist and knows exactly where to pierce. In fact, I didn’t bleed at all. I believe that was the first time this was done in Indonesia.

Do you have any certain rules that you follow?
Whatever I do, there’s no limit. Once I get into something, I want to do it to the max.

What is Kemang to you?
Kemang is family. We are all family under Indonesian Subculture.

What’s Indonesian Subculture?
Indonesian Subculture is a body art community founded in 2004 by ucha Cyberborg. We started with 25 members from Jakarta, Bandung, Bali and Jogjakarta. Today, there are more than 170 members all around Indonesia, who consist of tattoo artists and body piercing artists. My group is based here in Kemang at Skin Media Studio

What’s the main purpose of the club?
Basically, we grant certification to body artists who are qualified to practice and uphold certain standards of body modification, including hygiene and safety. We also have regular events and gatherings to showcase skin art.

Do you think tattoos are becoming more acceptable in Indonesia?
In major cities they are, but in other places in Java tattoos are still unacceptable. Nowadays, tattoos are more of a fashion statement. Many public figures have made tattoos acceptable. It’s not cheap to get a tattoo so for some people it is a status symbol as well — I mean, instead of wearing a Rolex, a great tattoo is becoming an alternative.
Do you have any tips for people who want to get a tattoo?
On the day you’re getting a tattoo, make sure you are fit and sober for at least a day or two. A tattoo artist can tell if you have alcohol or drugs in your system. you tend to bleed more, and the ink color won’t be maximized.
What was the most memorable tattoo that you ever did?
One time my friend who just got out of jail, asked me to give him a tattoo, more of a symbol to start a new life, something fresh. It was an honor for me.

What other media do you use to express yourself?
I used to produced television ads and programs for Metro TV and SCTV. The first time Metro TV channel launched, they came to me for links to major music labels and exclusive one-on-one interviews with international musicians. So I did Metro Saturday Music Special and Music Blitz program for them, and I also did Kick N Rush for SCTV.

Did you ever get to interview anyone famous?
I interviewed James Hetfield from Metallica, Vanessa Mae and other international artists who came to Jakarta.

Sharon was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in Kemang Buzz

My Kemang: Sharon Rose Leasa

Picture by Dissy for Kemang Buzz

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Why DVD Pirates in Kemang are Joyful

The continuing boycott of the Indonesian film market by Hollywood studios has caused no end of grief and disappointment among local movie buffs and cinemas houses. But in one corner of Kemang in a bevy of shops on Jl. Kemang Raya, those selling pirated DVDs of recent Hollywood releases are enjoying a brisk increase in business.

For many Indonesian moviegoers, the past couple of months have been like a never-ending scene from a very bad film.

Back in February, no one would ever have imagined that the standoff between the Indonesian tax authorities and the Motion Picture Association of America over the imposition of a new tax system for imported films would last this long.

As a result of this fiasco, there have been a number of clear losers: Indonesian movie lovers who have been deprived of access to imported films on the big screen; the local cinema industry which has seen a 60 percent drop in income from such screenings; and, of course, foreign studios who have suffered from the negative impact of a 50 percent jump in demand for pirated DVDs since they began their boycott of the Indonesian market.

In the last five months, Indonesia moviegoers have missed the big screen experience of blockbuster Hollywood releases such as Black Swan, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Kung-Fu Panda 2, Fast Five, The Hangover Part 2, X-Man First Class, and much more.

But that hasn’t stopped movie lovers here from enjoying these films in another setting – on pirated DVDs in the comfort of their living rooms.

“Usually, I go to the cinema with my girlfriend every Saturday,” says Martin, a banker who is an avid filmgoer. “Now we stay in my apartment for movies. I just bought new speakers for my entertainment system. I guess I have to stick to pirated DVDs.”

As elsewhere in Indonesia, residents of Kemang are resorting to pirated DVDs to satisfy their need for a new film fix, and pirated DVD vendors here, especially those located within a parade of shops on Jl. Kemang Raya, are enjoying a sharp increase in business, particularly since there are now few goods films available in the cinemas.

Julia (not her real name) works at one of the pirated DVD vendors in Kemang and says demand for new Hollywood releases has gone up since February. “Most of the new movies are sold out, even if they’re not good quality,” she says. “Before, people were somewhat picky in choosing movies, but now they just buy anything that is available.”

Other pirated DVD vendors around Kemang have also reported seeing a boost in sales. They are capitalizing on this opportunity by selling the movies for only Rp 7,000, or less than a dollar, each.

Missing the Silver Screen

Since the boycott, work has been busier than ever. Previously, Julia says she was able to get four days off a month, but now she can only take two days. “Every morning I have to put hundreds of DVDs, along with the cover, in the plastic slip,” she says. “On our busiest days, we can sell more than 1,000 DVDs.”

So far, the authorities have not made any major efforts to halt the distribution of pirated movies. Since the beginning of this year, the Kemang area has not been raided by the police, says Julia.

Moviegoers, meanwhile, say they have no choice but to resort to pirated DVDs. Andrea, an international school student who lives in the Kemang area and usually goes to the cinema two or three times a week, admits that since the boycott she has started buying more pirated movies than she had in the past. “I usually bought pirated DVDs only for movies that I don’t want to watch in the cinema,” she says. “However, every time there are blockbuster movies and new releases that I’m interested, I’m willing to pay five times more for the comfort and thrill of watching it on the big screen.”

Pirated DVDs may be a quick solution to the boycott problem, but they are not without their drawbacks, such as poor quality pictures for movies with great visual animation such as Cars 2 or Rio, or the irritation of having a disk skip in the middle of an action combat scene in a movie such as Thor.

Rina is a secretary and movie lover who works in the Kemang area. Before the boycott, she often went to the cinema with her co-workers after office hours. Now she spends most of her time at cafés or bars. “I really miss watching movies in the cinemas,” she says. “Sometimes I feel it’s a waste to watch good movies on a low quality DVD. I really wish that the boycott would end before they release Harry Potter, because I don’t want to watch the pirated version.”

Iwan Putuhena Reports

Original article was published in Kemang Buzz

Why DVD Pirates in Kemang are Joyful

Pictures by Dissy for Kemang Buzz

Fight Club: Baan Muay Thai

If you really think you can learn Muay Thai from an instructional video in the comfort of your living room, think again.

Most of us have at some time stood in front of a mirror imitating punches and kicks that we saw in a movie or at a fighting match, and aspired to perfect methods to kick some serious butt. However, learning how to fight from a champion trainer in a proper gym with the right equipment and a real opponent is a whole different experience – one that involves a high adrenalin rush.

There are many martial arts techniques that are taught in Jakarta such as karate, capoeira, Jiu-Jitsu, kickboxing, Aikido and many more. They are popular among Jakartans, and each has its own unique fighting style that can be learned either for self-defense or to get fit.

At Baan Muay Thai Club in Kemang, trainers and students explore one of the combat sports that originated in Thailand. Muay Thai means “Art of Eight Limbs,” because its points of contact involve punches, kicks, elbows and knees.

“For those who are not familiar with it they probably can’t differentiate between Muay Thai and kickboxing, but if you look closely our style is very different, and we use elbows and knees to strike,” says Ochit, manager of Baan Muay Thai.

The school was founded in late 2007 by a small community of guys who had been practicing Muay Thai since 2003. They decided to start the school because of the strong demand for martial arts training in the city.

“At that time, we had not seen any progress and development of Muay Thai in Jakarta,” Ochit says. “We were doing this as a hobby and practiced together among friends, but then we realized that there’s an opportunity to try to revive the old gym and create a new concept.”

Baan Muay Thai Club is owned by Francois Mohede, one of the vocalists for the pop band Lingua. His vision was simply to introduce Muay Thai to Indonesians and teach them that that the sport is not only a high impact martial art, but also a way to boost stamina, achieve an ideal body shape and tone muscles. But Muay Thai is not only a way to get fit; it can also be a lifestyle.

The club offers two kinds of classes: My Muay Thai, the regular training class, and Cardio Muay Thai, which uses Muay Thai techniques to create a calorie-burning workout.

“Basically, both classes use the same techniques, but we use the word ‘cardio’ to make it sound less frightening for beginners,” Ochit says. “The only difference is that Cardio Muay Thai focuses on repetition movements to burn calories and have fun, while My Muay Thai focuses on practicing sparring to learn your skills.”

 

Stress Relief

As beginners will discover, Muay Thai is a simple sport to learn – anyone can do it. If you know how to punch and kick, you just have to polish and develop your style and technique to do it the right way. The club provides all of the necessary equipment such as gloves, guards, punching bags and mats. Members only need to provide fighting hand wraps.

Since it opened, Baan Muay Thai has attracted more than 1,800 members and has 300 active students from many different countries.

“In the morning, you see some women come for self defense, but most of the ladies come here to get fit,” Ochit says. “In the evening, there are more teenagers and students that want to relieve stress, you know, from traffic jams – they just want to punch something.”

Prices for My Muay Thai lessons range between Rp 300,000 and Rp 550,000 depending on the number of sessions. A single Cardio Muay Thai lesson costs Rp 60,000, or you can choose a package of eight sessions for Rp 420,000. The sessions have anywhere from five to as many as 30 or so participants.

Currently, Baan Muay Thai has five trainers, including two professional fighters, Ankie and Denny.

“Ankie was a student and he’s been training for two years,” Ochit says. “We saw his development and improvement, so we sponsored him to fight, and now he is one of our trainers.”

In addition to providing classes, Baan Muay Thai also participates in international fighting tournaments and sponsors fighters to represent the club. In May this year, both Denny and Ankie won a tournament in Phuket, Thailand.

On July 9, Baan Muay Thai will host Indonesia’s first Muay Thai tournament. The event will be held in Seminyak, Bali, next to the beach with international fighters and participants from eight countries including Thailand, Australia, Spain and New Zealand.

“It will be an exciting event, especially for the Muay Thai community in Indonesia,” says Ochit.

Iwan Putuhena Reports

Original article was published in Kemang Buzz

Fight Club: Baan Muay Thai

Pictures by Dissy for Kemang Buzz

Definition of Cool: 707

Merchandise at 707 offers fashion beyond mainstream trends and styles, delivering urban designer brands not yet available in the rest of Jakarta.

“Sometimes we are six months ahead, compared to the other stores in the city,” says 707 General Manager Nana.

Nana, a 20-something young woman with a keen grasp of urban fashion, has been part of the 707 team since day one, when the store opened for business at Kemang Icon building. “We always made the effort and develop the concept from the start to carry cutting-edge brands from suppliers all around the world,” she says.

707 carries T-shirts, jeans, shoes, sunglasses, watches and accessories by such trend-setting brands as APC, Nudie, Surface2Air, Kidrobot, Cheap Monday, YyMC, Richard James, Superfine, Edun, Alife, aNYything and Melissa, and many more.

If you have never heard of 707 before, you are not alone. The owners deliberately refuse to advertise and have always kept a low profile since the boutique opened its doors in 2005. So how do they stay in business? Mostly by word of mouth, says Nana. Also by social media such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and weekly newsletters. Over time, 707 has grown and developed a loyal, trend-aware clientele.

Not long after the store opened, 707 expanded to Cilandak Town Square for a micro version of the store called 707 Annexes. In 2008, the two outlets were combined into a bigger space at the current Aksara complex on Kemang Raya. The store’s urban chic design features vintage furniture combined with modern minimalist, large windows, white brick walls and a classic barber chair.

Adam, who has been working at 707 for three years, says most customers at the store come in looking for unique and exclusive brands. “They dig the rare jeans, and it’s all about curve for them,” he says. Dressed in vintage Nike shoes, designer jeans, T-shirt and baseball hat, Adam says he is comfortable working at 707 because it fits his lifestyle. “I like everything original; my style is simple, I want to be able to feel not just see the product,” he says.

Staying One Step Ahead

707 products typically create a buzz; their first launch for Nike drew lines of 400 people, with many sleeping outside the store overnight, because they knew it was an exclusive line not available at Nike stores in the malls or anywhere in Jakarta. Many other brands such as Nudie, Cheap Monday, Ksubi and Melissa only allow their limited-edition products to be sold in 707. “Most of the lines we carry are exclusive,” says Nana.

Monitoring trends is a key aspect in a business that aims to deliver fresh products. “We regularly keep an eye on magazines, the internet, television and follow the current buzz,” says Nana. “We also look into the background and the people behind the brand. That has always been one way for us to consider and choose a product.”

One product always in demand at 707 is denim. At 707 you can easily find rare and high-quality salvage jeans from Japan with brands such as Imperial, Naked & Famous and many others. Rare jeans at 707 can be priced as high as Rp 7 million.

“Preppy style is the new look for the season,” says Nana. Around Kemang and other hip areas in Jakarta, you can easily spot teenagers and young adults wearing retro glasses, buttoned shirts, chino pants and loafer shoes. Being preppy is cooler than ever, in comparison to previous years when sneakers and T-shirts dominated the urban market. The sneaker rack that used to be the Nike shoe display has been replaced with loafers and boots.

How do they deal with competition from knockoff merchandise? “We don’t worry about that because our customers appreciate quality and love the brand they are seeking. I don’t think they would consider imitations; besides it feels much better paying and wearing originals,” says Nana.

Serving only the best and meeting the demand for exclusive products have proven successful strategies for 707. For customers of this high-end boutique, the rare and limited-edition items on offer are worth every penny.

Iwan Putuhena Reports

Original article was published in Kemang Buzz

Definition of Cool: 707

Pictures by Dissy for Kemang Buzz

707

Jl. Kemang Raya No. 8B, (next to Aksara, under Casa)
Tel: 021 718 0051
info@sevenohseven.com
sevenohseven.com

My Jakarta: Jerry, Online Editor of Provoke! Magazine

If you would have told Jerry five years ago that he would end up becoming a professional writer, he would have laughed. An IT graduate with a dream of becoming a filmmaker, Jerry now works as the online editor at Provoke! magazine. In this interview, the 25-year-old shares his thoughts on his love of movies, the things he dislikes most about Jakarta and how venting on his blog helped him get a job in media.

I’ve been to coffee shops and bookstores, but I don’t see your magazine anywhere. Where can I find it?

We distribute magazines to high schools and distros [local clothing stores]. But Provoke is not solely for high-school students but for all young readers. However, our biggest readership comes from high schools in Jakarta and Bandung. We distribute our magazine to 150 schools in Jakarta and 50 in Bandung. This year our goal is to get into the Yogyakarta and Surabaya markets.

How did the magazine start?

Provoke began as an underground music magazine. It came in a form of a small, folded newspaper that was distributed to people in the underground music scene. Until it was bought by Gundo Susiarjo, who tweaked the business strategy for the magazine but kept the same sense of idealism and vibrant spirit.

How did you come up with the name?

The idea was we wanted to provoke creative thoughts.

What kind of stories does Provoke cover?

Every issue that’s relevant to the youth. We still cover underground music, but we also have a rubric that we use which we call being “indo-pendent .” Every month, we interview people who we consider to be artists. We also have special reports, a column reviewing special events and many more features.

How long have you been working at Provoke?

I’ve been working here since June 2009. I came in as a writer, a photographer and a reporter. Then I started writing more feature articles. Now I’m the editor for Provoke-online.com, which means I’m more focused on the Web site.

How many people are working at the magazine?

Provoke! has around 20 to 25 full-time employees. It’s small, but we’re all close. Our time is flexible so there are times when we don’t have to report to the office to work.

What’s your circulation? How do you make profit from a readership that’s mostly high-school students?

Our circulation is around 30,000. The magazine is actually free, so we depend heavily on the money we get from advertising.

Tell us something about your college days.

I took up information systems. I know it has nothing to do with what my present career is. I just took it up because my family wouldn’t let me go to film school. So I picked out anything as long as I could graduate and the school was not far from my home.

Do you enjoy writing?

Yes I do. The funny thing is, I began to like writing only when I joined Provoke During my days in elementary and high school I used to contribute stuff to our school magazine, so I had that experience. In college I had a blog, which I used as part of my portfolio to apply for this job.

What kind of blog?

It’s a blog where I share some sarcastic ideas, because I used to be angry all the time [laughs], mad about everything. But lately, I haven’t had the time to blog anymore.

What do you think about the younger readers today?

I think they’re more informed, not only because of magazines like Provoke but also technology like the Blackberry, Twitter and Facebook. Nowadays with the youth’s knowledge of current events, it’s hard to tell if they are in high school, college or working.

What do you like most about Jakarta?

I’ve been living here since I was born so this is my home and I love it. Since I’m a movie buff, I like the fact that I can find or watch any movie that I want. Morally speaking, it’s wrong to buy pirated DVDs, but I can’t deny that I buy them. If I had to buy an original DVD every month, I would be left with no money. It’s a bad thing, but I need it [laughs]. I hope someday when I make more money I can buy original movies.

What don’t you like about Jakarta?

I don’t like the Metromini, the Kopaja and similar vehicles. Even motorcycles. I think there’s too many of them. It has come to the point where they annoy me.

What are your career plans?

I enjoy what I’m doing now and I love my job. It’s fun to write about people and get to know them and obtain experience, but what I really want to do is become a filmmaker.

What’s your favorite thing about Provoke?

The reason I wanted to join Provoke was because of its comic treatment of issues. It’s not really a humor magazine per se, but the first time I read it I thought it was really funny. Since then, I’ve always wanted to write humorous stories.

What do you think makes Provoke unique?

Artwork for the cover is one thing that makes it unique. We feature a different artist every month who comes up with a piece that basically sums up the theme of one particular issue.

 

Jerry was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Jerry, Online Editor of Provoke! Magazine

 

Picture by Iwan Putuhena

My Jakarta: Moammar Emka, ‘Jakarta Undercover’ Author

Sex sells. Just ask the author Moammar Emka, whose wildly successful “Jakarta Undercover” trilogy exposed the darker corners of the capital. Here, Emka talks about some of his wilder adventures, the lessons he learned from his foray into moviemaking and his latest book.

JK Rowling was rejected 12 times before someone agreed to publish ‘Harry Potter.’ How many publishers rejected ‘Jakarta Undercover’? 

Seven or eight I think, because at that time anything related to the sex industry was taboo. Every publisher that I presented the draft to wanted to revise 40 to 60 percent of it, until finally Galang Press in Yogyakarta, a small publisher at that time, was willing to take the risk. My first book deal, the original “Jakarta Undercover,” had a print run of 2,000. For me, having someone publish and distribute my book was satisfying enough, it didn’t matter how many copies were printed. But who would have guessed it would become a hit.

Now it’s a trilogy. What are the differences between books one, two and three? 

Each book is about different places and covers different people and walks of life. The stories told in “Jakarta Undercover I” are about high-society people and their exclusive parties, while in book two its more about sex entertainment and the working girls, and three is a combination of both. The “menu” in this industry is always changing; yesterday it was “ sashimi girls,” today it’s “ sashimi boys.”

But you can’t be ‘undercover’ anymore, people must know who you are. Don’t the people running or involved in this industry feel threatened by you? 

Yeah, at first. After being on TV and doing interviews, half of high society didn’t want me there anymore, however the other half invited me in. Some places liked the publicity and wanted me to promote their new place or group.

What’s the craziest thing you ever saw while researching the ‘Jakarta Undercover’ series? 

Let’s see, invite-only parties where everyone was having sex. There are also places in the city where you can get mandi kucing, where the girl licks you all over using red wine, milk, ice water, hot water or jelly. In Kota, there is a hotel with theme rooms and girls dress up as mermaids, doctors or schoolgirls, according to your preference. And there is a place in Glodok where you can have sex with a duck.

What’s your new book, ‘Cinta Itu Kamu,’ about? 

It’s not a novel; it’s a compilation of short stories, poems, quotes and thoughts in both Indonesian and English. There’s a CD that comes with it where I read passages aloud with soothing music playing in the background. There’s also a track where I sing. The book covers everything from a broken heart to falling in love, from nice words to whisper to your girlfriend as she’s falling asleep to pick-up lines.

It sounds very different from your previous projects. Why the switch? 

As an author, I can write about anything that I’m passionate about. This project is new for me, I like the challenge; I’m writing in a different style and singing. I think people have already read enough about sex and they might not want to hear more about it for now. Maybe in a couple of years from now, but definitely not now.

Everyone says Indonesia is such a tolerant nation. Would you agree with that? 

I believe that, but I don’t believe that it’s true for everyone. There are people who are open-minded, who see things not simply as black or white.

How so? 

I like to go to modern Muslim universities and speak at seminars or lectures. I graduated from a pesantren, a Muslim boarding school. I believe that you can have a good debate and discussion on any topic with anyone. I’ve had them in Makassar, Yogyakarta, Jakarta, all over. When I do talk shows on air, the computers crash and the phone lines jam with people calling in to say all kinds of things, from “your books are eye-opening” to “go to hell.” It doesn’t always go smoothly. I’ve been kicked off the stage many times, and once there were guys on motorcycles just circling the building and they all had knives. Sometimes I feel like I’m on trial.

You wrote the novel and scripted and produced the film ‘Tarzan ke Kota’ (‘Tarzan Goes to the City’). Have you ever seen that guy walking around Jakarta who looks exactly like Tarzan, loincloth and all? 

No, never, I was inspired by old Tarzan movies. But the whole film was a mess; I should have just made a horror movie [laughs].

You’ve got a girlfriend now. Is she the least bit intimidated by all your experiences?

No. I don’t go to those sex parties anymore. I met her at a seminar on transsexuals in Bandung, she was the MC. I’m 35, I’m slowing down, and I need to think about starting a family.

Emka was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original Interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Moammar Emka, ‘Jakarta Undercover’ Author

Picture by Iwan Putuhena

for more information visit www.emkamoammar.com

 

My Jakarta: DJ Sonny, DMC Champion

Being a DJ is serious business. Just ask DJ Sonny, who competed for the DMC DJ world championship title in 2005. His mad skills at the turntable won him first place in Indonesia and 13th in the world. The Jakarta-born Sonny was the first Indonesian DJ to come that close to the title.

After almost 20 years behind the decks, DJ Sonny is still churning out tracks from his home studio, and passing on his knowledge and skills to the next generation of DJs. He talks about being a teacher, the growth of hip-hop and what it’s like being a famous DJ in Jakarta.

How long have you been a DJ?

I started in 1990, but I was first influenced by a national DJ competition in Jakarta in 1987.

What was the scene like here in the late ’8s and early ’9s? 

At that time, we were still playing lots of R&B and hip-hop. There wasn’t too much house music.

How did the DMC competition change things for you? 

I had been a resident DJ at clubs, played at events and private parties, but I never competed until 2005. In 1992, there was an international competition in Indonesia, but at that time I was still too young. I patiently waited and prepared myself for the right time. It took 13 years before another international competition came to Indonesia.

Do you play other music besides hip-hop? Why hip-hop? 

If you’re asking why, my title is DMC so I have to play hip-hop. As a DJ, I have to follow the trends. I can play anything from hip-hop, R&B, progressive to house music. I only play hip-hop in Jakarta, but anywhere else, you might catch me playing progressive or house. 

Do DJs make a good living?

Until today, I haven’t seen a successful DJ in Indonesia, compared to international DJs like Tiesto or DJ Armin Van Buuren who have had hit tracks. In Indonesia, some DJs produce their own tracks, like DJ Romy, but Indonesians have not supported their work.

Do you produce songs? 

I make tracks, mostly remixes, and send them out to be distributed. I usually share my remixes with friends and students so they can play them exclusively. I have two different remixes, one for the public — a free download — and the other is for my crew. I also make tracks for ringback tones, short and catchy tunes like “Mbah Surip.”

In the late ’9s, DJs had a bad image because they were linked to drugs. How is it today? 

I think the image is a lot better today. A DJ can play alongside bands or at a fashion show. I think a DJ competition is important because it shows their skills in a positive way.

Tell me a little bit about your DMC experience. 

After winning first place in Jakarta, I went on to the national finals against nine DJs from other cities. I became national champion and was sent to London for the international competition. There, I finished 13th in solo and fifth in team. The one that meant the most for me was the solo championship. Though I didn’t win, the best part was the opportunity.

Now you’ve established your own DJ school. Tell me about it and what you teach? 

I started teaching in 2005, right after the competition. Teaching never crossed my mind. It was a request from friends and other DJs, so I started my own school, DOPESPINNERS. I teach basic and advanced skills and music production. You can check out more info at my site, www.dopespinners.com.

How do you like teaching? 

I love it. I have the drive to teach. There have only been two international championships in Indonesia, in 1992 and 2005. We only ranked 13th in the world, so we are still behind. I see an opportunity. I might not be the next champion, but I would like to see one of my students make it.

What type of music is in now? 

In 1996 house music became big here, and also the drugs. Bar revenues were down at the time, but because the music was booming, every club played the same thing, which they still do to this day. I think house music has become a lifestyle and a big market here.

Which one do you prefer, turntable or CDJ? 

I started with a turntable and vinyl, but since 1998 clubs started to use CDs. The best thing about the turntable is the image or gimmick. Imagine watching a DJ selecting the vinyl, taking it out of the sleeve, putting it on the player and bring the needle to the record. There’s a style to that. The best thing about CDJ is the digital quality. You can be creative by making your own remixes, burn a CD and play it right away.

Do you think DJs have to do some sick scratching or tricks? 

Yes, because if you don’t have skills, you’re just the same as the other million DJs out there.

What’s your latest project? 

I remix gospel music. I work with church and youth groups to recreate English gospel music to Indonesian and make it hip.

What do you think of the DJ business in Indonesia? 

I hope it will continue to grow. DJs can still do so many things besides playing in the clubs. But they have to maintain their image so it won’t ruin the DJ reputation. They can be artists, just like any other successful Indonesian artist, so they have to be more responsible.

DJ Sonny was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: DJ Sonny, DMC Champion