Indonesia's first mass rapid transit (MRT) system - slated to open fully to the public in March in a city notorious for its traffic jams - has an unexpected Singapore connection.
The voice of Jakarta's long-awaited MRT network will belong to a Singapore permanent resident who was inspired by radio veteran Juanita Melson, the woman behind the original announcements for Singapore's own rail system.
Freelance journalist Devianti Faridz's first brush with Ms Melson came during her maiden visit to Singapore in 1997. "I was on the MRT and I heard this wonderful voice. I was just so impressed by it," she told The Sunday Times.
"I didn't know who she was then but her voice was so warm, so calming. It was so well-rounded, and I just loved listening to her announcements every time I went back to Singapore."
Ms Melson, who worked as a disc jockey and later as a programme manager for radio station Rediffusion, voiced the SMRT train and station announcements between 1996 and 2008.
She died in her sleep at the age of 72 in 2017 after a battle with cancer.
Through the decades, her voice has stuck with Ms Devianti, who last year watched an interview with Ms Melson on YouTube.
"She voiced some announcements and I was like, 'Yes, this is the voice I'm familiar with, the one I fell in love with when I first took the SMRT'," said the 42-year-old, who has more than two decades of experience in broadcast journalism and has worked at ChannelNewsAsia and at Indonesia's MetroTV.
"So what I'm doing now is sort of a tribute to her because she's the voice that I refer to. I was inspired by her."
It was after a train ride in Singapore in the middle of last year that Ms Devianti decided to send a recording of her own voice making a train announcement to MRT Jakarta.
"I was sitting there in the MRT train and I thought, 'Wow, wouldn't it be great if I were to be the announcer for Jakarta's first MRT?' It was just a crazy idea," recalled Ms Devianti, who was born in Bandung and now lives in Jakarta.
"But it was worth the try. If I don't get it, that's OK. But if I did... wow, I would consider that one of my legacies to my hometown Jakarta."
She was placed in a pool of candidates vying for the role and last November, she heard that the job was hers. "I got to this point by sheer will," said Ms Devianti. "If I hadn't had that idea, if I hadn't just tried, I wouldn't even be in the running."
Her first recording session on Thursday, voicing station and train announcements in English and Bahasa Indonesia, was a three-hour exercise in precision.
She and a team from MRT Jakarta worked through intonations and made tweaks along the way to the wording and translations of announcements.
In her meetings with MRT Jakarta officials, Ms Devianti also brought up some things she had noticed while travelling on Singapore's rail system and hoped to see emulated, such as the graciousness campaign and videos on what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
She will be taking her father along on one of the first trains when the Jakarta rail system launches its trial run for select commuters at the end of next month.
"I'm really ecstatic to have this chance to work with MRT Jakarta," said Ms Devianti, whose husband is Singaporean.
"I've always looked up to and admired SMRT and how it gets people to places fast, and I referred to it when I was preparing.
"I really believe in MRT Jakarta. It will help people get around the city faster, and people are highly anticipating its launch."
This article was originally written by Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, Indonesia Correspondent in Jakarta
Source : Straits Times