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Connecting With Young Indonesians - 2004-02-06

The diverse men and women who work as international radio broadcasters at the Voice of America represent a broad range of backgrounds and interests. Today on New American Voices you’ll meet a young professional from VOA’s Indonesian service who is both a radio personality -- and a cook.

Indonesian Youth Show opening

Like any international radio broadcaster at Voice of America, Ariono Arifin, who came to VOA four years ago, serves as a writer, announcer, reporter, newscaster, producer. But in addition, Ary –- as he is known to his colleagues and his listeners -- has the challenging job of attracting a younger audience to the Indonesian service’s radio and television programs.

“There’s this term called ABG in Indonesia. Anak Baru Gede. It stands for teens who have just become an adult, you know, your late teens, your early twenties. And those kind of people, although they do like worldly information, what’s going on in current events, but they still like to keep up with Hollywood celebrity news, what’s out in the movies, what the trends are right now, what they’re wearing in Paris, what they’re wearing in Milan or Los Angeles -- Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive, whichever -- they like to know those kind of things. They eat them up just like ice cream cakes. So that’s what we try to provide. Although we try using this as a vehicle to get our mission across, which is, we want to give them more information about America, that they don’t normally get.”

Ary Arifin knows his audience and its interests first-hand. While studying in Jakarta for a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts – yes, culinary arts, majoring in food production -- he started moonlighting as a disc jockey at a local radio station.

“It just so happens that the radio station that I worked for back home in Indonesia, it caters to the younger crowd. So I had no other choice but to get myself involved in a lot of their activities. They have a lot of parties, they host a lot of events, product-launchings from men’s cologne to cars to youth magazines and stuff like that. There’s always something going on, left and right. I used to host a lot of the events, we’d take turns, my colleagues and I, we’d throw in little jokes. And from there you’d get a lot of side gigs, they’d call you up to emcee a TV show... You just go with the flow, and it was really cool.”

While cooking up a storm as a chef, he says, Ary Arifin continued to work as a DJ at the local station in Jakarta after graduating from college. He says he had fallen in love with radio broadcasting.

“Because we can be anything we want to be behind the mike. I used to have a morning show – I don’t mean to brag, but it was one of the top-rated drive-time shows in Jakarta, “Becky and Ary in the Morning.” What was funny is you could sound like you’re wearing a tuxedo or a three-piece suit, but actually you just got up, your hair’s a mess, you haven’t had your morning coffee… You could just walk in -- I was even wearing shorts, and no one knew. The magic of radio.”

At about this time, Ary Arifin says a friend introduced him to Voice of America programs.

“I got really interested in its mission, and what the Voice of America stands for. A lot of the programs intrigued me, because a lot of my friends’ parents claimed they learned to speak English from listening to the Voice of America. Now that’s gotta stand for something, and I was like ‘Wow!’ I’d love to learn more about it.”

But, as Ary Arifin says, he got deeply involved in the fast-paced youth culture of Jakarta and almost forgot about the Voice of America. Then an economic crisis in Indonesia caused many people to lose their jobs, and Mr. Arifin decided to leave for the United States, where he had spent his boyhood while his father served on the staff of the Indonesian Embassy in Washington. He enrolled in a Master’s program at Morehead State University in Kentucky, and after receiving a degree in broadcast journalism, reactivated his interest in the Voice of America.

Now, as a broadcaster for the Indonesian Service, Ary Arifin has even been able to incorporate his passion for cooking into his work.

“I don’t only host a youth program, which is called VOA DC or Direct Connection. I also have this cooking show. This show is actually … Let’s say I’m talking about Texas chili. Behind that recipe of Texas chili we also try to convey the stories and the background of Texas where it's from – you know, maybe President Bush is from there, and what’s the surroundings and the environment like in Texas, and stuff like that.”

The youth show, the cooking show, occasional stints hosting the Indonesian Service’s weekly half-hour television program, keep Ary Arifin busy – too busy, if you ask his family and friends.

“Sometimes it’s just that I’m spending too much time at work. If it’s time to go home, like, oh, I have to go home because I have a life outside the office, but it’s just so… You get sucked into it, you know. And as my friends say, ‘Dude, don’t you have a life? Come on man, you’re hanging out at the office too long.’ And I say ‘I know, I know, but I just want to get this perfect’.”

Like any good journalist, Ary Arifin wants to get information to his listeners not only in an appealing, engaging way, but FIRST, to beat the competition. That’s especially important, he says, because his youthful audience in Indonesia is so plugged in to what’s going on in the world.

“To be there first with the news, that gives me the ultimate satisfaction, I guess. ‘You heard it first on VOA – DC!’”

Ary Arifin -- radio enthusiast, program host and culinary expert in VOA’s Indonesian Service.

English Feature #7-38315 Broadcast February 9, 2004