Calling Home: Exclusive October/November’22 Cover Story with singer Afgan

Once again, DAMAN teams up with Louis Vuitton to tell the tale of Afgansyah “Afgan” Reza, especially now that his musical journey is once again centered in his homeland of Indonesia

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Afgansyah ‘ Afgan ‘ Reza is back home. Last year, the singer, songwriter and actor went on to release his first English album titled “Wallflower”— to immense critical acclaim—and made waves by collaborating with the likes of American singer/ songwriter Robin Thicke and South Korean rapper B.I.
This year, however, Afgan returns to his roots. Much to the delight of Indonesian music lovers, he released an EP titled “+62”—a witty nod to Indonesia’s international calling code, which is now often used online to refer to both the country and its netizens—featuring songs in Indonesian. He has also made a number of memorable live appearances in several music festivals in the country.
It goes without saying that this was exactly the kind of music that Afgan’s longtime fans have been looking forward to for quite some time. And it also goes without saying that he has quite a few tales to tell about this new EP as well as what comes next…

DAMAN: The last time we had the chance to do a proper interview with you was for our last issue of the year 2021. If you could sum up your experience throughout 2022 in a couple of sentences. What would they be?
Afgan: It was transformative. I think I’m a bit wiser, for sure–and braver.

DAMAN: You’ve just released an EP titled “+62” featuring a trio of songs in Indonesian. Can you tell us the story behind this EP and what it means to you?
Afgan: It’s actually a gift for my fans who have stayed with me throughout the years. I’ve been singing for 15 years and for the last two years I’ve been focusing on releasing English music. A lot of people have been asking when am I going to release an Indonesian album again. And I think this is the right time for me to revisit my Indonesian roots—which has opened the way for me to get into the industry in the first place. It’s nice to revisit these genres and I still love doing Indonesian pop music.

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DAMAN: We’ve also heard that “+62” is a tribute to two figures who have greatly inspired you: the late Chrisye and Guruh Soekarnoputra. Can you share with us a bit about the role these two people have played in your journey?
Afgan: Since I was a little kid, I had this appreciation with older music. You know, music by the people who have opened the way for our newer generation to be more creative. I’ve been listening to Chrisye since I was a kid and also to mas Guruh. One of his albums, “Untukmu Indonesiaku,” is, in my opinion, probably the best Indonesian album ever. So, I was so inspired by those two figures and I decided to do tribute song to them, featuring the sounds from their era.

DAMAN: So far, what’s been the most impactful, heartfelt or otherwise memorable feedback to “+62” that you’ve received?
Afgan: I read some comments on YouTube about the joy that my fans felt when they saw my new music video, which was called “Lestari Merdu.” When you see it, it feels the same way like when you see the video for Chrisye’s “Cintaku” back in the day, which was so full of joy and good energy. I think my new video has the same feeling. Of course,
my other two songs—“pendam” and “pulih”—also relate to Chrisye’s “Cintaku.” This is especially true for “pulih,” because it talks about the process of healing yourself and how to be whole again as a person.


DAMAN: While browsing through your Instagram account, we noticed that you posted about “Wallflower” being available on CD. In your opinion, why are physical copies of music albums still important for artists?
Afgan: I think that right now, we’re kind of losing the experience of opening a new CD, reading the booklet with all the lyrics and really getting the whole feel of the album. You don’t feel that, you don’t see that, you don’t experience that with streaming. So, I decided to release a physical album as a collectible item for my die-hard fans. And it’s now sold out. We didn’t event sell it in Indonesia, which meant that my fans had to buy it from overseas. So, I’m just so happy that they got the idea.

DAMAN: On the flip side, what are some of the challenges when it comes to dealing with online/ streaming music platforms? Especially from the perspective of an artist such as yourself…
Afgan: I think the challenge is that there are so, so many new artists right now. Anybody can easily put out music today. Basically, you don’t need the support of labels; you can just do it by yourself. And that can present quite the challenge, because you have to keep up. But I try not to focus on that because otherwise, you’ll just become stressed out. I just want to put out music—the best that I can. And I just want to be productive.

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DAMAN: Not too long ago, you performed at KV Fest 2022. All in all, what was your impression of the event and what was it like being part of it?
Afgan: I got a little bit emotional on stage, actually. It’s a K-pop festival and there were only two local acts: me and Ramengvrl. We performed in the early part of the show, but a lot of the fans were waiting to see us. It was such an amazing and incredible experience. Also, I got to meet my friend, B.I., who I’ve collaborated with and the festival marked the first time that we performed “Lost at Sea” together. And I got to meet Jessi, whom I’ve been a fan of. We’ve been contacting each other online, but we never met. So, at KV Fest I got to see her show and meet her in person. I just love making new friends, especially those from the same industry.

DAMAN: And going back even further you also performed at this year’s Java Jazz Festival. What does it mean to you to see live concerts being the norm again?
Afgan: It felt like I was performing for the first time again. For the last two years, all we did as musicians and performers were virtual shows, which suck. I really think it sucks, because you don’t get the response from the audience. I just missed performing so much.

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DAMAN: Of course, a lot of things are easier now, from music concerts to traveling abroad or simply spending time outdoors. How have you spent this newfound freedom? Besides performing, of course… Have you done any traveling, for instance? Or do you have any plans to travel soon?
Afgan: I’ve been doing a lot of traveling. I’ve been to the States— to New York. I did some recording there and then I went to Europe. I did month-long road trip across the south of France, where I learned how to drive on the other side of the road with my friends. It was a great experience. I also went to Korea to shoot a reality show that’s going to be aired on a Korean TV network. And I’m going to New York again, so it’s going to be fun.

DAMAN: Speaking of traveling, earlier this year, we had the chance to join you and Louis Vuitton in Bangkok for the brand’s spin-off show. Today, what do you remember most about that trip?
Afgan: What I remember most is seeing the fashion show, for sure. That was the highlight of the trip. The set that they built was very well thought out—very well concepted. It was Virgil Abloh’s last collection before he passed away, and at the end of the show, the models performed a tribute. Towards the end of the show, they looked up to the sky as a sign of respect and as a way to say thank you to the man. It was very emotional. I got goosebumps during that part.

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DAMAN: What’s next for you? Do you have any planned launches, collabs, albums, etc. that you can share with us? If memory serves, in our last interview, you mentioned about returning to the States and working on your second album there…
Afgan: Hopefully in January, I’m going to do another English album.

DAMAN: Lastly, since we’re approaching the end of the year, what do you hope to achieve before 2022 ends and what are your hopes for 2023?
Afgan: I don’t like having targets. I just live my life day by day—and I try to do my best every single day. For every opportunity that I get, I just want to give my best, have the right attitude and just be grateful. You don’t know what life’s going to give you in the future, so just be grateful and live in the moment.

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