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Saturday, June 29, 2024

Newsletter: AFGAN - The Indonesian icon makes a global splash with Sonder, his second all-English project, out now


Afgan —one of Indonesia’s biggest music exports— releases Sonder, his second all-English and most ambitious project yet, which is out now via EMPIRE. The EP includes collaborations with two groundbreaking, female Asian acts, “Criminal” with Vietnamese American R&B star, thuy, and “Escape” with Kpop icon, Jessi. The release includes an official music video for “Escape,” which finds Afgan and Jessi on a friend’s retreat in Bali. Stream Sonder here and watch “Escape” here

Sonder, recorded entirely in London, is Afgan’s most personable body of work. An artist since he was 18 years old, who’s been an Indonesian household name for over a decade, Afgan has found his voice. “I’ve come so far and have grown and experienced so much,” Afgan shared. “I didn’t have a say back then on how I wanted my music to be. I was controlled by the market, by what people expected me to be. I really didn’t have the confidence to speak out. But through the years, I’ve become more and more courageous to explore new sounds and to open up more about myself, for people to get to know me on a deeper level. That’s the direction I want to go with my artistry— I want to be more honest. I don’t want to fit in a box and stay in that box forever, because it’s comfortable for everyone. I see myself leaning more towards this direction and evolving.” The meaning of the album’s title, a word Afgan came across on Pinterest, stayed with him, because it’s true— everyone has their own complex story and none are the same. The stories Afgan tells on Sonder include “Escape,” which captures his need for “me” time to recalibrate, especially after living in the public eye for years. He details his overwhelming fear of commitment due to trauma on the emotional ballad, “Shallow Water,” and he discovers comfort in solitude on the euphoric dance track, “Lonely Night.” He courageously opens up lyrically and further departs from his pristine image as his nation’s darling to bring a sense of relatability to his fans like never before. 

Afgan has been redefining Indonesian music on the global stage with his commanding vocals, emotionally charged songwriting and R&B sensibilities. Over his illustrious career, he’s built a massive passionate fanbase of nearly 20 million followers across his social media and hundreds of millions of streams across his music catalog. His 2021 groundbreaking album, Wallflower —his first English project and foray into the global pop market— spotlighted his influence and opened new doors for the Jakarta-based superstar. It earned #1 on Netease International Chart and landed on 10 Spotify New Music Friday Playlists. The album’s top singles, which included “M.I.A” featuring Jackson Wang, “Touch Me” (Remix by Robin Thicke), “Say I’m Sorry,” and “If I Don’t Have Your Love,” have generated more than 40 million streams. Afgan’s star quality continues to take stock internationally. In February, Afgan announced his comeback with the emotionally-riveting single, “Shallow Water,” alongside his U.S concert debut in New York and Los Angeles. The three, sold-out, headlining dates is a new benchmark for Afgan. 

Afgan, the shortened moniker for Afgansyah Reza, grew up in Jakarta, as a shy individual, finding solace in music and honing his natural talent in the privacy of karaoke rooms. His mother’s love for powerhouses like Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Brian McKnight would come to shape his vocal style — he would imitate these artists, practicing their belting and runs. One day, serendipitously, a label VP overheard Afgan’s captivating rendition of John Legend’s “Ordinary People” during a karaoke session and offered him a record contract on the spot. Afgan released his debut album, Confession No.1, in January 2008 and since then, has become an influential, beloved name in Asian entertainment with eight solo albums under his belt. Known for his soulful, buttery vocals, coalesced with R&B and ballad roots, Afgan has headlined arenas throughout Asia, including at Java Jazz Festival, Joyland and PESTAPORA, and toured 60 dates in 2023 alone. His dynamic performance extends from the stage to TV and film, such as the popular Korean reality series, Tripmate: Who Are You. Over the years, his exceptional talents have been recognized with accolades such as winning the MAMA Award for Best Asian Artist Indonesia in 2018 and the VLive Award for Favorite Artist Indonesia in 2019. He’s collaborated with fashion brands, like Louis Vuitton, Prada, Coach and Kenzo, and with artists such as B.I, Jackson Wang, Robin Thicke, and Raisa. Most recently, two of his singles, “Panah Asmara” and “Lenggang Puspita,” went viral on TikTok with millions of videos created. As he embarks into his next era, a year that’s already brimming with promise, including a new album and more world dates, Afgan is unabashedly him. 


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