Windy Setiadi : The Girl Wonder


How far do we care about the future of our own cultural and traditional heritage? Indonesia has thousands of different cultures spread across the archipelago, something that we are used to being proud of. The richness of our arts, traditions, ethno-musicology can always attract tourists from all over the world,  besides the heavenly landscape found in many places. We know that it’s important, but not many of us care enough about it. Some people even think that’s it’s out of date, old fashion and irrelevant to fit today’s trend. While many of us tend to avoid this subject, we met an Indonesian lady who currently lives in New York that know how important it is to keep preserving the heritage, even further to introduce our traditional musics to the world from where he’s staying at.

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Let’s meet Windy Setiadi, the girl wonder. She started on piano at the tender age of 5. Three years after she learned violin from Nusjirwan Lesmana (former concert master of Twilite Orchestra) at  Yayasan Pendidikan Musik, Jakarta for about 8 years. During the learning time she had already played for several community orchestras in Jakarta. After graduating from high school in 2003, she decided to continue her study at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. She changed her mind when she was half-way done with Music Education major and decided to switch to Music Production & Engineering. Fortunately, her performances at Berklee allowed her to introduce our culture as well as involve it with her numerous projects.

Windy Setiadi (10)Windy got the chance to perform in several Indonesian cultural events while she was still at the first year of college and found a surprising fact soon after. “That was the time when I finally realized how Indonesian culture is highly appreciated here in the United States.” she said. This experience led her to start playing Balinese gamelan by joining Gamelan Galak Tika in 2004 under the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, led by the great composer/clarinetist Evan Ziporyn from Bang on a Can All-Stars. She met so many great people there, such as Alex Rigopulos (co-founder and CEO of Harmonix, the creator of Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and Dance Central) as well as I Dewa Ketut Alit (former artistic director of Gamelan Cudamani, who later on became her mentor in learning Balinese music). Several months later, she had the chance to perform with Gamelan Galak Tika at Zankel Hall in Carnegie Hall; which is considered to be one of the most prestigious stages in the world. In 2005, the Gamelan ensemble finally made its international tour debut to Bali. While visiting Bali, she decided to study Balinese music intensively.

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Her colorful journey continued on. Throughout her second year in college she was hired to be the assistant conductor of the Berklee Contemporary Wind Orchestra. Windy Setiadi (2)“I definitely learned a lot from that experience”, she recalled. She was able to professionally manage the orchestra musicians as well as taking care of all the administration-related works until she completed a year of duty. But then she started to feel that it was not the place where she wanted to spend the rest of her musical career. She made another u-turn leaving her Music Education program. She graduated in 2007 with a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Production & Engineering.

Windy did her very first internship at Electric Lady Studios, a legendary recording studio originally built by Jimi Hendrix in 1970. This first giant step soon followed by another internship at World Music Institute. She stayed there until she was hired at a post-production company as their studio manager. “However I wasn’t fully satisfied with that last job, so I decided to go back to Jakarta for a while.” she said. “Luckily I was offered a gig as an assistant engineer for one of Slank‘s Marlboro Tour events, which was a big deal for me because networking with music industry people there will definitely benefits me.”

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Windy Setiadi (5)Then she returned to New York. She worked as DJ for various fashion shows for a while then continued her calling as the ambassador of Indonesian traditional music. She performed at Bang on a Can Festival at World Financial Center, NY, Indonesian Cultural Night at MIT Kresge Auditorium, Cambridge, MA and also Target First Saturday at the Brooklyn Museum, NY in 2008. “With all its limitation in New York, Indonesian traditional music managed to amaze the New Yorkers through its beauty and exoticism in every showcase and has been getting tremendous appreciations from the audience”, Windy stated. Looking at this pleasantful response, she moved on doing it further. “I was appointed by the Indonesia Permanent Mission to the United Nations last year to represent the graceful art of angklung (an Indonesian traditional instrument made out of two bamboo tubes attached to a bamboo frame), which was later got inscribed to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Humanity by the UNESCO. The music was played by the women of Indonesian diplomats who never played angklung before but with only couple months of practice, we still received a lot of compliments.” She’s opened up the door and now she’s waiting for our response. “In the future, I think it will be great if our people here also showing their efforts by participating with all those foreigners in representing Indonesian music. Sadly, from my own experience, all of the local Indonesian music organizations here are presented by non-Indonesian.”  This is something ironic. We believe it’s time to take some action regarding the preservation of our own cultural heritage. Because if it’s not us, who else will preserve it?

Let’s get back to Windy Setiadi. If you follow her biography from the beginning, you will easily notice that Windy Setiadi is one of a kind. While some people don’t even know their own potential, Windy has been working really hard to optimize and utilize every gift she possesed within. Windy Setiadi (3)Look at how incredibly wide she’s been going so far. She’s a producer, engineer, arranger, conductor, music director, copyist and also multi-instrumentalist, including her passion to bring our ethnic musics and instruments to be known internationally. And we haven’t mentioned that she was once a model by request. What’s also great about her is she never stops moving. She has the passion to try something new all the time, and what amaze us is she seems to succeed in every new thing she tries. Today she still has tons of activities. Besides getting her Master’s Degree in Music Technology at New York University, she’s still working as a freelancer at post production studios, recording, mixing, teaching, directing, as well as performing with her own project and other people’s projects for various events. Recently she’s also been working on my debut album in collaboration with classical pianist Ferdy Tumakaka, where they do a lot of explorations on Indonesian ethnic instruments, combining eastern sounds with western sensibility. Having said that, her main focus right now is actually shaping her accordion jazz techniques and improvisation by havWindy Setiadi (4)ing private lesson with the legendary Gil Goldstein. She knows exactly that jazz always welcomes any kind of musics and has a very high ability to blend harmoniously with them all. We dropped her a question, asking how far is the importance of jazz to introduce our traditional culture, instruments and music in New York? And here’s her answer. “Jazz is a very dynamic and could fit in our traditional culture, instruments, and music. I’d say New York has no culture, you could possibly find anyone from all around the world in this city. I also believe that the taste of Indonesian music will make a whole new breed of jazz that the modern and mix society of New Yorkers will be very excited to discover.”

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You might have a question like we do, why she chose New York to be her new hometown. Windy Setiadi (9)This is her answer:  “I chose New York City for my next destination after Boston because I wanted to meet more creative people in the industry, and I think New York offers this opportunity. I found so many extraordinary people living here, not only musicians, but also those who are doing so many interesting things. Everybody comes to New York to perform, free or not free. You name it, we got it. On the other hand, the city fits my personality the best.”  Having a maestro like Goldstein as her mentor will surely enable her to reach higher state. “Gil Goldstein is such an amazing person, I am so fortunate to be his one-and-only accordion student at the moment. Of course I’d love to study some arranging from him too, if there’s time, and hopefully I could take him to Indonesia sooner or later so people there could see a lot more of him.” she said proudly. We can’t help but wonder what she’s going to be after that. Longer career-list or becoming world’s famous multi-talented artist doesn’t seem to out of reach.

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We all should proud to have someone like Windy Setiadi. We have a lot to learn from her. The way she push herself, the endurance, spirit, strength and passion, the way she achieve each dream she has, and of course her never ending effort to bring our beautiful culture abroad. While we are often complaining  that 24 hours is not enough, she shows us how she can manage her time to do so many things successfully. We wish Windy all the best, may the flame never die. We really can’t wait to see more amazing achievements come from her.

Written by: Riandy Kurniawan
All photos provided by Windy Setiadi