So… what did it say? Tribun Medan article –

Tribune 19th of April small

When I got a reply from Tribun Medan, agreeing to interview me about the “Game for Two” project, I thought they’d use it for a bit of background colour… Imagine my surprise when Anya, me, John Retno, and Pandi splashed across the front cover of the Sunday edition…

So in case you’re wondering… this is what it said…

English musician makes video about North Sumatra

“My name is Harahap”

Sarah Kate Michel replies promptly when asked what interests her about North Sumatra. “My clan name is Harahap…”


Maman, a local cameraman, joined us during the shoot at Ganagi Studio, Medan

Of course, is not really named Harahap. She is from England, and when she makes this statement, she is sitting behind her desk in her house in London. Through FB messaging on Thursday evening (17/5), Sarah says that she used to live in Medan. Living with a Mandailing (ethnic group from Sumatra) family, her friends used to call her that. “It wasn’t an official thing, but I’m happy to say it”. writes Sarah. When asked if she can speak any North Sumatran languages, she says she doesn’t really speak it, but can understand a little when people speak Batak or Mandailing. Apart from her friendships with local people, she learnt the language through songs. “I like the songs: “Boru Panggoaran. Juga Sai Anju Ma Au and Lissoi. I learnt them and can sing and play them on guitar, “she writes in proper Indonesian. Sarah is a musician. She and a number of friends perform as Pandorasdiary.

Anya filming from motorbike

Anya filming from motorbike

Initially, we start the conversation in English. But after Sarah starts writing her answers in Indonesian and even in Batak, we stop using English. “So let’s just use Indonesian, Sarah?” writes the Tribune. “olo mattong,” (no problem) she answers in Batak. Of course. No problem. “Don’t worry, I’m at home in Medan too.” Born on 22 January 1979, she contacted Tribune with a message on’s fanpage, telling about her music project that she is currently working on. . “I’m hoping to share the project with radio stations in Indonesia. Especially in Medan and Jakarta. I have heard of Kompas Gramedia and Tribun cos i used to live in Medan,” she explains. In our chat, that took around three hours by facebook messenger, Sarah said that Indonesia, especially North Sumatra, has become her second home.

Shooting music video in Bukit

Shooting music video in Bukit

She first came to Indonesia in 1994, when she travelled to Java and Bali with her family for two months. She was impressed by the Indonesian people’s friendliness. However she regretted not being able to talk to them properly because she didn’t understand the language. “I met lots of local people and they were really kind to us, but I wished we could really talk not just small talk. And I knew that I wanted to learn the language and come back,” she remembers.

Two years later, she returned, this time backpacking. This time she came to Sumatra. Upon a friend’s recommendation, this pretty woman arrived in Bukit Lawang, a tourist village in the rainforest with a river in North Sumatra, and fell in love.Sarah decided to live in Bukit Lawang and learn Indonesian. Still unsatisfied, she deepened her Indonesia language abilities by studying in Yogyakarta, Indonesia and the University of Hull. Her love for Bukit Lawang was the reason she made it her main location for her newest music clip for two songs: “Memories” and “Game for Two”.

“Basically last summer I was in Bukit Lawang – I had been away for 4 years and came to visit friends there. I met John Retno and Pandy who work in Bukit Lawang and are very talented musicians. They play in the local band. I told them I wrote my own songs and they asked me to teach them 2 of my songs. So I played the songs for them and they loved them and arranged them for two guitars,” she says. Since meeting these two local musicians, Sarah was convinced to make Bukit Lawang theh location for her music project. “Bukit Lawang is really exotic. It is not an exaggeration to say I’m crazy about it. It is really extraordinary.” She says. Sarah returned to London I September 2014. She shared her material with Anya, a creative who founded Guerrilla Tactics, a creative studio that specialises in creating video clips. And, according to Sarah, Anya was totally persuaded when she showed her videos and footage from Bukit Lawang: “I showed her my film and she was very excited. Because Bukit Lawang is so beautiful!”

Sarah is sure, that in Anya’s hands, who has previously worked for Vanguard and HBO, her video will truly show Bukit Lawang’s beauty.

“Basically there will be an event with live music and videos. We plan to launch at the Indonesian festival in London “Indonesia Kontemporar”. I will perform with a band and there will be a screening of the final music video of ‘Game for Two’. There will be two versions of the song in Indonesian “Permainan Berdua” and in English ‘Game for Two’,”

… Although she loves Bukit Lawang, Sarah is disappointed. According to her, this beautiful place is being left to grow like a plant without any care, even though a little care would make it a place so beautiful it would be difficult for [any other locations] to compete with its beauty. Its impressive nature and flora and fauna. So amazing. “I think it is possible to do more. I think it is also really important to promote sustainable tourism to visitors -both locals and international tourists. Like not littering, not feeding the animals (especially orangutans). Also the government should look after the roads better,” she adds.

Seems like Sarah truly loves Bukit Lawang. She even knows what Bukit Lawang needs right now: tourism promotion, how to care for the orang-utans ecosystem, improve access roads, which sometimes cause problems for local and international visitors.

(eris estrada sembiring)

Big thanks to the awesome editor of Tribun Medan, Eris Estrada Sembiring. who was very very nice about me 🙂 and for taking his time to find out about the project.


Have guitar, will travel Part III: Koh Tao

Unfortunately beautiful Koh Tao has become synonymous with the recent tragedy – but it is stunning- the surroundings are not spoilt but it is covered in guesthouses and restaurants from the end of Sairee to the end of Koh Tao.

This makes it however, a great tip for musicians – there are loads of places to play, but only one real jam – this is also where I suggest you go if you are interested in gigging on Koh Tao – or just to have a fantastic night jamming away in a rooftop venue.

Every Sunday, the RawArt Moovement get together for a jam upstairs in Moov bar – expat, visiting and Thai musicians gather to jam all night – it is really fun – it starts as more of an open stage, then disppears into impro land – the audience, owners and bar stuff are all beautiful and great funraw-art-moovment!
check out their events here

If you need some more reasons to go, here’s a music video I made there including footage from the boat and of some of the amazing firedancers at ACBar – the youngest is only 13 years old! Also – the sea crashing on the beach is seriously inspiring!

Have guitar, will travel – 7 weeks in Southeast Asia – Part II: Penang

Penang, Malaysia

As soon as I got out of the taxi in front of the Reggae Cafe at Lebuh Chulia, a guy saw my guitar and shouted: “Jam tonight, you coming right?”

A bit knackered from the trip from Bukit Lawang via Medan, I said I would try, and shouldered my backpack and guitar, and walked down Love Lane to Love Lane Inn…

When I arrived… I saw Mr Jojo, World Busker 🙂

He told me to drop my bags in my room and come and jam… (Of course – i don’t need asking!)
So… 5 minutes later I was downstairs – disheveled but happy – clutching my guitar and ready for jamalicious action… A backpacker called Heather was already there, singing along…



And this is what that looked like:

If you are a musician and come to Penang and would like to do some kind of ad hoc performance or jam – I highly suggest to visit the “Reggae Cafe” in Lebuh Chulia – A great vibe, people passing on the street stop to watch… and free drinks for musicians if the manager likes you 😉

P.S. Tip for travelling with music in Southeast Asia – bring your own cables and mic – the mics are usually pretty poor and the changing electricity voltage can mess up your pick-up – so think about if you bringing a cheaper equipment

P.P.S. Sightseeing
P.P.P.S Musical guesthouse in Batu Ferrenghi (North Penang) – Lazy Boys guesthouse – cheap, clean, cheerful and near to the beach and night market and the owner’s brother is a musician and has a music studio 🙂
P.P.P.P.S. Bit of fun modern culture? Go on a trail of Ernest Zacharevic’s interactive art

Have guitar, will travel – 7 weeks in Southeast Asia – Part I – Bukit Lawang

bukit smallBukit Lawang, Indonesia 

Bukit Lawang is a village about 3-4 hours by car from Medan, the capital of North Sumatra. It is a tourist destination due to its position on the boarders of the Gunung Leuser National Park, and home to the orangutan, as well as lots of other wildlife- gibbons, Thomas Leaf monkeys, the rafflesia, wild peacocks and Sumatran Tigers (but you need to trek for at least 5 days to catch a glimpse).

DSC_0197I love the laid back vibe, the fact that all the guys play guitar and sing, there impromptu jungle jams all over the place. You can chill next to the river or make a tubing excursion, or go on a trek in the jungle.


If you are a musician and want to jam or gig here:
Gigging – there aren’t really any “venues” as such to play, it’s more of a jamming vibe – big boisterous jams happen most nights at Sibayak and Bukit Lawang Indah (downstream).

The place to find most musicians is Indra Valley on a Saturday night – the only live music night at the moment- with covers band, who are really happy to welcome vocalists and musicians – especially bassists (seems to be a lack of those).

I had a home advantage here, because I used to live here, but the funny thing was, I ended up hooking up with two musicians, John Retno and Harry Affandi, who I didn’t really talk to before, and ended up rearranging two songs to music –

 For more info about Bukit Lawang, music, trekking and accomodation – send me an email:

Gibbon small