Iskandar Widjaja shares his journey to becoming a violinist while telling the story of his upcoming concerto. 


The S Media team was in awe when we heard his violin performance on Spotify and fell straightly in love. He is Iskandar Widjaja, a German national violinist who was born in Indonesia.

Iskandar was dubbed as a 'Worldclass-Violinist' by Stuttgarter Zeitung. He grew up with high-caliber classical music. The son of Arabic-dutch and Chinese-Indonesian parents has performed as a soloist with internationally most renowned ensembles, like the Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester- and Konzerthaus Orchestra Berlin, the Munich, Warsaw and Shanghai Philharmonics, and many more. 

Iskandar shared about his activities in Indonesia and the things he loves the most about living in this country. 

Could you please tell us about your next music show in Keraton Jogja in June?

Yes, I'm so excited that Kraton has commissioned a new violin concerto for me, titled "Concerto Nusantara". The planned premiere is June 21.

We will perform traditional Indonesian folk melodies. The piece will be written and arranged by Mr. Joko Lemazh, who also arranged the latest project "Lir Ilir" with the Royal Orchestra Yogyakarta, which is available on YouTube. 

I feel like reconnecting with my roots these days and paying homage to my secondary home Indonesia.

We want to know about your violinist journey. What draws you to the violin?

Yehudi Menuhin used to say children with great affinity to fantasy and fairy tales are drawn to the violin whereas kids with a more analytical and mathematical approach will be drawn to the piano. 

This seems true in my case. I was always a dreamer. The violin can sing and make my soul be heard and seen.

Who influenced you the most to become a great violinist?

As a teenager, I lived quite a withdrawn life. I was focused mainly on meditation, spiritual development, and violin practice. During that time, my mother was quite influential, but also my teachers, of course. 

I would say Johann Sebastian Bach’s music has deeply influenced me. It made me think and feel structural and follow a certain natural logic and clarity.

How do you think living in Jakarta and Berlin compare to each other? What did you see in Jakarta that you didn't see in Berlin?

This is quite different actually, these two cities are absolute opposites. Berlin is an artsy place, it is known to have many that earn the label "poor but sexy". Berliners can't be fooled, they will know something is off from 100 miles away and are quite blunt in expressing it. 

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Jakarta society is very intertwined, everyone seems connected. The living standard is actually quite high in Indonesia. People support each other but also love to gossip. The difference between poor and rich are much bigger in Indonesia than in Germany. Berlin has a Turkish minority whereas Jakarta has so many Chinese. Both cities have a fascinating magnetism I don't wanna miss.

What do you miss about Indonesia that you keep coming back to?

I love the fact Indonesians really accept me as one of theirs. Although I grew up in Germany, part of me always misses Indonesia and feels a calling to come back. I have grown to love this country, its people, culture, friendliness, art, food, and traditions.

Indonesia is so rich in diversity, I always discover something new and exciting. This year I would like to take the time to also travel to new spots in the country such as Raja Ampat, Lombok, and Sumba.

Your parents are multiracial. When they told you always to love Indonesia, what did they tell you about it?


My father has always loved Indonesia and once took me on an island trip in the Molukken when I was 11 years old. We were swimming from island to island, bathing in hot springs, watching a group of adult women wash laundry in the river, experiencing village life. 

My mother has a different relationship with the country, as a Chinese from Medan, she was persecuted in her youth. She moved to Germany at 14 and has built her life there. I am trying to convince her to come back for a visit and fall in love again with this beautiful country. 

How do you see your violinist career prospects in Indonesia?

I think there is great opportunities for me laying ahead. I feel so much support coming for me. My latest concert "Ode to My Origins" with gamelan in Jogja was highly supported by Minister Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno. 

I have plans to recording new album, combining tradition with contemporary, Indonesia Fashion Week, G20 activities, new collaborations, video production. Lots of work ahead.

To be a great violinist in Indonesia, do you think there are many problems or the other way around?

Well, nothing in life comes without effort. My beloved German violin teacher Ursula Scholz likes to say, "von nichts kommt nichts” (nothing comes from nothing).

I would like to focus on the educational aspect, teach and teach the teachers with all my accumulated knowledge, build a foundation to support young artists, and help the young generation blossom. That makes me happy.

If someone wants to be a good violinist like you, what things do they need to do?

To be a good violinist you have to have a great foundation. Scales, exercises, etudes on a daily basis. 

Dorothy Delay, one of my role model as a violinist, used to say that "talent is just a mood". Everyone can learn the technique of playing if you split it up into simple single steps. Then put the puzzle pieces together. 

The other work is as important, work on your personality and confidence, building up an inner conviction and magnetism to draw others into your craft, art, and soul.


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