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Indonesian President Shows Soft Side on New CD


Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has released a compact disc of songs. Unlike other former generals with their eye on the next elections in 2009, he has chosen to write the music but not to sing the songs himself. Trish Anderton in Jakarta finds the president's taste in music is conservative and sentimental.

The president's CD is called Rinduku Padamu, or My Longing for You. Mr. Yudhoyono wrote the songs and music, but he did not sing them; he hired professionals for that. The title track sets the tone with lush synthesizers and an apparently sincere performance by Dharma Oratmangun.

The closest Mr. Yudhoyono comes to rock and roll is on a tune called Friend, sung by the popular band Kerispatih. This is not musically challenging, but it has a bouncy tune. The lyrics are: "Let us be happy, friend, let us leave our cares behind."

Music columnist Paul Agusta of the Jakarta Post says Mr. Yudhoyono is displaying his conventional tastes with this material.

"It's very much the kind of music that a man of his generation probably grew up with, songs mostly about love, lost love, unrequited love, being apart from the one you love, songs about how beautiful Indonesia is, songs about being thankful to god and this is very, rather banal stuff."

Mr. Yudhoyono won the presidency in 2004 with approval ratings of around 80 percent. The Indonesian Survey Institute suggests these have since fallen to around 54 percent as anti-corruption efforts have stumbled and the economy has failed to grow as fast as hoped.

Mr. Yudhoyono reportedly wrote all the songs since becoming president, often while traveling to and from functions.

With the 2009 elections approaching, Mr. Yudhoyono already faces musical challenges from his rivals.

Former army head General Wiranto, who is expected to run, released an album of ballads in 2000, just months after he was accused of human rights violations in troubled East Timor. Another presidential hopeful, former Jakarta governor Sutiyoso, has posted numerous recordings of himself on his website singing pop standards and Elvis songs.

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