Fina Oei is an Indonesian singer-songwriter who recently released her new single “I Lift My Eyes”, a pop-soul expression of Psalm 121. Her heavenly voice mixed with soulful lyrics make this song stand out, mesmerizing anyone who wishes to immerse themselves in the worship and praise of the lord. Fina has been singing in the church choir since she was 13 and became a part of the group Fina Wowor & Rebirth in 2007, that won the Indonesian Gospel Music Awards: New Artist of the Year and Best Group of the Year in 2008.
In this exclusive interview, Fina talks about her latest song, other popular projects, and her journey so far in the music world.
Interviewer: What inspired you to become a gospel artist?
Fina Oei: I’m inspired by the power of music, it is a powerful medium that can speak to a person’s heart. Music, with or without words, can take us to different places in our past, to relate and speak into our present, and to inspire us to look ahead to the future. That inspires me as a creative, understanding that I have a significant role to play as someone who loves the artistry of words and music. As someone who grew up with music, I am also inspired by different family members who have shown me what it’s like to get lost in their enjoyment of playing their instruments. I love the fact that love for music runs in my family. Some of the artists who have inspired me are Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, CeCe Winans, Mariah Carey, Karen Clark Sheard, Yolanda Adams, Israel Houghton, and Lauryn Hill.
Interviewer: How would you describe your musical approach and style?
Fina Oei: My style is best described as pop-soul, gospel, and maybe a little bit of R&B. I grew up listening to church music and singers who started in the church gospel choir such as Whitney Houston, CeCe Winans, and the Clark Sisters. I also love the musical innovation of Michael Jackson and his boldness to take risks knowing that the unique sound he brings will eventually cross over into pop and culture. Israel Houghton also played a big part in my singing style in terms of musical excellence when singing church. I love how gospel music carries soul and passion unlike any other genre, and I am drawn to that. There’s something about the outcry, the wailing, and the rejoicing that comes out of one’s soul in transcendent gospel music. Gospel music is forever a part of me now, I will sing songs with the lens of gospel music even if the genre isn’t gospel.
Interviewer: Tell us a little more about your musical journey so far.
Fina Oei: My musical journey started when I was younger as I grew up with a musical family, so watching different family members in the extended family play and sing with their instruments was a normal sight for me. Most often, every family pulled out their musical instruments and jammed together. Although learning to play the piano at a young age was not the most favorite memory growing up, I do benefit from it as I can write songs now. My singing journey, however, was evident since I was young, I would be enamored by the songs from Disney movies and I would listen to it over and over till I mastered every song.
I then started singing in church and was exposed to gospel music in my adolescent years. I would spend the next twenty years singing in church with a big influence of gospel music in the way I sing. I would later develop my songwriting in my 20s. Now I enjoy the challenge of a blank canvas where I get to write a song, write its vocal arrangements, and see what the song will sound like post-production. Spending time at the drawing board is an exciting and challenging process for me as I experiment on different sounds and different melodies to find the right fit. Because of my upbringing in gospel music, vocal harmonies are also a big part of my musical journey. I love the vocal arrangement and I’m grateful that I get to experiment on it in the different projects that I am in.
Interviewer: Tell us about your latest project and the story behind it?
Fina Oei: I just released a single with In His Presence Label entitled, “I Lift My Eyes (Psalm 121)” on 10 April 2020. The song was written with a former student (I was a high school teacher then) who is now a dear friend by the name of Clarissa Dewi. We would hold regular songwriting sessions together where we would just write to get our creative juices flowing. And one of the songs that came out of the session was “I Lift My Eyes (Psalm 121)”. We wanted to go after two things, what was playing in mainstream music then and writing scripture songs. Putting scripture to a song is a long-standing tradition for the church, aiding in the memorization and worship for the Christian faith. As scripture song enthusiasts, we aimed to do just that, to help put scriptures in listener’s hearts. I was not aware that the global pandemic was approaching, we had planned to release this song way before there were signs of the virus. And so as we released it in April, the global pandemic gave the song that is based on Psalm 121 so much more context as listeners are encouraged to hope in the one who makes the heaven and the earth as the one who will keep their lives from evil. I wish that this scripture song will ignite hope as we navigate through life amid pain and suffering.
Interviewer: What are some of your other projects released so far?
Fina Oei: As a songwriter, I have written songs for Morning Star Worship and Victory Worship with Every Nation Music. Some of my other projects released from 2007 to 2017 are “Fina Wowor & Rebirth”, “Victory” EP, “Follow You”, under Fina Wowor & Rebirth, “Solid Rock” or “Batu Karangku” under Morning Star Worship, and a single released as my first solo project in 2016 entitled “Beautiful”.
Interviewer: Tell us about your upcoming projects?
Fina Oei: I am stoked to be working together with my In His Presence family to release more songs that speak of God’s heartbeat for his children. We are currently working on releasing different songs throughout the year. My next single, entitled Holler Hallelujah, is expected to be released mid June. And I cannot tell you how excited I am to be collaborating ideas and inspiration to create a sound that points people to the magnitude of God. I’m so excited, I don’t know how much I should disclose haha.
Interviewer: Any message for your fans/readers?
Fina Oei: I pray that when we lift our eyes and all we see are overwhelming hills such as the pandemic, such as the stock market dropping a thousand points a day, that we will look to the one who created the heavens and the earth who will keep us. We can know that the one who never slumbers, who never sleeps is for us, is with us, will guard us, now and forevermore because he is the one who has bought us with the blood of his son. And if he won’t spare his own son, how will he keep from us all good things? I hope this song will bring the encouragement that your soul needs.