Crooning Indonesian President waxes lyrical

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The Independent Online

He crooned his way along the Indonesian campaign trail, and it seems that three years as leader of the world's most populous Muslim nation has done nothing to dim his love for all things lyrical. In between worrying about domestic terrorist threats and spiralling oil prices, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has found time to compose a whole album of romantic ballads entitled My Longing For You.

"Presidents have all kinds of hobbies. There are presidents who play saxophone. The Prime Minister of New Zealand likes to climb mountains. There are presidents who like fishing. My hobby is music," Mr Yudhoyono said at the launch of his musical opus.

He may be adept at mixing state duties with song-writing but pithy song titles are not his forte. Just consider: "Mengarungi Keberkahan Tuhan" or "Living on Divine Blessedness". The song was written in Sydney while he attended a summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation group in September. "I took time in my busy schedule to express my feelings as an ordinary human being," he told Indonesian media.

The former general, who has ruled since 2004, takes between one and two and a half hours to write his slushy ballads and religious ditties. Aides say most of his best work was composed during long flights between state duties. All profits from the album – whose cover shows a solemn president clutching a guitar – will go to charity.

The 10 tracks, which include "Good Luck In Your Struggle" and "A Song Under The Moonlight", are not sung by the President, himself – that task has been farmed out to some of the country's best singers.

But Mr Yudhoyono is known to enjoy a good sing-along. Footage from the election trail shows him giving a recital on a campaign bus, conducting time as aides stand behind doing backing vocals. And there is also video of him crooning Patsy Cline's "Crazy".

While he is the latest politico to succumb to the lure of the microphone, he is by no means alone. The Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, recently released his first album, Songs For All Times. As Irish Prime Minister in the early 1990s, Albert Reynolds treated the nation to a televised performance of, "Put Your Sweet Lips A Little Closer To The Phone". And Silvio Berlusconi, who began working life as a cruise ship singer, found time during his time as Italian Prime Minister, to write an album of love songs.

Back in Indonesia, Yudhoyono could find himself competing in the musical and political arena when he next goes to the polls. General Wiranto, the former army chief, who is expected to run for president in 2009, has also released an album. And he sings it himself.

Top of the political pops

Silvio Berlusconi

His Meglio Una Canzone (Better a Song) album, released in 2003, included such syrupy lyrics as "Tell me it doesn't end here, that you don't want to throw away our strange love like this". He collaborated with a musician he met in a hotel bar in Naples.

Hugo Chavez

Canciones de Siempre (Songs For All Times) was released this month. It features Mexican and Venezuelan folk music, including tunes that the Venezuelan leader has sung during his Hello, President television and radio programme.

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