THE SINGER

“Are you watching Fortals, Miss?” enquired Amanda, her eyes beaming with anticipation.

“Yes, I am. However, I am not quite familiar with the singers,” I said.

“You should go, Miss,” urged Amanda, “You should watch Teza Sumendra.”

“Yes, Teza Sumendra, Miss. He is good!” piped in Bagus, a classmate of Amanda, who, like her, was obviously an admirer of the young Indonesian jazz-R&B singer.

That he is a good Indonesian jazz singer was all I knew of him because that phrase was what people were throwing at me every time talk centred on the featured artists at Fortals Jazz Festival. To recapitulate, Fortals is an annual music festival organized by the senior high students of Global Prestasi School which kicks off with inter school futsal and basketball competitions and culminates with a concert featuring Indonesian singers and bands. This year’s Fortals focused on the jazz genre for the concert.

The screen is as close as you can get to Teza Sumendra if you are nowhere near the stage.

The screen is as close as you can get to Teza Sumendra if you are nowhere near the stage.

Piqued by the fervid recommendation, I searched through YouTube to get a glimpse of Teza Sumendra. It was one jaw-dropping discovery, which stoked my eagerness to watch him live on stage. His deep, gravelly voice is a definite head turner: it stops you in your tracks and beckons you sexily to face him and listen to him. It is as if the world suddenly disappeared, leaving only the two of you. His cover of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” was astonishing. Each word rang clearly thus the message was transparent. The video where he sang a duet with Indonesian song bird Raisa was cute, to say the least. It never crossed my mind that a jazz version of “Once Upon a Dream” , the main song from Walt Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty”, could actually be possible and, surprisingly, vitalizing. In the midst of marking papers, I suddenly was gripped with the urge to waltz through my office. Then there were his terpsichorean skill that was sharp and smooth.

That Teza was going to be one of the guest artists at Fortals Jazz Festival (held last October), alongside Maliq and the Essentials and Abdul and the Coffee Theory, was something to really look forward to. And there was no prize for guessing who won over the hearts most of the young concert goers – Teza Sumendra was their idol of the night, who rocked the stage with his vibrant covers of trending pop songs (think Bruno Mars, Niki Minaj et al), his own compositions, and definitely brought the house down when he danced to Silento’s “Watch me Whip” with his band, The Stepbrothers and Stepsisters.

Teza Sumendra and The Stepbrothers hit the stage at Fortals Jazz Festival 2015 to ear-splitting screams

Teza Sumendra and The Stepbrothers hit the stage at Fortals Jazz Festival 2015 to ear-splitting screams

I was in complete agreement when a friend blurted out, “OMG! He can sing all night or just stand there. I wouldn’t mind at all!”

Actually, I was a couple of steps ahead. I was thinking of him being my wake-up call.

Fortals Jazz Festival was more than two months ago and I still find my thought drifting back to that fantastic night. Teza was pure entertainment on stage who, on hindsight, took me back to Filipino singer Gary Valenciano. Christened Mr. Pure Energy, Gary’s vivacity in performing on stage was unparalleled. Like Teza, he could sing and dance with relative ease and agility. The Man could move, groove, rap, and croon! The only difference between the two, I surmised, is the vocal quality – Teza has a deep, throaty voice compared to Gary’s higher timbre. Nonetheless, both electrified the night, making each second pulse with enthusiasm.

(Photography by Yana)

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