Singer Dona Amelia’s hot beats are keeping Southeast Asia’s clubs on their feet. Monica Majors gets a glimpse backstage.
Let’s begin where it all started. You were only 14 when you started singing, but what about before? Is your family in Indonesia supportive of your performing arts?
When I was a child, from a very young age, I often went to see performances on stage with my dad. He introduced me to singing, and always supported me to be an artist. He is a great singer but he never made it as an artist because he focused on his career as a teacher [instead], becoming headmaster of a senior high school. So basically he wanted me to follow his dream to be a big artist. In fact my whole family supported me.
How did your stage presence evolve over those formative years?
I love all kinds of music, especially pop. Back in Indonesia they have their own kind of music, called Dangdut, so I started singing in pop and also Dangdut. In 2007 I made my first album, named Hip Hop Disco Aerobic. My stage name at that time was Donna Ray. Then I made few more albums and [appeared on] many TV shows. I became a TV presenter, and was doing TV series for many years. I also won the singing competition called Charly’s Angel on one of the biggest TV stations in indonesia. That made my singing career grow even bigger. Then I also joined a comedian pop band in Indonesia named Stinky.
After touring with Stinky what gave you the strength to turn to EDM and take your music international?
My biggest dream was, and still is, to become an international artist [who] can represent my country to the world. I want to prove that singers can do great not only in their country, but also worldwide. EDM music suits my personality, as I love to dance and jump with the crowd while on stage. EDM is really becoming one of the most popular [genres] in the music industry. I love the energy and the vibe of EDM, both when recording and when I sing it live on stage. EDM is international music nowadays that most young people love. I also want to say ‘thanks’ to my manager Nick Jonsson and my current record label in Vietnam – District 360 – that’s always supports me as an international artist.
Tell us about your singles Trophy and Fly Away.
They are both special to me as they are the first songs that I wrote in English. Both songs represent my real story and dreams. I am also excited about my new songs that I have developed with District 360 in Ho Chi Minh city, Inspire and Break it Up. Those songs are now released in 192 countries on channels such as iTunes and Amazon.
Have you enjoyed performing for Vietnamese audiences? Are there any notable differences from where else you’ve toured in Southeast Asia?
Yeah, I love the Vietnamese audience so much. They are amazingly awesome and they love EDM so much. I remember when they sang along and danced like crazy when I recently sang for up to 2,500 people at Sailing Club in Nha Trang. The vietnamese audience is really open-minded about music, and is up-to-date on the new music trends.
Tell us a little bit about a day in the life of Dona Amelia.
When I’m not singing or having a show, I love to spend time at home and at the gym. I also love running so much. I have done five half-marathon runs so far in 2016, and will do the Sweden Marathon for the first time in my life this August. Wow I feel so excited about that one! For me running is [a] singer’s best friend. It helps me to increase my lung capacity which helps my singing, as well as [giving me] more endurance during live shows.
How do you feel the music industry has received you as a Muslim woman?
It’s great that music is a universal language that can be accepted without looking out for the background in terms of religion. I’m so proud to be a Muslim singer who can show the world I am a good Muslim. Also, through my music, I can show people that I am a super-modern Muslim. I can dress and dance as I want. I don’t have limitations because I’m a Muslim. Most important is that my songs can be loved by all the people all over the world. So for me, we are all good people from Earth, and it doesn’t matter what your religion is. I’m blessed that people love me for who I am.
How much of your family upbringing and faith finds its way into your music?
They always support me for the choices I make. In the beginning they still wanted me to stay only in my country, but now when they see my career is growing internationally, they support me 100 percent.
What advice do you offer to young women who are interested in performing arts?
To all the girls that are interested in performing arts, do it as best as you can. Give 110 percent to what you love. Don’t be scared to start somewhere. Be proud to have big dreams and enjoy the moment that you go through. Always find something new for the world. We all are inventors in [the] music industry. And we all have the chance to become great performers.