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Anggun C. Sasmi
- Anggun Cipti Sasmi
- Jakarta Indonesia
1974-1994: Birth, Encounter with Music and Success in Indonesia
At a young age, Anggun decided to follow in the footsteps of her father, Darto Singo, and become an entertainer. During her early years, she was influenced by the rock music of native Javanese artists and by rock & roll singers and bands, such as Elvis Presley, Metallica and The Police. She was educated in Catholic schools. Anggun began performing at age 7 and recorded her first album two years later. She scored a string of successful singles and albums in late 80's but Anggun's fame reached its peak with the release of her 1990 hit, "Tua Tua Keladi"--a story of a flirtatious old mean--which garnered her a Most Popular Indonesian Artist award. The single itself was a massive hit in Indonesia, peaking at number one for one month and cemented Anggun's position as one of Indonesia's most popular singers. In 1992, Anggun began a relationship with Michel de Gea, a French man, whom she had met the year before in Borneo while touring. They eventually decided to tie the knot, despite their age gap and a rumoured objection by Anggun's family, reportedly because they felt Anggun was too young to get married. She also founded her own record company, Bali Cipta Records, and released what would be her final Indonesian studio album, "Anggun C. Sasmi...Lah!!!". She attempted to shed her tomboy image with the video for the album's first single, "Kembalilah Kasih (Kita Harus Bicara)" (English: "Come Back My Love (We Need to Talk)"). The album was another smash hit for Anggun but she began to feel unsatisfied with her success in her country and started thinking about having an international music career. The following year, she released a best-of compilation album of all her Indonesian hits, entitled "Yang Hilang" (English: "The Missing One") and sold her record company to fund her move to Europe.
1995-1996: Tough Beginnings in Europe
Having given up all of her success in Indonesia, Anggun and her then-husband moved to UK. The couple settled in London for around a year. In a 2006 interview with an Indonesian magazine, Anggun admitted that she experienced "culture shock" and had some serious financial problem facing a new life in Europe, saying "I thought the money that I got by selling my record company was enough [to sustain life in UK], but I began to lose my money, little by little. I had to spend so much money on taking cabs and eating! So I ended up taking buses everywhere and going to clubs to introduce myself as a singer". She also admitted that she had to be a 'fake Javanese' that "I had to change from being this shy, introvert, real Javanese woman to being an unabashed, fearless, fake Javanese woman". She began writing songs and recording demos, but after a few months, all the demos she had sent to record companies around UK came with negative replies. She eventually realised that her career in the UK was going nowhere and began thinking about moving to another country. She thought about moving to the Netherlands, thinking that it would be easier to start her international career there since there were a lot of Indonesian people in the country. But she changed her mind and went to France instead, and this time she wouldn't leave. She recalls, "The moment I stepped my feet in Paris, I felt like home right away. So I decided to stay".
1997-1999: Au nom de la lune, Snow on the Sahara and international success
2 years after leaving Indonesia, in 1996 finally Anggun's international career saw the light of the day. She was introduced to famed French singer, Florent Pagny through an acquaintance. Pagny later introduced Anggun to producer/songwriter Erick Benzi (who previously had worked with Celine Dion, Jean-Jacques Goldman and Johnny Hallyday, among others). Impressed by her talent, Benzi immediately offered Anggun a record deal and on the same year, Anggun was signed to Columbia France label. Anggun began work on her international debut album with Benzi as well as a handful of musicians and songwriters, including Jacques Veneruso, Gildas Arzel and Nikki Matheson. The result was "Au Nom de La Lune" (English: "In the name of the moon"). Although the majority of the album was in French, it also had minor Indonesian lyrical insertions (written by Anggun herself) on several songs such as "La rose des vents" and "Selamanya", as well as English.
Most notably, the album was also a huge artistic departure to Anggun's trademark 'lady rocker' image she had previously been famous for during her years in Indonesia. Instead, Au nom de La Lune experimented more with world music and adult contemporary sounds. It has been said that Benzi suggested Anggun to 'change' her image but Anggun has said that she too felt it was the time for her to 'become a woman', as she was in her early 20s that time and feeling that she needed to be 'feminine'.
The album was released in June 1997 and the first single off the album was "La neige au Sahara". It quickly became a hit in France (peaking at number 16 on the French Singles Chart), being the most played single in France of 1997. However, the second single "La rose des vents" failed to match its predecessor success, only charting outside the Top 40 and stayed for a brief 2 weeks on the chart. Nevertheless, the third single (also the album's track title), "Au nom de la lune" received moderate success, despite it only managed to reach number 60 on the same chart. The fourth and final single off the album, "La ligne de sens" eventually became the album's least successful release, it never charted and was considered a flop.
Despite it only spawned one major hit single, Au nom de la lune was a successful album in France. It peaked at number 34 on the French Albums Chart (the first for an Asian artist) and has approximately sold around 150,000 copies in France alone (certified Double-Gold).
A few months later, the English version of the album was released in Europe and Asia (in total amount of 33 countries worldwide). It was released under 2 titles, "Anggun" and "Snow on the Sahara", with various artworks (the variety of releases later became Anggun's trademark in releasing her album). In Asia, the "Anggun" version was released as 2 special versions in Japan, Malaysia and Indonesia (in the Japanese version, it included 3 additional French tracks from Au nom de la lune and in the Indonesian/Malaysian version, the song "A Rose in the Wind" was recorded in Indonesian, titled "Kembali" and "By the Moon" was replaced with its French original version, "Au nom de la lune").
The album contained the adaptations of the French songs on "Au nom de la lune" (adapted by Nikki Matheson) but it also included a cover version of a David Bowie hit, "Life on Mars" (it was also released as a promotional single in the US)
The first single of the album was "Snow on the Sahara" and it immediately became a significant hit in Asia and Europe, reaching Top 20 in several countries. It became a number-one hit in Italy as well as in Indonesia and Malaysia.
Coincidentally, the following release of the album, "A Rose in the Wind" also failed to gain the same success "Snow on the Sahara" had experienced. It only charted in Italy at number 17 and became virtually unheard. However, its Indonesian version, "Kembali", became a significant hit in Indonesia and has become one of Anggun's most popular hits in the region. "Dream of Me" was also released in Japan, but it failed to gain public attraction and never charted.
In 1998, Anggun set her eyes on breaking into the North American market. She released "Snow on the Sahara" in May 1998 in United States with the 11-track version ("Memory of Your Shores" and all the interludes on the original version were omitted). She went on an extensive tour for almost a year in the States, including a supporting act for Bruce Hornsby and Natalie Merchant, as well as participating at the Lilith Fair (performing with Sarah McLachlan and Erykah Badu on stage). She also performed on The Rosie O'Donnell Show and was given a huge media coverage on Rolling Stones, Billboard and CNN. Despite all this publicity, Snow on the Sahara wasn't necessarily a commercial success in US, having only sold around 100,000 copies. Nevertheless, it still remains to be one of the highest selling albums by Asian artists on the market. Anggun also made a history for being the first Asian artist to be charted on Billboard (although the album only peaked at number 23 on the Heatseekers chart and never broke into the Top 200 Albums chart. It was Utada Hikaru who became the first Asian artist to chart in the Top 200 Albums 6 years later).
In 1999, "Snow on the Sahara" was used as the soundtrack for an international marketing campaign launched by the Swiss watchmaker Swatch. In the same year, it also became a Top 5 Club Hit in the UK.
To date, "Snow on the Sahara" has sold around 1 million copies worldwide, becoming the highest selling album by an Asian artist outside Asia (a record that Anggun still holds until today). It was also certified a Diamond Export Sales award by the French music industry.
During this time, Anggun also participated in numerous collaborations. In the early days of Au nom de la lune, she contributed vocals on a duet with Gildas Arzel, "C'est le debut" (the French version of Donna Lewis and Richard Marx's collaboration on "At The Beginning") for the soundtrack of an animated feature movie, "Anastasia" as well as the song "Ton amour ocean" for the "Gloups, je suis un poisson!" soundtrack. She also participated on 3 charity albums, including Ensemble contre le Sida in 1998, Les enfoires and Les Restos du coeur (both in 1999).
In 1998, Anggun also made another history for being the first Asian artist to be nominated in Victoires de la musique (a Grammy Award equivalent in French music scene). She received a nomination for Le revelation de l'année award (Revelation of the Year/Best New Artist) but ultimately lost the award to Lara Fabian.
Anggun C. Sasmi 2000-2002: Desirs contraires, Chrysalis, Open Hearts, artistic growth, commercial ups and downs and the collaboration era
In 1999, Anggun ended her marriage to Michel de Gea for 7 years. The divorce eventually inspired Anggun to write the bulk of her second English album, Chrysalis. In September 2000, Anggun released her second French album, entitled Desirs contraires (English: "Contrary desires"). It was a remarkable artistic departure from Au nom de la lune, experimenting with electronic pop and ambient elements as well as R&B music. Erick Benzi again produced the album and this time around, the album featured Anggun's compositions (although Benzi solely wrote the lyrics of the album).
But as a result, it failed to repeat even a fraction of Au nom de la lune's success. Only 2 singles were released off the album: the tropical-sounding "Un geste d'amour" and the R&B-influenced "Derriere la porte". Both singles failed to achieve commercial success, although "Un geste d'amour" reached number 62 on the French Singles Chart.
It was the English version of the album that enjoyed more success. "Chrysalis" was released shortly after Desirs contraires and it was a huge artistic growth for Anggun, having co-written the entire album (for lyrics and compositions). It also didn't feature any adaptations from its French counterpart, meaning that both albums have different lyrical themes. A few songs on the album dealt with Anggun's pain of overcoming her divorce (most notably on the first single, "Still Reminds Me", "Rain" and "Broken Dream", among others). However, it was only released in 15 countries (a departure from Snow on the Sahara). It was speculated that because "Snow on the Sahara" was expected to sell bigger than it had sold, some countries refused to release the album. In the US, Epic Records (Anggun's then-American label) was rumored to take the same step, considering the lackluster sales of "Snow on the Sahara". Despite the album was rumored to be released in the country around 2001, it was never released there, although the album's first single, "Still Reminds Me", received little airplays on clubs across the region. It was also with Chrysalis when Anggun started to develop fan base in Latin America (particularly in Brazil).
The album spawned another huge single, "Still Reminds Me", giving Anggun her third number one (and second English song) on the Indonesian Airplays Chart since 1997. "Still Reminds Me" also received high airplays across Asia and Europe, even becoming her third Top 20 single in Italy. However, its second single, "Chrysalis", again failed to gain success (despite reaching the Top 40 in Italy and Top 20 in Asia). She also released a single specially for the Indonesian and Malaysian market, "Yang 'Kutunggu" (the Indonesian version of "Un geste d'amour"). It became another hit for Anggun; her fourth number one on the Indonesian Airplays Chart. Another track, "Tears of Sorrow", was also given a limited release.
At the end of 2000 Anggun received an invitation from the Vatican, asking her to appear at a special Christmas concert. On the event, she gave her renditions of "Have Yourself a Little Merry Christmas" as well as "Still Reminds Me". Her performance was also included on the Noel au Vatican disc compilation. During this time, rumors began circulating about Anggun doing a duet with Bryan Adams. Rumor has it that Adams saw her performance on the event and became interested to do a duet with her. However, the rumor was later hung up to dry.
The following month, she started her tour across Asia and Europe, including her first ever concert in France at Le Bataclan on 1 February 2001 (because up to this point, Anggun had only performed showcases in France). The tour ended on April 30th in Singapore.
During this era, Anggun also did a string of collaborations, soundtrack projects and charity albums. These included a Franglais song with DJ Cam on "Summer in Paris" (it later became a club hit in Europe and Asia for both artists) on his 2001 album, "Soulshine"; an Indonesian-English song with Deep Forest on "Deep Blue Sea" on their 2002 album, "Music Detected"; and 3 collaborations in 2003, including with Piero Pelù (an Italian rock artist), Serge Lama and Tri Yann. She also participated on several charity projects such as Echoes of the Earth in 2000, Les voix de l'espoir in 2001 and Gaia in 2002 (featuring a duet with Zucchero on the song "World").
Her collaboration with Deep Forest also went to number one on the Indonesian Airplays Chart, her third English single to top the chart.
Her duet with Piero Pelù on an Italian-English song entitled "Amore immaginato" became a hit for both artists in Italy. The song spent a month at the top of Italian Airplays Chart, establishing Anggun's fame in the country.
Anggun also participated on 2 Scandinavian movies: "Anja and Viktor" in 2001, contributing a song entitled "Rain (Here Without You)" and "Open Hearts" in 2002 (both movies were produced by Dogma Films). She made a soundtrack album to the latter, entitled "Open Hearts: Music from the Motion Picture". Anggun co-wrote 3 tracks on the album, alongside Jesper Winge Leisner and Niels Brinck as well as contributing vocals for the 9-track soundtrack album. Both movie and soundtrack were commercial failures, but the album later became Anggun's second (and so far, final) album to be released in the US market. The album became a part of Anggun's discography, but has been mainly overlooked by fans, citing "Luminescence" her 3rd English album instead of this one.
The soundtrack album produced a single, "Open Your Heart", but it was not a commercial success. "Counting Down" was also released for radio, it became a Top 10 radio hit in Indonesia for Anggun (peaking at number 6).
Anggun C. Sasmi 2003-present: New label, new life, Luminescence, Best-Of and return to commercial success
In 2003, Anggun announced that she had parted ways with Columbia France (reportedly due to Anggun's disappointment of the label's promotion for Chrysalis and Open Hearts as well as Anggun's reluctance to work with 'new people', as that time Sony Music had merged with BMG Music, causing a worldwide company structural change). She later moved to Montreal, Canada. It was there where she met her future husband, Olivier Maury. The following year, the couple got married on a private ceremony in Bali, Indonesia.
Maury (a law school graduate himself) later became Anggun's manager. The two began searching for a new label. In 2004, upon returning to Paris, Anggun landed a new record deal with Heben Music, an independent label under Sony-BMG France and Universal Music International. She began working on a new album with several producers, including Jean-Pierre Taieb and Frederic Jaffre as well as her Open Heart producer, Niels Brinck. Anggun, who composes mainly in English, enlisted the help from several well-known French songwriters, such as Jean Fauque, Lionel Florence, Tété and Evelyn Kral to adapt her English songs into French. French popular rapper, Diam's, was also included.
In late 2004, Anggun released her first solo French single in nearly 4 years, "Etre une femme". The single was available in 2 versions: one was the solo version (for commercial release) and the other was a duet with Diam's (for radio release). In 2005, it became Anggun's second Top 20 hit in France, peaking at number 16 on the French Singles Chart (matching the peak of La neige au Sahara 7 years earlier). It also became Anggun's first French single to chart on the Switzerland Singles Chart (at number 58).
In February 2005, Luminescence was released and it debuted at number 30 on the French Albums Chart, becoming Anggun's highest debut position and that time, Anggun's highest album peak on the chart. The singles from that album 'Savious', 'Undress Me' and 'In Your Mind' became huge successes in the Middle East especially in Lebanon.
Anggun hit the road shortly afterwards on an extensive tour which included appearances at "The Night of the Proms" (9 - 18 March 2006), an event featuring collective concerts by pop stars and classical musicians. In July, she supported French star, Johnny Hallyday, in concert.
The second single, "Cesse la pluie" also became a hit, peaking at number 22 in France and number 65 in Switzerland. During this time, Anggun began her tour in Europe as well as releasing the English version of Luminescence. This time around, both versions (French and English) shared the same title, unlike her previous releases. "Undress Me" was chosen as the first single off the English version. Despite it wasn't accompanied with a music video, it managed to reach number 13 in Italy and number 6 in Indonesia. It also provided Anggun with her first hit in the Middle East (where the song topped the chart in Lebanon and Turkey). In Asia, the English version was only released in Indonesia. It was rumoured that Anggun herself decided to concentrate more on the European market, rather than the Asian market. In Malaysia, the album only received limited release.
"In Your Mind" was released as the second single and it was a huge hit in Indonesia, peaking at number one for a month in Indonesian Airplays Chart, her longest stay at the spot. The third single, "Saviour", also became another number 1 hit for Anggun in her homeland and a substantial hit in Italy, Greece and Russia. The song was also used as the theme for the movie "The Transporter 2"
Anggun was also chosen as the spokesperson for the International Year of Micro-credit (a U.N. program aimed at eradicating debt in the third world) in 2005 as well as the ambassadress for a Swiss watch brand, Audemars Piguet. Of this, Anggun said, "The program is based on the U.N. lending people small sums of money, say 20 or 50 euros. That may be nothing to us, but in rupees it represents a lot of money – enough for someone to start their own small business or something. Indonesia is one of the countries where micro-credit has been a big success. The program's specially targeted at women, giving them a more important place in the home, because it's normally men who bring home the money. Did you know there are 13,000 islands in Indonesia? It's a wealthy country, full of natural resources like gold and diamonds, but those riches don't filter down to the poor. Now, thanks to micro-credit, women can progressively start to change their lifestyle and their social status... I feel very proud and very honored to have been chosen as the ambassadress of a cause like this". Previously, she had participated on 2 charity performances, including le Concert pour la Paix in 2003 and Genesis in 2004 (featuring a duet with Peter Gabriel). She also did a duet with Julio Iglesias on his Romantic Classics album, on an Indonesian-English song called "All of You". It reached number 2 in Indonesia.
The following year, Anggun participated on a Fight AIDS campaign in France with a collaborative track entitled "L'Or de nos vies" with several other French music stars. In August 2006, she released the Special Edition of Luminescence, both for the French and the English versions. The first single (the third in French and the fourth in English) off the new version was "Juste avant toi" and its English version "I'll Be Alright". The video featured some footages taken from Anggun's commercial and critical-acclaimed concert in Jakarta, Indonesia (held in 25 April 2006). It was shot in Jakarta and Bali, Anggun's second video to be shot in Indonesia since her international career (after Snow on the Sahara). "Juste avant toi" became Anggun's fourth Top 40 hit, peaking at number 28 in France. It became a summer hit in France and peaked at number 4 on the French International Airplays Chart (a chart compiling the most-played French songs outside France). Meanwhile, "I'll Be Alright" became Anggun's seventh number one hit in Indonesia.
She also made an appearance on Star Academy (an American Idol-alike show in France) to promote the release of the album. The next day, Anggun made the highest jump on the French Albums Chart from number 119 to number 16 (a total 103 levels) with Luminescence Special Edition. It was later official that Luminescence had become Anggun's highest-selling and highest-charting album to date in France. It was certified Platinum in France--Anggun's first album to achieve such feat.
In December 2006, Anggun released her Best-Of album in Indonesia. The album compiled all her international hits (including 3 re-worked versions of her previous Indonesian hits). A single, entitled "Mimpi" ("Dream"), was released as a radio single became a huge hit in Indonesia in late 2006 to early 2007. It again peaked at number 1 on the Indonesian Airplays Chart, Anggun's eighth single to top the chart since her international career, and her longest one (along with In Your Mind) for one full month. Also on the same month, she received a special award, "Best International Artist", at the Indonesian Music Awards.
Also during the same time, the final single off Luminescence was released, entitled "Garde-moi"/"A Crime" (the original French version was a duet with David Hallyday - who also composed the song). It was Anggun's least successful single of the album, although it reached number 5 in Indonesia.
Anggun released Best-Of in Italy (with different track-listing than the Indonesian version) with "I'll Be Alright" as its lead single. She also released a single entitled "Tonight" (a collaboration with a German band, Reamonn) and a charity single with several female French stars, titled "Pour Que Tu Sois Libre".
Anggun announced via her official site that she gave birth to her first child, a daughter named Kirana, on November 8, 2007 in France.