Exclusive Feature: Maruli Tampubolon

LAWS & LYRICS. For years, Maruli Tampubolon’s stage was either his office desk or the courthouse. Today, he plies his craft under the spotlight or in front of rolling cameras. He recounts his journey with Joezer Mandagi


Outfit and hat by Saint Laurent, belt by Bottega Veneta, watch by Rolex

Maruli Tampubolon is not exactly a big guy, although he is definitely ripped. And while he does draw attention to himself when he walks into a room, he basically looks and sounds just like one of the guys. But then, he sings. Even when it was only a couple of lines sung in the middle of a busy photo-shoot set, you could feel that it came from the heart. For a brief couple of moments, he was lost in his own world. The way he grinned when he saw a grand piano on set was also a clear giveaway that music was in his soul.

Of course, singing is what he does nowadays, along with a bit of acting. “My first appearance came from Mirwan Suwarso, director of the ‘Jakarta Pagi Ini’ musical,” he begins. “It was there that I developed my confidence in acting. But that was on stage, not in front of a camera.” Apparently, the lighthearted musical is also where he found confidence in his sense of humor, since, as the man put it himself, “on stage, either I get cracked by them, or I crack them up.”


Outfit by Hugo Boss, watch by Bulgari, shoes by Tod’s

From there on things turned out quite well for Tampubolon, and more acting gigs started coming his way. He’s set to appear alongside Raisa Andriana in “Letters for Raisa” and in the brand new military drama series “Patriot” about the Indonesian Army’s premier Special Forces unit, Kopassus.

Still, singing remains his main passion, and Tampubolon’s journey toward becoming a singer has been rather—for the lack of a better word—atypical. “I went to high school in Australia, then I also went to college in Australia where I double-majored in finance and business law,” he explains. But to work as a lawyer in Indonesia, he has to get a law degree in Indonesia. So, he signed up for an executive course at Jakarta State University and for three and a half years he commuted between Perth and Jakarta to attend classes. Afterwards, he worked on getting his MBA and finally returned to Jakarta to work on getting the proper paperwork to become a full-fledged lawyer.


Shirt by Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci, watch by Rolex

And thus began his adventure in corporate law. “I did it all: IPOs, mergers and acquisitions, right issues, obligations, backdoor listing and all that,” he reminisces fondly. But apparently, this was also where Tampubolon’s passion for music was rekindled. “It wasn’t that I lost interest in all that,” he begins, “but every Friday, my boss would play a bit of music in the office. And then I noticed everybody else in the office, and how happy they looked—as if they forgot all about the pile of documents they had.”


Outfit by Hugo Boss, watch by Bulgari

“It made me think,” he goes on, “they don’t know that I could sing, that I also could make them happy.” So, he tendered his resignation and left the company with the blessing of his employer. What about his dad, though? The one who paid for his schooling in Australia, his MBA, his executive law class? Would he consent to let his son relinquish a cushy job and promising career to dabble in the dazzling yet volatile entertainment industry? “He told me, ‘At the end of day, it’s your life. Even if you want to be a house painter, then be the best house painter you can be, and people will look for you,’” he recalls. “Then he told me that I would be happy.”


“Imagine you’re doing something productive and you’re happy doing it. Then you have the whole world”


And thus began his adventure in showbiz. Some of his more recent and notable performances include pairing up with Indonesian diva Syahrini for “Cinta Sendirian” (Lonely Love), working on the songs for the aforementioned “Letters for Raisa” film and preparing a new single to be launched sometime after July, titled “Kau Ucap Selamat Tinggal” (You Say Goodbye).

“I like mushy stuff like this,” he says with a grin, although he’s quite enthusiastic about more hard-hitting genres as well. Another one of Tampubolon’s most memorable collaborations was with “Patriot” co-star Winky Wiryawan at the Djakarta Warehouse Project 2014 event. “I wrote the lyrics and melodies along with kang Winky,” he explains, “then he added his crazy beats. It was amazing. Twelve thousand people were watching.”


Outfit by Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci, watch by Bulgari

Despite the chanting crowds and movie offers, Tampubolon still seems amazingly grounded and honest in pursuing his passion. Although he does talk a lot about pushing his limits, his struggle is mostly internalized. “I have no competition with anyone. My competition is with myself,” he states firmly. Whatever fame he found was also tempered by his faith. “Don’t try to do it to make this or that person happy,” he says when asked about what advice he has for other hopeful artists. “Do it for yourself, as though you’re doing it for God. So whatever you’re doing, be it washing dishes or whatever, you’re happy. Imagine you’re doing something productive and you’re happy doing it. Then you have the whole world.”


Outfit by Louis Vuitton

It’s quite refreshing to encounter this kind of frank and old-fashioned outlook in today’s showbiz scene. Maybe it’s his upbringing or perhaps a result of his time spent working hard towards a career in law. In the end, he carved his own path to happiness. “Life is about options,” he says. “So, just do it with passion and follow your heart.”

Watch: Behind The Scene of Maruli Tampubolon’s Shoot

Photography Adri Krisnadi
Styling Peter Zewet
Styling Assistant Triska Putri
Styling Intern Jay Robert Davies
Videography Fickar Hajar
Grooming Ria Sambuaga
Location The Prohibition Chophouse And Speakeasy Bar (Plaza Senayan Arcadia, Jalan New Delhi No. 9 Pintu 1, Jakarta Selatan; +62 21 5790 1295; www.prohibition.asia)