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by Farah 'Fairy' Mahdzan (5 Feb 2006)

It is a bad idea to have a conversation with friends at a café where you’re sitting just meters away from a live band noisily playing away.

Given the same situation, it is no doubt a worse idea to try talking to someone whom you just met. Such was the case of my encounter with 28-year-old Arina Ephiphania Simangunsong (phew), MOCCA's lead vocalist.

Between the half-shouting and the tiny flashes of light bouncing off the alloys that were Arina’s behel (braces), I started conversing with the band’s only female member.

MYINDO.COM: How do you like Malaysia?
ARINA: I think it’s great, KL is a city that is sort of between Singapore who is up here (gestures with her hands) and Jakarta who is down there a bit (wiggles her fingers lower). KL’s like an in-between, progressively developing like Singapore but at the same time shares things like traffic jam woes with Jakarta! My sister (writer Dewi Lestari) thinks that Malaysia’s come a long way. I hope that Indonesia will catch up eventually.

MYINDO.COM: Where have you been in KL?
ARINA: I haven’t been around, since our time here is limited. We stay in the Bukit Bintang area, that’s pretty much where I’ve been. Like Sungei Wang. Oh I love it there.

MYINDO.COM: Reminds you of Mangga Dua, doesn’t it? :P
ARINA: Yes yes! Sungei Wang is something like Mangga Dua, haha.

MYINDO.COM: Why on earth were you guys in Singapore just yesterday, here in KL today, then going back to Singapore tomorrow, then coming back to KL right after that??
ARINA: I know! Our schedule's been absolutely mad, jumping between Singapore and KL. We're juggling our time to accomodate the two labels who are helping to promote our music (one Malaysian and one Singaporean), so this is the best that we can do. Plus our plans to come visit this part of the world was a last minute affair.

Arina speaking animatedly with
Photo by Fizzy Lodestar Music

MYINDO.COM: MOCCA is one of the few bands considered successful in breaking the mainstream market in Indonesia, especially given that you released your albums using a non-mainstream recording label and your material is in English. Did you ever stop to think that English might be a hindrance to people accepting your music in Indonesia?
ARINA:I believe that music is like art. Some artists like to draw using oil paint, some like water colors. The same with English vs. Bahasa Indonesia lyrics, we prefer to write our songs in English because it is what appeals to us, and it is up to the people if they like us. Although I do have to admit there is a certain class of people who can appreciate MOCCA’s music - they tend to be better educated and are in the younger age bracket, like junior and high school students. I think perhaps the concept of having a diary as outlined by our lyrics appeals to young girls kali ya! But our music’s easy listening enough that almost anyone can enjoy it kok.

MYINDO.COM: We read in one of your CD in-lays (Friends album) that Daniel Ziv wrote the lyrics for a song, Lucky Man.
ARINA: Oh yes, he did, he’s a really witty guy and is best friends with my sister Dewi. Have you ever read his book, Jakarta Inside Out? It’s just the funniest.

MYINDO.COM: Yes I have. I love his creative outlook on mundane things.
ARINA: That’s great! It’s too bad what happened to Bangkok Inside Out. I thought that was a shame.

MYINDO.COM: It is a terrible shame. The Thai government doesn’t know what it’s missing. So anyway, moving along.

In the music scene, are you a fan of anyone in Indonesia?
ARINA: Oh we love Naif (modern Jakartan band emulating ‘70s music), we’re friends with them and we think their stuff’s brilliant. We’re inspired by them.

MYINDO.COM: What do you think of Peterpan (current hot Indonesian band)?
ARINA: They’re successful, not just in Indonesia but also Malaysia. Well I’m proud to say they too are from Bandung! But the similarity ends there of course, they’ve got their own style and we’ve got ours. Congratulations to them for doing so well.

MYINDO.COM: You don’t think much of their music do you?
ARINA: (smiling diplomatically). Well, a lot of people seem to like their music. Oh, but there is one band I can’t really stand. Radja!

MYINDO.COM: What's wrong with them?
ARINA: I don't know, they're just ... too aneh (weird) for me.

MYINDO.COM: Why can't I reach your website,
ARINA: Hehe, it’s not up at the moment, the guy who’s supposed to be doing it is putting it off! We have to fix that haha.

MYINDO.COM: So you’re native of Bandung. What are places of interest that you’d recommend people to go?
ARINA: Wah, I don’t go out much yah, I like staying at home so I really couldn’t tell you, bingung!

MYINDO.COM: But Bandung brownies sure are good eh?
ARINA: Oh iya, memang, we’re famous for Brownies Kukus! The famous ones are made by Amanda.

MYINDO.COM: Yeah I read that the lines you have to queue up for those yummy things are like giant snakes.

I think one of the more interesting sights in Bandung is Jalan Cihampelas where you have all those statues of giant cartoon and pop icons along the road, where the factory clothing outlets are.
ARINA: Oh my God, you like that street? I think that’s one of the things I’m embarrassed about Bandung. The statues are norak (tacky).

MYINDO.COM: Tacky can be cool hehe. :P

MYINDO.COM: Who are your main musical influences?
ARINA: Frank Sinatra! We love Swedish pop too. I love Disney movies, Alice in Wonderland is my favorite. In fact, I dream to sing for a Disney movie one day.

MYINDO.COM: Go for it girl.
ARINA: Ga pede! (not confident!)

MYINDO.COM: Oh come now, go on and send a demo to Disney.
ARINA: Hehe. (*)


Thus endeth my 30 minutes with Arina of MOCCA.

We talked about other petty things, but this is pretty much everything worth sharing with you.

I could not speak with the boys as it was physically unfeasible given the situation we were in. Note to self: insist on moving to a less noisy location to conduct future interviews!


- With special thanks to Jemy of MOCCA Management and the ever friendly Soemardjan family.

Read also MOCCA Plays Kuala Lumpur.

External links:

MTVAsia interviews Mocca



Past interviews Fairy has put other poor souls through:

An Interview with Adhitya Mulya, author of Jomblo

Inside Out with Daniel Ziv & Guy Sharett

Meeting Ruth Sahayana in Person

Krisdayanti Shines in Cahaya Concert, Singapore

Nadia M. Yuniardo: Writing news in English is a challenge

Dutch Guy, Fascinated with Indonesia, Creates

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