Perhaps Indonesia’s most famous pop export, Anggun Cipta Sasmi, can look back on a successful venture that began with recording her first album at the age of 9.
Anggun, now 39, has come a long way since her days as a childhood star, transforming into a pop diva who is both a citizen of the world and the pride of Indonesia, at home here as much as in France and the first Indonesian performer to make it into the European and American record charts.
Anggun’s latest offering, an album released in May, features her best known work of the past decade. “Best-Of: Design of a Decade 2003-2013” is a testament to Anggun’s hard work.
She left Indonesia behind in 1994 to pursue an international career — a bold move for someone aged just 20 and one of the most famous stars in her home country at the time.
Still, she longed for more.
“I dreamt of having this international career, but producers won’t come to Indonesia to look for talent when there is so much available in their own countries,” she once said in an interview with Billboard Magazine.
“I had to go there. I was curious, and I think it’s good to change.
“In Indonesia, we don’t have that much information coming in; it comes from just one source. And the Internet wasn’t as big as it is now.”
But success didn’t come overnight. Anggun, who had first decided to try her luck in London but later moved to France, struggled hard before she was finally introduced to Erick Benzi.
Benzi immediately signed her and helped her achieve an international breakthrough with the remarkable album “Snow on the Sahara,” released in 1997.
Anggun underwent a transition to become the person she is now, describing the journey in a 2006 interview with Trax magazine as having “to convert from being a shy, introverted, ‘real’ Javanese woman to being an unabashed, fearless, ‘fake’ Javanese woman.”
She certainly pulled it off.
Be that as it may, Anggun has not forgotten her roots and regularly records songs in Indonesian or incorporates Indonesian elements into her music.
She also currently serves as a judge on the Indonesian spinoff of TV talent show “The X Factor.”
“Best-Of: Design of a Decade 2003-2013” features Anggun’s beloved hits including such as “Echo (You and I)” and “Savior,” the latter of which featured on the soundtrack of Louis Leterrier-directed movie “Transporter 2.”
Two Indonesian songs, the wonderfully feel-good “Hanyalah Cinta” (“Only Love”) and “Sebelum Berhenti,” (“Before Stopping”) are included on the album, as well as two previously unreleased songs, “Innocent Lies” and “Blind.”
Both tracks are the result of a collaboration with German musician Schiller.
While Anggun has alternated between rock, pop, R&B and an electronic-infused style throughout her career, all her albums have one thing in common: her distinctive, powerful voice.
Although Anggun has moved between genres almost effortlessly, ballads like “Lie to Me” and “A Crime,” as well as emotionally laden tunes such as “Buy Me Happiness” highlight her vocal abilities best.
A new exclusive version of “Snow on the Sahara” rounds off the album in a fitting way, as the song that first brought her to fame abroad.
Anggun is said to currently be working on a full-length Indonesian album, which would be her first in two decades and long awaited by her home fans.
Nonetheless, more songs in English and French are likely to follow, as hopefully, in another decade or so, will the next greatest hits compilation.