Hill manager a singing star in other languages

by Len Lear
Posted 7/23/21

Busy as two jobs keep her, Kristen Spangenberg is also a talented singer under the professional name Kristin D.

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Hill manager a singing star in other languages

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You may know Kristen Spangenberg as the manager of Bone Appetite, 8517 Germantown Ave., who does all purchasing for the store “so I can do my part to make sure your pets get spoiled appropriately.” Or you may know her as the efficient manager who does the marketing for Bowman Properties “and takes lots of pictures of beautiful Chestnut Hill to share on Bowman's website and social media.”

But as busy as those two jobs keep her, Kristen, 33, is also a talented singer under the professional name “Kristin (not Kristen) D.” (“D” is for Dennison, her married name.) However, Kristen is probably not like any singer you have ever heard. In fact, I can guarantee that when she sings, you will not understand one word, although the beat is infectious and the voice is crystal clear.

Kristen actually sings in two Indonesian languages in a musical genre known as “Dangdut,” a combination of Indian, Arab, Chinese, Malaysian, Middle Eastern and European musical influences. (Indonesia is a melting pot of cultures, like the U.S.) Since October, 2019, Kristen has been singing in either Bahasa, the  official language of about 200 million people in Indonesia, or Javanese, the official language of about 100 million people in Indonesia.

In fact, Kristen just finished shooting a music video at the Consulate General of New York's Office and Central Park. The song is an original one that she partly translated in English and Indonesian called, "Until My Last Breath." Part of the music video consists of clips from her actual wedding (to Brandon Dennison) that took place in April, and the other part is of Kristen and her new husband wearing traditional Indonesian garments typically worn in weddings in Indonesia.

Kristen has also “covered” a song called “Tatu” that currently has 1.1 million views online. It is the most viewed song on the “Dangdut in America” YouTube page. In addition, Kristen and Rissa Asnan, producer of “Dangdut in America,” released two new episodes of the series on TVRI, a TV channel in Indonesia, in honor of Didi Kempot, a famous Indonesian singer who died in April of last year at the age of 53.

You will no doubt wonder how a Chestnut Hill resident who grew up in York, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in theater and began singing in church choirs as a child wound up singing Indonesian music that is completely foreign to the rest of us?

“I met Rissa Asnan, producer of the 'Dangdut in America' video YouTube series, at a film shoot,” she explained. “I was an extra for her short film called 'Dangdut 101.' I found an ad online for an extra role in her film, and I sang a little bit of a Carrie Underwood song. Rissa liked it and asked if I'd like to start learning Indonesian music, and I said sure!”

Before singing Dangdut music, Kristen performed as Queen Catherine of Aragon at the PA Renaissance Faire in 2014-2015 and sang in many of their stage shows as well as with children's theaters such as Artspower National Tours. She has also performed in recitals, cabarets and performances throughout her life, and she has taken voice lessons with four teachers.

Kristen, by the way, is related to Courtney Love, lead singer of the alternative rock band, Hole, which was big in the 1990s. Love was also the wife of the late Kurt Cobain, lead singer of the famous grunge band, Nirvana. “Courtney is my grandmother's cousin's granddaughter,” said Kristen.

How has the pandemic affected Kristen's life? “The pandemic has made me realize how important it is to not take life for granted and to go after the things you love to do most. I definitely missed performing live because there is something so amazing about the relationship between the performer and their audience.”

What is the hardest thing Kristen ever had to do? “To go out on my own after college and pursue acting in theater. I ended up at an audition for a children's touring theater, I had a callback and then booked it while living in Philly. I had to uproot myself and move to New York City and find a place to live and figure out how to navigate the city on my own. It was challenging, but it was all worth it because of the experience I had and the people I met.”

This is an update to a previous story.

Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com

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