Usah Kau Lara Sendiri, in memory of the tsunami in 2004

The song Usah Kau Lara Sendiri was originally sung by Ruth Sahanaya and Katon Bagaskara. The translation of the title is “Don’t despair all alone”. This cover version with the accompanying video was made in memory of the tsunami in December 2004 and is dedicated to all victims of this tragic disaster. The video also represents the personal story of Ella Meilianda, from Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Since 2004 Ella is doing her PhD research in the University of Twente in Enschede, Netherlands. Her research is about the changes of coastal morphology in the tsunami-affected area. Today, the 19th of June 2009 is the day of her PhD promotion. The tsunami has heavily affected her life, her family, her city, and her research. Ella wants to do something meaningful for the victims of the tsunami, therefore she dedicates her research to them. Furthermore, directly after the PhD defence ceremony Ella and me will give a live performance of this song with the video projected on the background. This is one of my biggest music projects until now, in the recording I play all instruments myself, without any other musicians. You can read the full story and watch the video in this blog entry.

About the video

The video contains scenes of the recording session in my home, scenes of the tsunami, footage shot when Ella went back to Aceh a few days after the tsunami, scenes of her fieldwork in Banda Aceh for her research, and photos of her family, who either survived or went missing in the tsunami.

The video displays some video shots of the west coast of Banda Aceh combined with the famously dramatic footage of the tsunami waves entering the city, taken by an Acehnese TV cameraman. The photographs of people standing at the house debris are Ella’s mother, brother and sisters, and late father who survived the tsunami. The video footage of three men standing on top of the rubble are her husband, brother and father trying to save some ‘pieces of memory’ of their destroyed house. The scene in 01:20 shows her father driving the car and pointing at the 1000 ton electric generator ship stranded nearby their house in Punge, Banda Aceh. That was the last time she could spend together with her father before he passed away by a heart attack in March 2008, while she was in a critical stage of her PhD study. The other people who are shown with the tsunami flowing on the background are her uncle’s family who went missing during the tsunami, leaving Adrian (03:34), her cousin all alone in this world. The video ends with Ella walking towards the sea together with a professor from the National University of Singapore during her fieldwork in 2005 who pointed out the survived ‘crying rock by the sea’ at the west coast of Banda Aceh that appears in the beginning of the video clip (00:25).

Although the video sends a pretty intense personal anguish, Ella believes that it represents the feelings of most families in the entire Indian Ocean region that experienced the same losses caused by the tsunami of 26 December 2004. For all the victims of that day, may they rest in peace, and for those who survived, don’t despair all alone… there are always friends and family to keep you strong…. and hope remains.

Further background information

On 26th of December 2008, exactly 4 years after the tsunami in 2004 I received a long email from Ella Meilianda from Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Ella knew about me through my website and the PPIE mailing list. In the email she introduced herself and told me her story, about her research, and how the tsunami affected her life. She writes: “I feel that, ironically, it was this disaster that has lead me to earning the highest academic level (PhD), and therefore I have a strong desire to do something in return. Although by my research I already contribute a piece of knowledge related to the tsunami itself, a surge of despair remains when I remember the day it happened ,victimizing the people I knew and loved, and destroying the very town that I grew up in. I want to do something meaningful dedicated to the victims on the day of my PhD promotion on 19th of June 2009, and I wish to dedicate my research to the memory of this tsunami disaster.”

Ella asked me if I wished to collaborate with her on a cover and video of an Indonesian song. She proposed a song by Ruth Sahanaya and Katon Bagaskara entitled ‘Usah Kau Lara Sendiri’ which means ‘Don’t despair all alone’. She told she always returned to this song for its beautiful melody, its duet harmony of beautiful voices of these two talented Indonesian singers, and especially the most touching lyrics about encouragements, support and compassion towards friends who are in their deepest despair trying to hold on through their rough situation.

I invited her to my house with Dedy and Defan, her husband and son, for a first meeting, and we decided to start the project.

First I had to record the music. I had to arrange, play, and record all musical instruments. I created the drums on the computer. After recording and mixing the music tracks we had to add the vocals. Even though Ella told me she is not an experienced singer (she had never sung in public or in a studio before) the recording of the vocals was done in a few hours. I was impressed by her beautiful voice, and later I asked her to record another duet with me, Ada Cinta (this song was already published in April).

On the 1st of July Ella will leave the Netherlands and return to Banda Aceh, where she will return to her position as a researcher and teaching staff at the Civil Engineering Department of the Engineering Faculty at Syiah Kuala University


Tsunami: the tragedy and the truth (researcher uncovers valuable information), UT Nieuws, February 2009

AIO moet onderzoek kustlijn Atjeh bijstellen (Ella Meilianda nu op zoek naar haar schoonouders in het gebied), UT Nieuws, January 2005

DR Ella Meilianda M.Sc; “Si Peramal” dari Enschede, Serambinews Indonesia, December 2009

Comments 19

  1. Lagu ini emosional sekali…. Saya pernah datang ke Aceh tidak lama setelah tsunami melanda dan saya cukup paham “keresahan” yang tersirat di dalam lagu ini. Anda seorang Indonesianis sejati Pak Peter.

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