Pop goes the fiddle

This article was published in The Star, the leading English daily newspaper in Malaysia, Sunday, 20 May 2007.
A music sensation called Maylaffayza has been getting Indonesians moving to a beat that’s a fusion of hip-hop, rap and R&B. By NILA TANZIL IN the Indonesian music industry, Maylaffayza stands out for being the only solo pop-classic-crossover female violinist. She combines hip-hop, rap and R&B rhythms and a touch of popular Indonesian tunes with the sounds of her violin. In some pieces, she also sings. Maylaffayza started to play the violin when she was just nine. Her uncle, Iswan Sutopo, a musician, gave her an old violin. She put the instrument next to her bed and wished that one day she would be able to play it.

Maylaffayza agrees that the violin is serious and elegant, but wants it to rock, too.

Seeing that their girl was so determined, her parents sent her to Bina Musika, a music school specialising in stringed instruments. Her first lessons were not easy. “I could not even make a nice sound with my violin. It was so difficult!” she laughs. However, her first experience did not discourage her from learning the delicate instrument. “I was so excited with my course and could not wait to be able to play well.” When she was 10, Indonesia’s renowned violin maestro Idris Sardi took her in as his only apprentice. Sardi gave her a private lesson every week, but she had to practise at least three hours each day. During the holidays, she practised for five hours. To this day, the maestro still spares time for Maylaffayza, who turns 31 this year. These days, the lessons are not as intense as they used to be, and the schedule is more flexible. 1994 was a memorable year for Maylaffayza. “It was my first performance and I had to play duet with the maestro Idris Sardi, my teacher”, she says. “It was an honour to play together with him, but on the other hand, it was big pressure too.” Standing in front of hundreds of people with a well-known violinist was definitely not easy. “I was so nervous that I would make a mistake and disappoint him.” Maylaffayza made her public debut as a solo violinist in 2000 when she performed for a variety show in RCTI, the leading private TV channel in Indonesia. I still remember attending her performance in one of the cafes in Jakarta years ago. She played in that café weekly, with a male solo pianist. I became a regular customer there as I fell in love with her performance. In February of 2007, I had the chance to see her perform again. I have to say that she gave a completely different performance than the ones I had seen before. She has found her own music and looks very comfortable, confident and expressive on stage. When asked why she chose to be a professional violinist while her degree was a Bachelor of Arts in Industrial Product Design from Jakarta’s Trisakti University, she says, “I decided to be a solo violinist rather than working as an industrial product designer because I love music, I love the violin.” When I think of the word “violin”, the first few words that come to my mind will be classic, serious and elegant. Maylaffayza agrees: “That is the image and I do not want to change that perception. Instead, I want to give more added values to that image.”

When Maylaffayza performs, she finds that the audience gets enthusiastic but don’t quite know how to respond to it.

By using R&B, hip-hop and rap as the rhythm of her music, she wants to convince people that listening to the violin can be fun, too. “Violin music is for everyone, not necessarily for the older generation only”, she says. “I want the younger generation and teenagers to enjoy and appreciate it as well.” Maylaffayza is currently preparing her first solo album. She will be the album producer, working in collaboration with music arranger Bobby Soerjadi and composer Maestro Sardi. They have been working on the album for the past three years and are determined to release it this year. “It will be a breakthrough in the music industry”, she says confidently. “I used to listen to Michael Jackson back in the old days”, she admits. “Nowadays, I listen to Beyonce, Usher and Alicia Keys ? they inspire my music”. “I am happy to see that Indonesians’ appreciation for instrumentalists have increased a lot. People are more enthusiastic nowadays. Unfortunately, they just do not know how to express their enthusiasm”, she explains. “It is very different when people go to see a band or singer. They can be very expressive and sing along ? when seeing a performance by an instrumentalist, they do get enthusiastic but just do not know how to respond to it.” Maylaffayza is one of the few Indonesian musicians who maximises the use of technology. She uses her blog (maylaffayza.multiply.com/) as one of her marketing tools. “Blogging is not only fun, I use it effectively to make people aware of my music, my activity, my life”, she says. “Apart from that, the readers get to know me personally. It creates a closer bond as I am the one who responds to them directly, using my own informal language”, she explains. “Blogs enable people to discuss things. It opens two-way communications whereas a website is only one way,” she adds. Maylaffayza always embraces every moment of her life. She says “I am falling in love with my life every day. I do what I love and it is such a blessing for me. Not many people have that privilege.”


  • Nila, a well written, detailed account of Maylaffayza and her music. It was a pleasure to read as would be to see this artiste extraordinaire perform. Doing justice to Maylaffayza would to go see her show many times. Would she be willing to come to here to perform for the Malaysian audience? Getting organisers for the show would be no problem. It will be a show to watch out for. Meanwhile I am waiting for her solo album release.

  • Hey Nila, I am sorry.
    I didn’t realise when I read it the first time that you actually wrote this article.
    What a great piece of writing and thank you again for sharing it with us.

  • Nila, I thought this might interest you and your readers.This was in return to my note to Maylaffayza yesterday regarding the two questions I asked her after reading your story of her.

    ” Hi Rajahram!
    Thanks for your comments on my blog (and thanks for Google-ing, and visiting my blog).
    I will definitely release my album this year, and the expected release date will be September this year in Indonesia. If all goes well, it should reach stores in Malaysia and Singapore the following month. I’ll cross my fingers for that. Then of course, performances in Malaysia will follow, unless someone there wants to invite me to perform there this summer.”

  • what i wld say is that she’s living in her dreams now……her studies will only bring her an income but now she’s bringing with her the memories that will be cherished for lifetime, right?

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