It was not until I drop by at Setiawan Djody’s suite at The Waldorf Astoria New York one chilly afternoon in the autumn of 1992, that I know about David Bowie’s love to Indonesia. The night before we met at the Palladium for the grand finale of Elite Models Look of the Year model search pageant. “Ah, if only you came earlier,” said Djody as he ushered me inside, “you would surely meet David Bowie; he left just a few minutes ago.”
Djody and Bowie are good friends and the two are no slouch on guitar. “We have a whole night of music,” added Djody. Three guitars, sets of amplifiers and power cables cluttering the living room endorsed the account. “In between the music we engage in an exciting discourse and discussion on a lot of things; arts, culture and politics, and Indonesia,” Djody explained.
My face showed an air of disbelief. “Yes,” Djody added quickly, “David Bowie loves Indonesia. His love is so deep he even composed songs in Indonesian.” When I asked Djody his opinion of the song, he just smiles. “The lyrics sound a little bit strange to Indonesian ears.” In 1991, Bowie composed “Amlapura” in his album Tin Machine II, 1993 David wrote “Jangan Susahkan Hatiku”based on his “Don't Let Me Down & Down” from the album Black Tie White Noise.
“Bowie interprets his love to Indonesia further by building a house in Mustique Island with all the materials shipped from Indonesia,” Djody continued. Bowie’s Indonesian-style refuge round up the best qualities of the traditional living quarters in the archipelago. An inspiring example of internationalized Java style, the main building and the surrounding structures feature traditional joglo shaped roof common in the outskirts of Java and Bali.
The Pendopo, a large pavilion-like structure built on columns fundamental in Javanese architecture, exudes in elegance thanks to the Raffles dining table and sets of chairs. Java teakwood chaise lounge with rattan webbing cushion and large batik tablecloth designed by Iwan Tirta compliments the rustic Java serendipity. Carvings of naga the Javanese myth dragon adorn the columns and beams.
Stylistic exemplary masterpiece of Javanese woodcarving called gebyok performs as walls that divide the airy veranda with the inner quarters. Dominated by Java style furniture, the living room flaunts with Java colonial sofa at the centrepiece. The set up matches elegantly with the colonial hanging lamp and teakwood framed glass door. The pyramidal ceilings coerce distinctively with the mystique of Java style.
Java antique furniture and coarse cotton drapes colours the bedroom. Adjacent terrace featuring a stylish Java art deco settee presents an idyllic view of the pond. The ponds, pools, and breezeways connected one building to another. The main virtue of the house, in Bowie’s view, was that you were never far away from the swimming pool; just a hop, skip and splash away from a refreshing dip.
Bowie’s first encounter with the beauty and culture of the archipelago was in the 80s, a decade when a number of rock stars like Mick Jagger and Jon Lord discovered and became captivated by the Island of the Gods, Bali. His curiosity to delve more found a channel when in 1991 Djody invited Bowie and his then girl friend Iman to attend Suronan, a traditional Javanese ceremony at the Court of Mangkunegaran, Solo. The ceremony observes the Islamic New Year and the first day of the Javanese month of Sura. “Bowie and Iman were there, but to my recollection the couple did not attend Tuguran, the ritual all night contemplation,” said Parisian Bambang Suharjoto.
Photo credit: Architectural Digest and Setiawan Djody