Daniel Mananta: Patriotism, loud and proud

Niken Prathivi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | People

Emcee and businessman Daniel Mananta propels patriotism in pop culture.

On a rainy afternoon, television personality Daniel decides to go to a gym as flooding hits Jakarta and his work schedule for the day has to be rearranged.

"I was supposed to have a job at Mangga Dua Square [in Central Jakarta], but the organizers had to reschedule it until next week because of the floods. Oh well, I'm enjoying it anyway," Daniel, who has been hosting Indonesian Idol since 2006, tells The Jakarta Post over the phone, after a session at the fitness center.

"About the gym thing, it's because I'm going to shoot for a TV commercial, which requires me to take my shirt off during the production. So, I really need to go to the gym [to look in shape]," he adds lightheartedly.

Talking with Daniel is like catching up with an old friend over a cup of hot cappuccino.

He talks loosely, a sign of his easy-going nature which has made him familiar in the entertainment business.

Ever since winning a video-jockey hunt for MTV Indonesia in 2003, Daniel has become a darling of the entertainment galaxy. Besides being an emcee for various shows both on- and off-air, Daniel has also played in I Love U Boss and Antara Cinta dan Dusta (Between Love and Lies), soap operas (sinetron), as well as the Rumah Dara (Macabre) movie in 2010.

Apart from that, Daniel also handles some creativity-related businesses including the attention-stealing fashion line; Damn! I Love Indonesia, as well as Damn! Inc. — a company which started as a talent agency and entertainment marketer, but has turned into a production house.

Born in a family that has run retail businesses in Mangga Dua running a business is something familiar for Daniel. Entertaining people, however, was his first calling.

He developed a strong interest in exploring anything related to Indonesia when he experienced terrible homesickness during the seven years, from 1995 to 2002, he spent studying in Australia.

"I couldn't buy a plate of fried rice, gado-gado [boiled mixed vegetables with peanut sauce] or ketoprak [noodle and tofu in peanut sauce] as easily as when I was in this country, especially when I stayed at a dorm. When some friends came back from Jakarta, they usually brought abon [dried shredded meat] to share, and we were crazy about it because we missed home so badly."

Returning home, he was surprised that most youngsters were not interested in their own culture.

"It is still shocking to find that teens are more familiar with Korean or Japanese cultures, while they know less about wayang [shadow puppetry] […] or, when they choose kimonos over batik, because they say wearing batik makes them look like Pak Lurah [a village head]," he says.

Hence, Daniel established the Damn! I Love Indonesia brand, which seems more like a slogan than a brand name, in 2008.

"I just have to do something […] making it work using my public-figure status," says the business graduate of Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia.

Daniel's fashion line has released at least 20 new designs — including T-shirts, tank-tops and jackets — every month, they are sold in five stores in Jakarta, Surabaya and Makassar, plus on the damniloveindonesia.com online store.

Daniel says that although he likes dance music ala world-known disc jockey David Guetta, on the other hand, he is also interested in working on some traditional Indonesian songs like "Yamko Rambe Yamko" or "Apuse" from Papua.

He recently finished production of a single and a video clip of "Dance! I Love Indonesia", a rendition of Coklat's "Bendera" (Flag).

The 31-year-old says he wanted to produce an upbeat song, and found the refrain part of "Bendera" a perfect match.

He later asked his favorite local DJ Devina to arrange the music. It took him two weeks to write the rap part, with assistance from Tangga's vocalist, Kamga.

"Overall, the single, which features new singer Maharasyi, was produced in about three months. When I asked Sony Music's permission to use "Bendera", which is written by Eross Chandra, the label offered me a deal for the single instead," he says.

Daniel is also involved in the production of a movie, Killers.

"I'm really passionate about this upcoming thriller-action film. It is a collaboration involving Indonesian directors Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto, and Japanese Takuji Ushiyama. The shooting was done in Indonesia. We're planning to release it in October," says the science-fiction addict, mentioning Matrix as his favorite movie and Japanese comic book Gantz as his kind of reading.

From hosting shows, creating a fashion line, making a song to producing a film, Daniel seems to soak up good energy from popular culture with a heavy touch of Indonesian culture.

"I basically love to entertain people […] And for the Damn! I Love Indonesia thing, I'm not trying to preach or anything, really. I simply just want to share the beauty of Indonesia with many people," says Daniel.