PADI and Indonesia’s Kasih Tak Sampai (Unrealized Love)

By N Mark Castro

After the recent national elections in Malaysia and the mid-term elections in the Philippines, the next step would be to assess the exciting presidential elections of Indonesia in 2014.

But let’s drop that.

Instead, let’s talk about what painfully woke me up on the radio this morning.

This pretty boy, Vidi Aldiano, is supposed to be the next big thing in Indonesia’s music scene: good looking, talented, and highly smart, from what I heard.

So far, so good.

He’s been playing music since he was 3 years old and has gone on to reap rewards, including gaining the trust of President Susilo Bambang Yudyohono.

They can do a duet if the so please and that would have been just fine … until he did this.

Now he just caught the cross-hair of my sniper scope.

Previously, I already let go of yet another blasphemous act on the song by Judika earlier this year. I figured, it was the start of the year, they’re in a celebratory mood, it’s fine. Allah will forgive them.

Pretty Boy Number 2, Judika, was a runner-up at the 2nd Indonesian Idol and parlayed his musical success into, well, of course, acting.

So far, so good.

They even awarded him as the Best Pretty Boy in 2009 … or something like that.

But when he did this to this song …

The only analogy I could think of at the time was this —

I wasn’t sure whether he wanted to sound like a Western act doing a local ditty or he was just really whining onstage, wasting the full Indonesian Orchestra that backed him up to salvage the song and all I could do was —


Although there is no recorded and direct relations to the song, “Kasih Tak Sampai” (Unrealized Love) derived its phrase from the story of Sitti Nurbaya, penned by the late great writer Marah Roesli.

Written in 1922, “Siti Nurbaya: Kasih Tak Sampai” gives you the right backdrop in fully understanding the depth of pining for one’s desperation in love.


The tale tells of the tragic fate of teenage lovers Sitti Nurbaya and Samsulbahri: the boy is forced to go to Batavia (what is now known as Jakarta). Abandoned, desperate, and lonely, Nurbaya unhappily offers herself to marry the abusive and rich Datuk Meringgih as a way for her father to escape debt; she is later killed by Meringgih.

It ends with Samsulbahri, then a member of the Dutch colonial army, killing Datuk Meringgih during an uprising and then dying from his wounds.

Written in formal Malay and including traditional Minangkabau storytelling techniques such as pantuns, Sitti Nurbaya touches on the themes of colonialism, forced marriage, and modernity. Well-received upon publication, Sitti Nurbaya continues to be taught in Indonesian high schools. It has been compared to Romeo and Juliet and the Butterfly Lovers.

The author’s life was as equally interesting as the story he wrote. According to critics, Roesli had to struggle between his West Sumatran Minangkabau culture and his Dutch education; at one point accused of being Europeanized. Rumor had it that it reflected Roesli’s feelings after he had chosen a Sundanese woman to be his wife, when Roeli’s family brought him back to Padang and forced him to marry a Minangkabau woman chosen for him.

Star-crossed lovers.

It killed the box-office hearts of the people all the time.


What is also interesting to note is the legendary Minangkabau ethnic group, also known as Minang (Urang Minang). I’ve had the privilege to meet the current “matriarch” and “shepherd” who had invited me to their traditional event.

Despite the colonization of the Dutch, the arrival of Islam, the advent of progress, and the connectivity of the internet, the Minangkabau had managed to preserve their cultural heritage. Truly an amazing feat in this highly globalized world.

And what adds admiration to their culture is their societal structure, which is matrilineal: with property and land passing down from mother to daughter, while religious and political affairs are the responsibility of men (although some women also play important roles in these areas).

Imagine that.

In a nation of 250 million with a highly patriarchal society, the Minangkabau has continued to elevate their women in a role that befits her.

What is more remarkable, this matrilineal inheritance is cherished among the Minangkabau. And while the women’s roles may seem conventional, their sense of equality with men and their shared power is not. When couples marry, husbands move into their wives’ homes, nearly all decisions require consensus between men and women, and, significantly, girls are treasured.


No wonder they are the world’s largest matrilineal society.

Although the Minangkabau are strongly Islamic, they also follow their ethnic traditions, or adat, which was derived from animist beliefs before the arrival of Islam. Remnants of animist beliefs still exist even among some practicing Muslims.

Today 4 million Minangs live in West Sumatra, while about 3 million more are scattered throughout many Indonesian and Malay peninsular cities and towns.

And my only wish is that the Islamic Defenders’ Front (FPI) does not manage to soil this amazing culture.

Although, ironically, the FPI has had its own share of being chased out of town by housewives.


And so you can imagine my utter displeasure when Pretty Boy Vidi and Pretty Boy Judika managed to blaspheme the very song that is very much intertwined to the painful love of Siti.

Because if there is one musical talent that has succeeded in expressing the true pining of love, it is none other than the grandfather of Indonesia’s alternative pop/rock band — PADI.

Formed in 1997 when they were still studying at Airlangga University, in the far-flung province of Surabaya, PADI exploded in the entire country — and the region — winning awards left and right, breaking all musical records in the country.

Their second album, Sesuatu Yang Tertunda (2001), which included the song “Kasih Tak Sampai”, carved its legendary domestic sales of approximately 1.8 million copies, and counting.

Rolling Stone Indonesia placed 2 of their albums on its “150 Greatest Indonesian Albums of All Time” list.

It isn’t difficult to understand why when you hear Fadly’s haunting interpretation of the song, which I heard almost 12 years ago when the song exploded in the airwaves of the entire archipelago.

Fadly, vocallist PADI.jpg

The lyrical delivery of the song depicted one man’s desire and frustration, an embodiment of all the emotions wrapped in such youthful love and prevented by authoritative parents.

There was a time when PADI lorded it over the country and brought home musical awards from the region, for 5 consecutive years (2000-2005), including the vaunted MTV Awards Best Band.

Their success mirrored the blaze set forth by another Asian band that preceded them, the Eraserheads,which was a band formed in the mid 90s by students of the University of the Philippines and rocked a nation to its feet, all the way to the Radio City Music Hall in New York to receive the coveted “Moon Man” trophy, which made Eraserheads the first ever Filipino artists to win the award.

Truly, this is a display of Southeast Asia’s continued hold in expressing themselves in music, which traces its roots back to its elders that suffered the agony colonization and  the pains of war.

And so hearing Pretty Boys mangle the song was reminiscent of Harry Connick Jr’s advice to the American Idol contestants:

to make them sound “now” without losing what they were “then.”

Harry Connick Jr even schooled a very defensive Randy Jackson in the art of singing standards: that when it came to interpreting songs of the past, you have to feel both the lyrics and the music, including even the life of the artist.

The point Harry Connick Jr. tried to make, which Jackson didn’t want to hear, was that the show’s contestants didn’t know these classic songs well enough to take liberties with their melodies and lyrics. In doing so, they were murdering the music.

So you can see that despite the talent and success of these two Pretty Boys, I cannot for the life of me accept such musical abuse, especially when Fedly can still belt it like this.

You be the judge.


About Asmartrock

N. Mark Castro is the Southeast Asia Director of JUMP DIGITAL Asia, which is an internationally-awarded and fully integrated digital marketing agency with 5 out of 10 offices in the ASEAN region. He is also the Secretary General of the Philippine Business Club Indonesia, managing and assisting the traffic of investments between the Philippines and Indonesia. He shuttles between Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore, Cambodia, and Australia. The views posted here are his own and do not in any way reflect the views of the companies he represents.

Posted on May 18, 2013, in General, Music, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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Charlotte Setijadi

Anthropologist & Contemporary Historian of Chinese Diaspora in Southeast Asia


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