Rising Jakarta, Indonesia-born and-based singer/songwriter and pop artist Afgan was raised listening to Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston and Brian McKnight — and as a very shy boy, he found solace in music, slowly gaining confidence in quiet karaoke rooms. Interestingly, for the Jakarta-born and-based artist, music has always been an equal synergy of far-flung global inspirations paired with a devotion to proudly showcasing his heritage through nods to Indonesian pop.
Since the 2008 release of his full-length debut Confession No. 1, the rising Indonesian pop artist has released five solo albums, countless number one hits and has amassed over 44 million Spotify streams with over 1 million listeners across 79 countries — just in 2019. In the past three years, Afgan has played sold-out shows across Southeastern Asia including a set at Korea’s Yuseong Hot Springs Festival in front of 30,000 and an appearance at Singapore‘s Hyperplay Festival alongside Nick Jonas. The rising Jakarta-born and-based artist has managed to score a bevy of industry awards — and building upon a growing profile, he made his Stateside debut at a Sofar Sounds show in San Francisco.
Released earlier this year, Afgan’s sixth album Wallflower sees the Indonesian pop artist making a foray into the global scene. The album derives its title from his favorite movie, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower and his deep connection to the film’s soft-spoken protagonist Charlie, played by Loghan Lerman. Afgan told NME, “I just relate so much with the main character and felt like my personality had a similar quality with him.” He continues “I looked up the meaning behind the word [wallflower] and felt like okay, that’s actually a good description of me and I want to own that part of myself.”
Thematically, the album, is influenced and informed by the rising Indonesian pop artist’s own tumultuous relationship and battles with his mental health. Much of the album lyrically is inspired by some of the self-help books that have helped him in drier times. “I‘ve been battling anxiety and panic attacks for years, so I wrote “Hurt Me Like You” about it,” Afgan explains. “Nobody can hurt me more than my own self. I really want to change the stigma around mental health, and in Indonesia, it’s still considered a taboo to talk about it. If we became more happy and at peace with ourselves, I think everything would be better.”
Adding to a growing global profile, the album features “M.I.A.,” a collaboration with Hong Kong-based multi-hyphenate Jackson Wong. The collaboration can trace its origins to a chance meeting between the two artists after Afgan played at 2019’s V Live Awards in Seoul. But in the meantime, the rising Jakarta-born and-based artist has released a remix of the sultry Quiet Storm-inspired, Troy Taylor-produced “Touch Me” that features a guest spot from Robin Thicke while retaining the swooning yearning at the core of the song.
`”‘Touch Me’ is a song with a dark and sexy beat that tells the story of one’s physical attraction at first glance, and how that touch may trigger a series of feelings,” Afgan explains. “Usually, these kind of messages are hard to communicate in Bahasa Indonesia, so this is my first time translating these feelings into a song as I’m now singing in English. This was a challenge for me but I am relieved and happy with the result.”