Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Previews: Musical Series NURBAYA to Start Streaming This July, Bringing Spectacle and Charm

pixeltracker

This adaptation of Indonesian classic SITTI NURBAYA has mass appeal

NURBAYA is produced by Indonesia Kaya, an Indonesian cultural and arts organization, in collaboration with Garin Nugroho, Teater Musikal Nusantara (TEMAN), and BOOW Live. This series comes after 2020's #MusikalDiRumahAja program, which consisted of one-off musical episodes adapted from Indonesian folklore. NURBAYA is based one Sitti Nurbaya: Kasih Tak Sampai, a 1922 novel by Marah Rusli.

The production team behind NURBAYA is led by Bayu Pontiagust as producer and features Venytha (theatrical director), Naya Anindita (film director), Ivan Tangkulung (music director), Andrea Miranda and Gabriel Harviantor (vocal coach), Bella Panggabean (cinematographer), Caron Shaine (production manager), and Iskandar Loedin (artistic director).

BWW Previews: Musical Series NURBAYA to Start Streaming This July, Bringing Spectacle and Charm

The titular role of Siti Nurbaya is played by Arawinda Kirana (Quarantine Tales), winner of Piala Maya Award for Best Newcomer Actress. Radio personality Bukie Mansyur will play across Arawinda as Nurbaya's lover, Samsul Bahri. Meanwhile, Tuan Meringgih, the antagonist, will be played by musical actor Bina Zeno Pooroe (Gita Cinta, Sangkuriang).

On Monday, June 27, Indonesia Kaya held a media preview and virtual press conference, featuring Renitasari Adrian (Program Director, Indonesia Kaya), Billy Gamaliel (Program Manager, Indonesia Kaya), Naya Anindita, Chriskevin Adefrid (Scriptwriter and TEMAN representative), Garin Nugroho, Arawinda Kirana, Bukie Mansyur, Bima Zeno Pooroe, and Jessica Januar (Alimah).

BWW Previews: Musical Series NURBAYA to Start Streaming This July, Bringing Spectacle and Charm

Regarding the series' inception, Renitasari shared that Indonesia Kaya had moved its programs to online platforms starting on April of last year. After the great audience response for #MusikalDiRumahAja, the Indonesia Kaya team consulted with veteran Indonesian director, Garin Nugoroho. They decided on Sitti Nurbaya, a work with rich local elements yet timeless themes. The format became a musical series after considering the scale of the story the team wanted to tell, while keeping the episodic duration manageable for modern audience.

The team also shed light on the decisions made to adapt the original for the modern audience. The original West Sumatran setting has been changed to 1970's Jakarta, while keeping substantial cultural elements. On the logistical side of things, the audition and pre-production process were mostly held in virtual spaces to minimize health risks.

BWW Previews: Musical Series NURBAYA to Start Streaming This July, Bringing Spectacle and Charm

NURBAYA's first episode ran for around 27 minutes and introduces us to the main character: Siti Nurbaya, a young woman living in Jakarta with her extended family. Her cousin and sister figure, Alimah, is getting married (with the dazzlingly colorful traditional celebration, of course).

Although Nurbaya has a sweetheart in Samsul Bahri, she's intent on chasing her dreams and expresses her current disinterest in marriage, much to Alimah's befuddlement and her aunt's dismay. Regardless of her wishes, Nurbaya's aunt introduces her to Tuan Meringgih, an immensely successful businessman, hoping that the older man would be interested in taking her as a wife.

BWW Previews: Musical Series NURBAYA to Start Streaming This July, Bringing Spectacle and Charm

After the party, Nurbaya returns home to her ailing father, who's writing an article criticizing the seedy prostitution business going rampant in the city's underbelly. Setting up for the main conflict, we see Meringgih in his office with a group of henchmen, furious at said article.

The creative leads had previously collaborated in RARA J, an episode of #MusikalDiRumahAja. As one of the episodes with the most mass appeal, it was thus not surprising that the pilot episode of NURBAYA was likewise very charming and easy to digest.

BWW Previews: Musical Series NURBAYA to Start Streaming This July, Bringing Spectacle and Charm

The characters and setting felt nostalgic and familiar at the same time, due to the blend of traditional elements, especially in set, with mostly contemporary dialogue, story beats, and editing. It exists in a vaguely anachronistic dimension that might take some time to get used to, but never overtly antiquated or modernized enough to induce discomfort.

Where Chriskevin's script and Venytha's and Naya's directions shined the most was at making the show immediately digestible and enjoyable. Indonesian artists often have an eclectic sense of artistry that is not easily understood by the common viewer. But the story and pacing in NURBAYA are just right, with no one moment running too fast or too slow.

BWW Previews: Musical Series NURBAYA to Start Streaming This July, Bringing Spectacle and Charm

It's also worth appreciating that the first episode felt quite satisfying on its own (something that was indeed a concern for the team, as Garin Nugroho mentioned in the press conference), even having an "I Want" song, a love duet, and even a villain song. It introduced the plot points, the major players, and set up the main plot in a masterful manner.

Visually, the show was a treat for the eyes. Beautifully rich yellows and reds graced the screen, colors important in Minang tradition. The costumes and sets were obviously designed with care, creating a lush visual identity, both during the traditional wedding scene and the more urban scenes. Moreover, the cinematic shots worked beautifully with the show's stage roots. Although it should be noted that some scenes looked slightly darker than expected - perhaps to accommodate the shooting conditions.

The music, by Ivan Tangkulung, definitely suits each moment and character, demonstrating the music director's understanding of both his craft and the story. Writing songs for episodes upon episodes of a musical series couldn't have been easy, and I eagerly look forward to the score of the rest of the series.

BWW Previews: Musical Series NURBAYA to Start Streaming This July, Bringing Spectacle and Charm

Finally, the actors all did a great job so far - although the material given is understandably not too challenging just yet, considering it was the first episode. But everyone had believable acting and the Minang affectations heard every now and then were of course a welcome touch.

All in all, NURBAYA is an enjoyable and promising musical series with something for everyone. Being available on YouTube for free, NURBAYA might just open the gates for a whole new level of appreciation for musicals in Indonesia - something that we always need.


Related Articles View More Indonesia Stories

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes & More

From This Author Rakaputra Paputungan