Lianto Tjahjoputro, 47, born in Banyuwangi, is one of Bali’s best-known classical guitarists, and runs an academy on the island. He shared his day with Savitri Sastrawan.
What time I get up depends on when I’m teaching but mostly I rise between 8am and 9. Usually I give lessons either in the morning at noon or in the afternoon. My students are all in Bali. I started teaching classical guitar when I was 16. Since then I’ve taught in several places, including Surabaya and Makassar.
I used to live in East Java. But in 1990, after I got married, I decided to leave Java, leaving my big family and moving to peaceful Bali. I now live in Pemogan, Denpasar with my wife and daughter, who sometimes come to my concerts.
In Bali I started a classical guitar course and gave it the name Pagelaran Konser Gitar Kolosal Denpasar (PKGKD – Denpasar Colossal Guitar Concert Presentation). In 1999, as it grew with more and more pupils, its name changed to PGKRI (Pagelaran Gitar Kolosal Rakyat Indonesia – Indonesian Republic Colossal Guitar Presentation). For private lessons, where I go to the student’s home, I charge Rp500,000 (US$55) for three times at one hour each time. For those who come to me, for a group of, say, five people I charge Rp200,000. If people want to come on their own, they can join other groups.
When I have spare time, I work a lot. I’ll be on the computer, working on music transcripts and composing new songs. Mostly I practice a lot. If I don’t practice I feel like I am ice that will melt and it’s going to be messy.
All artists want their work recognised and to be appreciated. I realised that recording my music and selling it in the form of CDs, VCDs or DVDs wasn’t going to work. I did that before and no one bought them. I guess that around here, no one likes classical guitar that much. But now we’re in a different era – that of the internet. I use YouTube as a channel to promote my music. In the classical world, or any musical world, or anything in the world, all the people want to know is how you do it, how you present it, the skill you have. So this is a way for me to show what I can do, and how I can do it.
I have a simple dream: When I die I want there to be proof of what I’ve done. With YouTube this is a way of doing that. With this website you can be seen forever – as long as it doesn’t die one day – and it can be seen by my family, all the Indonesian people and everyone right around the world. Everyone can see me playing my classical music.
With concerts you have to play new music but also old music, too, for the fans. But with YouTube, my path is clearer and I can just think of what do next, then upload it to show it to the world. Every night, I get 600 viewers ore more. It seems like a concert of my own through the virtual world.
I haven’t played any concerts lately but I play regularly at the Four Seasons at Ubud. Up to now my concerts have mostly been in Jakarta and Surabaya, but not in Bali. There’s something about the Balinese that they’re not into such things. For example if Celine Dion was going to play at a Hyatt in Bali, maybe they wouldn’t care about it. Yet in Jakarta, everyone would be excited about it. To me there are lots of people that think classical is too much and that rock or metal are much more expressive. Now they are actually taking it back; they’re starting to look at classical music and wanting to learn it. Right now in Jakarta, classical music is growing fast. Before, not many people wanted to learn it as the fees were high. In Bali there are those who wanted to study, too. Music doesn’t have to be too loud, I say.
After all the teaching and maybe a rest from all the composing and reciting, in the evening I go to this open space in my house where I pray and meditate. After that maybe I won’t be up all night if I have classes to teach in the morning. But if I have classes later, I might stay up all night practising, composing and more, just like when you paint. When you get excited, so inspired, so content with what you are doing, you can just keep going and the time passes right by. This can last until up to 3 or 4am, and then I sleep.
Sometimes I’m curious: There are still so many people who ignore music. Children sometimes, even most of the time, are not allowed to study it as parents will say, “Later on, what will you be?” When, actually, music is very useful and has a positive effect. Whatever music it is, not only classical.
Now, I only want to fight for what I am, a musician from Indonesia. I don’t want people to lower Asia and especially Indonesia, because in Asia we have great talent as well – and, actually, besides Japan, Indonesia has a high number of great guitarists and maybe other musicians, too.