Charmed by Kunto Aji’s ‘Mantra Mantra Live’
Perfection is Kunto Aji’s very short showcase at Singapore’s Esplanade Theaters On The Bay recently. The venue, the Annexe Studio, is modestly sized, scattered with beanbags and Chiavari chairs, with pillars decorated with fairy lights, the setting was intimate and cozy. Fans gathered at the space knew how lucky they were– there’s no way they’ll get to see him perform in a venue that small now in Indonesia, it’s his first showcase in Singapore and he has never performed in Malaysia.
Kunto Aji is one of Indonesia’s top vocalists and is known for his smart yet heartwrenching lyrics. He first came into the public eye on Indonesian Idol in 2008, and went on to release his debut single Terlalu Lama Sendiri, which became one of the most played songs in Indonesia in 2014. The following year, his debut album Generation Y came out, and he was named the Breakthrough Artist of the Year at the Indonesian Choice Awards. After dropping the Overthinker EP in 2017, Kunto Aji released his sophomore album Mantra Mantra in 2018, showcasing his maturing artistry and relatable songwriting.
Kunto Aji made his Singapore debut at Pesta Raya 2019. With his warm and smooth vocals, he presents a groovy evening with Mantra Mantra Live, where he performs a selection of favourites from his latest album Mantra Mantra and his debut album Generation Y.
Just like the album, Mantra Mantra Live started off with ‘Sulung,’ followed by ‘Rancang Rencana.’ In his opening words, Aji mentioned that Mantra Mantra is an album about mental health, and how in Indonesia it’s a topic that needs more awareness. Lyrics from the album reflect the theme as there are tracks on resting, letting go, coming to terms with unwanted situations.
Throughout the show, Aji weaved between his two albums, while tearing our hearts apart by reminding us of past pains (‘Saudade, ‘Pilu Membiru’) and heals them instantly with his megawatt smile and cheeky lyrics of expectations and promises (‘Ekspektasi,’ ‘Topik Semalam’) . The key track of Mantra Mantra, ‘Rehat’ is even more soothing when heard live.
During that very showcase, Kunto Aji and his band proved that it is possible for musicians to sound multiple times better live than in recorded format. Extra credits have to be given to fans at the venue who not only sang every word wholeheartedly but also added ad-libs and harmonised at certain parts! That just added icing to the cake.
Aji ended his set with the upbeat ‘Jakarta’ and ‘Konon Katanya’ and proceeded to encore with ‘Terlalu Lama Sendiri’ and ‘Akhir Bulan.’
We wish the showcase lasted longer, but for what’s worth, we’re glad we managed to catch this musical genius, his brilliant band and his Mantra Mantra Live in Singapore. Come by this side of the world again soon, Aji!
Photos by Ken Cheong, courtesy of Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay.