Exclusive Feature: Titi Rajo Bintang

CINEMATIC MOVIE MAKER. Titi Rajo Bintang is one of Indonesia’s most beloved musicians and actresses, having won many awards for her musical scores and powerful performances. The Indonesia’s Got Talent judge talks to DA MAN about making movies, dishing out criticism and her latest passion.

Dress by Louis Vuitton

While many people still think of her as Titi Sjuman, after her divorce earlier this year, the famed actress and musician decided to revert back to her birth name, Titi Rajo Bintang. It’s a name that fits her naturally — after all, Bintang means “star” in Indonesian, and some would say Titi’s talent and beauty shines more brightly now than ever before.

Her skill as a musician became apparent early on. As a child, she picked up the piano as a consequence of growing up in a musical family. She says, “I actually taught myself how to play the piano because all of my family plays as well.”

When she was in high school, Titi made the decision to switch her musical focus from the piano to playing the drums. Certainly not an instrument commonly associated with female musicians, but one that intrigued her nonetheless. When asked what piqued her interest in percussion, Titi replied, “Drums are different. They are more interesting and have more of an energy. I realized I could be a drummer if I stopped worry about it being boyish.”

Titi first took drumming lessons at the Farabi Music School in 1999. In 2003, she enrolled at the Daya Music Institute, a well-known musical college founded by Deviana Daudsjah. She graduated in 2006 with a focus on drumming and a minor in piano. Her studies quickly paid off as she soon had the opportunity to work with a number of the country’s most famous musicians and play at many major events. She played at the Konser Kemerdekaan (Independence Day Concert) in which she got to jam with legenary musicians such as Daya Swara, Maya Hasan, Karoline Hoefler and Peter Toescher. She also represented Indonesia as a drummer at the International Associations of Schools of Jazz in Fraiburg, Germany – an event that gathers the best and most promising young jazz musicians from around the world.

Dress by Lanvin

As a young professional musician, Titi played on the albums of many prominent recording artists such as Idang Rasjidi, Rieka Roeslan and Ruth Sahanaya. She has also played at Indonesia’s biggest music event, the Java Jazz International Festival, with such luminaries as the New Conservative Trio, Dimi Hapsari, Tony Monaco and Veronica Nunn.

Over the course of her musical career, Titi has become highly sought after as a composer of film scores. In 2009, she and her former husband and musical collaborator, Sri Aksan Sjuman, won the Citra Award for Best Film Soundtrack at the Indonesian Movie Awards for their work on the film King. She has also contributed to the highly-acclaimed soundtracks for films such as Tanah Air Beta, Laskar Pelangi, Sang Penari and Garuda di Dadaku.

When asked what the most challenging part of creating a film score, Titi replied, “Get the feeling right, because you can only get your inspiration from the visuals.”

Titi is an artist who has taken on many challenges in her career. In addition to working behind the scenes on film scores, she has become equally famous for her work in front of the camera as an award winning actress. Her first role came in the film Mereka Bilang, Saya Monyet! (They Say I’m a Monkey!), a movie by filmmaker Djenar Maesa Ayu. Titi originally came onboard the project to create the score for the film, but Djenar soon asked her to take on the role of the main character, Adjeng, an aspiring writer with some troubled relationships. “I was originally offered to play the character because they said my look and my personality was a good match for the character,” she said.

Dress by Hermes

At first, Titi declined the offer due to the fact that she had almost no experience as an actor. But at the urging of Djenar and her family, she eventually decided to take the plunge. While she was nervous about performing in front of the camera, she said she was lucky to receive some helpful guidance. “I learned with an acting coach how to get inside the mind of a character,” she said.

It turned out Titi was a natural, as her performance in her very first film netted the Citra Award for Best Newcomer. Titi said that winning that award has been the most satisfying achievement in her career thus far.

Titi’s acting abilities certainly impressed critics and filmmakers, and she was soon offered more roles. In 2010, Titi starred in her third film, Minggu Pagi di Victoria Park, which examined the lives of Indonesian domestic workers in Hong Kong. As part of her research for that film, she interviewed a number of Indonesian workers in Hong Kong and she said was surprised to learn how well they are treated there and how rich their lives could be. The film was another critical success for the young actress and her performance earned her another Citra Award.

Titi has starred in several films since then, including Rindu Purnama, Khalifah, Serdadu Kumbang and Rayya, Cahaya Diatas Cahaya. Her most recent film was Mursala, which was released in April. In that film, she plays a nature-loving girl named Tiur who has a passion for diving. It was a role which required her to shoot several scenes underwater.

During the course of making the movie, Titi said she came to adopt her character’s passion as her own. “Diving is like mediation for me, it gives me a feeling of calm and relaxation,” she said, adding that her favorite place to dive in Indonesia is off the coast of Tulamben in Bali.

Dress by La Perla, Earring by Anton H. at Masari

At the moment, Titi has her hands full with a number of other projects. “Right now I’m working on a new album. All of the compositions and songs are my own. I arranged and produced it myself. The plan is to release it after Lebaran.”

Producing and creating all of the songs and compositions for a new album seems like a monumental task, but Titi said it is the kind of work that she enjoys the most. When asked what the one thing in the world that she cannot get enough of, she replied, “Creating art that is better than what I’ve done before.”

For her many accomplishments as both an actress and musician, Titi was chosen to be one of the panelists on Indonesia Mencari Bakat, the local version of the popular Got Talent television franchise that seeks the most talented performers from across all genres. Titi said it’s definitely a job that can have its difficulties. “It’s challenging if I’m not sure what comments to give or if the contestant doesn’t want to listen,” she explained. “But what I love about the show is that I can share my knowledge and I can also can learn a lot of things from the contestants too. It’s definitely fun.”

When asked what makes her happiest in life, Titi simply replied, “Being able to inspire other people.” It is something she has certainly done for many aspiring artists in Indonesia, and something we are certain she will continue to do well into the future.

Photographs Ronny Ario Joewono
Styling Peter Zewet
Makeup & Hairdo Ryan Ogilvy
Assistant Photographer Nikho & Indra
Styling Assistant Asti Tiara & Koko Namara
Videographer Dimas Anggakara