Category Archives: Indonesian Music

Dances with horses — from jatilan & kuda lumping to gangnam & merengue

Four-legged men and women, which are common in global mythology, prove the human-horse connection is an old one.

From Indonesia’s mystical and trance-linked jatilan (also jathilan) and kuda lumping, to the refined steps of the Korean gangnam style — the equestrian tradition remains an inspiration for choreographers and dancers.

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Video below shows Indonesian horse spirit possession, although with horses rare in the archipelago, monkey spirit possession — being possessed by the spirit of a monkey– may actually be as common.

While in Indonesia trance dance is a time-honored way to put the whole village on edge, possession by the spirit of Janet Jackson (videos below) only began gaining popularity in the early 1980s (Jackson was born in 1966).

A relatively uncommon hybrid form of Indonesian dance/drama: simultaneous possession by the spirit of Janet Jackson and a horse (unknown breed):

In the inimitable “merengue” idiom, here’s one from the inimitable Kinito Mendez:


Why yes, a little editorial horseplay may be involved, but all in good fun, and to celebrate the fact that #jathilan was recently deemed the “world’s worst art form” by the Bibit Waluyo, the governor of Central Java (where an estimated 500-plus jathilan dance troupes and groups).  He said he didn’t mean it. Perhaps he was simply embarrassed by a bad performance. It’s just kind of a funny statement.

Jathilan and dance/performance traditions shows are truly on the weird end of the horse-play spectrum, but very popular here in Indonesia. Based on You Tube and Flickr, it looks pretty cool. So, I’m sure towns all over West Java, East Java and Malaysia will take the reins if Central Java decides it really is over the bamboo horse dance, after all these centuries. Bali separate but related forms of mane-ia and circumstantial evidence suggests the Madurese are also  hot to trot.

PLEASE COMMENT or FOLLOW, especially the trance dance channel for objective information about trance dance and spirit possession in Bali, Java and Madura.

Reggae Jakarta — hit & miss

Here’s yet another reggae event I missed — the release of  Tony Q’s newest and ninth album. Tapi yg lucu, itu bukan album dan bukan CD juga  . . . mala flash drive!! Paling bisa beli disini. Tau gak bisa pakai Tiki. Cocok kalau bisa, kan.

The one event I did not miss was the screening of Kevin MacDonald’s film Marley — sangat bagus kalau benar2 ingin mengerti siapa blasteran Scottish-Jamaica ini. Besok (atau lusa ; ) reviewnya saya di pasang di blog ini. Saat nonton saya ingat bangat waktu saya tinggal di pulau2 Karibia.

Di jaman penjajahan Karibia itu disebutkan “West Indies,” sedangkan Indonesia di sebutkan “East Indies.” Nah, ada kesamaanya tidak? Banyak. Detailnya sama Ras Muhamad, bisa tanya langsung : )

Bioskop yg di Erasmus Huis (pusat budaya di kedubes Belanda) waktu itu pas dua minggu lalu penuh bangat — Indonesia, orang asing, dewasa, mahasiswa, anak reggae — lengkap.

Habis pulang saya langsung mulai belajar gerakan rasta. Tidak terlalu gampang di mengerti, tapi lama2 dapat di paham. Menurut saya, mirip agama Mitt Romney (Mormon) yg sama aja cukuk aneh. Karena adalah proyek nglokalisir pikiran asing/lama agar lebih cocok di lingkungan lokal/baru. Faktanya Bob Marley cukup senang ikut agama mayoritas — semacam kristen. Tapi habis oranya super jujur dan berani, dia ingin lebih banyak pengatauan serta pengatauan yg lebih relevan untuk situatsi dia di Jamaica jaman 1960-80.

Satu acara lagi yg saya hadir itu Selasa lalu waktu kita merayakan kematian Che Guevara bersama Ras Muhamad (on air, Radio Mustang) . Saya banyak teman dari Argentina, mana saya tidak tau siapa Che –dokter revolusioner dari Argentina tapi yg pindah ke pulau Cuba (pulau yg seberang Jamaica).

Oh ya, ada cerita Snoop Lion (mantan Snoop Dogg) jua. Jago hip hop ini pergi ke Afrika mau cari dukun. Ada dukun rasta kenal Snoo. Tapi langsung kaget gara2 namanya: “Kok bisa anjing, Snoop? Nysar bangat anakku. Pantasan cari dukun.”

“Coba aja ‘Singga Snoop’ — cocok tidak — ” kata kyia rasta itu.

Hahahaha. Gara2 itu (dan gara2 Snoop pasti mau laba di pasar musik reggae dikit) sudah bukan anjing lagi.

Trance dance & spirit possession in Indonesia

Video below shows Indonesian horse spirit possession, although with horses rare in the archipelago monkey spirit possession (being possessed by the spirit of a monkey) is relatively more common.

While in Indonesia trance dance is a time-honored way to put the whole village on edge, possession by the spirit of Janet Jackson (videos below) only began gaining popularity in the early 1980s (Jackson was born in 1966).

A relatively uncommon hybrid form of Indonesian dance/drama: simultaneous possession by the spirit of Janet Jackson and a horse (unknown breed):

Indonesian country music — dangdut, reggae, or Pop Melayu?

According to my wife, back in the day, when Charly and his posse used to play music for passersby at Station 12 between Jakarta and Bogor (ST12), he had a crush on her.

“Stay with me, Angel, he told her. “I’m gonna be bigtime. You’ll see” [I’m not making this up, but was she? ]

“No way, Charly. It is fun kickin’ it here with y’all. But I don’t want no dirty busker for a boyfriend.”

[And she regrets it big-time, to this day :  ]

Everybody in this town got a  story like that. However ineffable once you’re there, the highway to fame and fortune — people around here say — often turns out be a country lane or a narrow urban alleyway (gang) crawling with rats and cockroaches. You don’t even need to go anywhere specific  — like Hollywood or Nashville — to get famous around here.

So in the context of rags to riches, what’s the Indonesian version of country music?

Emma Baulch’s article “Music for the Pria Dewasa: Change and Continuities in Class and Pop Music Genres,”  in the Journal of Indonesian Social Sciences and Humanities, makes me want to check the box next to: Pop Melayu.

The article is theory-laden but readable; all you really need to know is:

  • The Malay word #kampung (kampong)  — in this part of the world — lines up with the notion of village, countryside, less developed, etc.
  • And the word may be opposed to another — gedung, which means building — to set up a little rural/urban dichotomy
  • Despite their mass popularity, some — or I mean lots — of Indonesians will rather forcefully argue that they don’t like bands like  ST 12, Kangan Band, and Hijau Daun. (Honestly, it does remind me of the Nashville twang — I mean thang ; )

Dandgut, certainly, is legit. And a lot older than Pop Melayu (which — as you can probably tell — is a label that come music executive came up with and not the way that fans would refer to bands like ST12).   And then there’s reggae — which can be down-to-earth without sweating the urban /rural thing. (I guess I’d have to emphasize can be down-to-earth. Cuz, the self-styled Indonesian ambassador of reggae, lately of NYC, himself — Ras Muhammad —  was recently lamenting that a lot of reggae these days is nothing but a  soundtrack for airhead beach parties.)

OK, I’m done. Below, however,  are the ‘graphs I dug from Baulch’s rock-n-roll article. Taken together, you’ll see they do — just for the fun of it — support the notion of Pop Melayu, being “Indonesian Country.” (Which is a plenty weird result, since the music doesn’t really sound like country . . . whereas Iwan Fals kinda does (Iwan Fals also sometimes sounds like Bob Dylan and Pink Floyd).

 . . . pop genre distinctions and their attendant kampungan-gedongan dimensions [should be looked at in terms of how ]print media have played a cruical role in building, and reinforcing, a myth of class  @109

Dangdut became a social text for assigning all sorts of meanings — kampungan for example — through which elites could register their own class position. . . Dangdut fans, synonymous with the masses, were discursively produced in print media according to middle class and elite notions of the rakyat [the people] as explosive and uncontrolled. @107

In contrast to dangdut though, pop Melayu [ST12,  Kangan Band, Hijau Daun] generally make use of Western instrumentation, not a bamboo suling (flute) or a gendang (paired hand drums). Pop Melayu’s nod to dangdut can be very slight and barely noticeable. In recent years, in terms of sales, pop Melayu has emerged as an enormously successful genre. @117

Rather than distancing itself from the images of provincial vulgarity associated with the term kampungan, [Kangan Band’s] publicity machine began to make much of its humble, marginal beginnings. In cinematic and literary form, narratives of the band’s rags to riches story appear in a chain of bookstores and on television. Here is an inspirational story of wong cilik (little people) battling against the odds. @121

Much seems up for discussion here: the question of how an interest in the vocalist’s physical appearance reflects on consumers, the role of the metropolis in cultural production, the Melayuness or otherwise of Kangen Band’s music and it’s implications for the affective qualities of consumption. Indeed, the term kampungan is not unpacked here. Nevertheless, the responses to Selinkuh on You Tube do evidence a kind of inquiring, reflexive mode that, it could be argued, disagreements about pop Melayu’s quality seem to provoke. @123

Besides the commercial  significance of pay-to-download ring-back tones featuring the music of Pop Melayu bands and “the pervasiveness  narratives of upward mobility which depict this trajectory as one from kampung to metropolis” [what matters for present purposes] “is that these musical products are . . . most intensively consumed by those living in provincial second-tier and third-tier cities, especially those cities on islands other than Java, therefore most squarely beyond the fringes of Jakarta.” @122-3

The article concludes that kampungan — as the marker of Otherness that has been so important in the construction of Indonesian middleness — is “increasingly unstable.” Moreover, as Pop Melayu is “spun and pitched”  as a musical genre, it is being incorporated into narratives of upward mobility with the result that it is  “no longer just the waste, the un-modern, the vulgar (although these significations endure). Instead, “kampungan (which I suppose we can translate as “country  roots”)  can now also signify the possibility of bettering oneself.”

Equal Rights, Peter Tosh — lirik, bahasa (DRAFT)

Kemarin di Twitter ada orang jawap kpd tweet dari Ras Muhamad dng cara betulin lirik Bob Marley yg di sedikit salah. Si Edgar (AKA Ras Muhamad) ‘dikit malu.  Lucu sekali, karena semua orang yg demen musik Wailers (seperti lirik Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer) juga sadar lirik2 itu kadang2 susah di mengerti 100%.  Apa lagi kalau mau di jadikan Bahasa Indonesia.

Contohnya, apa artinya “chuckin” yg lumayan sering kita dengar di lagu2 Bob Marley. Lebih mirip Church’s chuckin’  or KFC chuckin’ or what??

Nah ini l lirik dng chord2nya:

Lirik lagu reggae Bahasa Indonesia

Ini translation lengkap yg DRAFT dari aku untuk lirik lagu “Equal Rights” oleh Peter Tosh, (Bahasa Indonesia)

Sebenarnya, ini mesti dirapikan sama orang sebelum bisa di playout di gig. Tapi cepat kayanya karena hampir jadi. Ini  dia dalam file .doc biar lebih gampang.

Nah, kalau Peter Tosh orangya memang hitam tapi gaul habis. Super tinggi tapi pintar goyang dan “pede.” Katanya pakai gacamata biar orang gak bisa lihat matanya saat becanda biar mereka tamba takut habis dia tinggi sekali dan suka godain “downpressor man, yaitu siapun yg bikin susah hidup orang kecil termasuk “ap4rat.”  Dia serius tapi suka main juga. Kata dia “Kalau damai itu gampang. Ke kuburan aja. Pasti dapat.”

Katanya suka kesel krna sih Bob (yg bapak orang bule juga jadi dia blasteran) lebih banyak cewek, lebih banyak fans. Lama2 di bunuh di rumah dia sendiri sama maling yg dia pernah bantu cari kerja. Cerita lumayan luar biasa Wailers itu.

One love — Jakarta celebrates Valentine’s Day and the Prophet’s birthday with reggae in the park

St. Valentine’s Day is a Roman Catholic-derived holiday which captures the imagination of some Jakartans. This year Gangsta Rasta and friends put on a free reggae concert in the park. Meanwhile, Maulid Nabi refers to the birthday of the prophet Muhamad.  Its observance in many Islamic countries is at matter of custom and often involves lights, processions and poetry. Both celebrations, on the 2011 calendar, got bunched up in the same three-day weekend last year. Would there be a collision?

Valentines Day Jakarta

Anak reggae

Red-pink-and-white ads and merchandise are everywhere this time of year in Jakarta. Most of the hype is directed at adults, including the Westernized and expats. But even a child could figure out that Valentine’s Day is for lovers.

The subtler shades coloring this lovely holiday — like who was Cupid and did he have a crush on Plato — may require explaining for those who aren’t up on their Greek and Roman history. It’s true — you know — there are many ways to say love in Indonesian. And even romantis isn’t used the word you’d think. One common V-day localization is “Hari Kasih Sayang”  which is “Care Day” and fails to provide any clue as to just how sexy the holiday is (oops — I mean, can be cuz that all depends on if you’re married or not ; )

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AKA Muhammad: Jogja Hiphop Foundation (JHF) and Javanese Hip Hop

I no white! I black! You, me, same! We same!

Do The Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)

Unlike Javanese reggae, I’m in no position to review this one musically (I def. can’t sit through the 60 min self-documentary). But in other respects, it sounds like JHF founder Muhammad Marzuki — who goes by Mo Zuki and Kill the DJ — is doing the right thing.

JHF — dubbed “Indonesia’s foremost hip hop group” — made its U.S. debut at the Asia Society in New York in May.  You might joke that’s risky in terms of street cred; yet it’s much in line with former New Yorker Ras Muhamad’s own self-styled reggae diplomacy work which has him playing DJ, producer, ethnomusicologist and public diplomat on my favorite radio show every Tuesday. Similarly, JHF is using available channels to communicate where they’re coming from — in this case the princely administrative district of Jogyakarta.

JHF’s 2011 documentary Hip Hop Diningrat received some quantum of international recognition, as well as support from Intel.

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