Indonesian R&B sensation Agnez Monica. (B1 Photo/Chairul Fikri)

'I Have No Indonesian Blood': Agnez Mo's Love-Hate Relationship With Indonesia


NOVEMBER 28, 2019

Jakarta. The R&B singer Agnez Mo's controversial statement that she did "not have any Indonesian blood whatsoever" in a recent interview while on tour in the United States has stirred controversies, and also glossed over that fact that she has always stood up for cultural inclusivity throughout her career.

The controversy was first ignited by a clip of the singer's interview in the Yahoo! BUILD series which was uploaded last Friday. Kevin Kenny, the interviewer, had asked Agnez how she dealt with being and feeling different from people around her in Indonesia's culturally diverse society.

"I actually don't have Indonesian blood whatsoever. I'm actually German, Japanese, Chinese. I was just born in Indonesia and I'm also a Christian, ... the majority [of Indonesians] are Muslims. I'm not going to say that I don't belong there because I've always felt that the people accepted me for who I was. But, there was always that sense of I'm not like everybody else," Agnez said.

This statement soon spawned a backlash questioning the singer's lack of "nationalism."

Some accused her of defying the spirit of Indonesia's Youth Pledge, a proclamation made by the country's founders that all Indonesians are of one motherland, one nation and one language. 

Others criticized her for potentially making it even harder for the Chinese minority in Indonesia to be treated as equals. 

Criticisms directed at the singer's alleged ignorance, however, contradicted the cultural message she had been trying to convey as an Indonesian-born pop artist in the US.

Agnez has shown herself to be a big promoter of the Indonesian national motto Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity) that promotes tolerance regardless of one's social background.

"I grew up in a diverse culture. Cultural inclusivity is what I stand for. Bhinneka Tunggal Ika means Unity in Diversity. I love it when I can share something about my roots [and] my country. I will always be honest and testify to the world how a minority like me was given a chance to have dreams and pursue our dreams. My heart is full," Agnez said in an Instagram post following the controversy.

Agnez highlighted how in spite of being a minority, the people looked beyond her differences and accepted her as an artist.

Her appreciation of Indonesian culture is also evident in how she portrays herself in her music and videos.

Her videos for "Coke Bottle" and "As Long As I Got Paid" show the 33-year-old, who began her professional singing career when she was six, dressed in majestic batik costumes.

The famous traditional dance of the Sundanese, Jaipong, was also a big influence in her video for "Overdose."

Meanwhile, her "Diamonds" photoshoot promoted the rich culture of Papua, including its hair-weaving tradition and traditional attire.

Her respect for the Indonesian language even went so far as refusing to swear in Indonesian during her interview with Kenny. 

When asked why Agnez had seemed so visibly nervous when in an earlier interview with Nick Cannon she was asked by the host to teach him an Indonesian swear word, Agnez said she did not want to do it for fear of disappointing her country.