‘Dangdut’ loses appeal
in Indonesia: Expert

Dangdut used to be the most popular form of music in Indonesia, but American researcher Andrew Meintraub says popular perceptions about the genre have changed since its peak in the 1990s.

As a result, it is longer a national form of music.

"Dangdut is nowadays mostly popular in the western parts of Indonesia. It's not that popular in the eastern parts, aside from Maluku," Meintraub said on Tuesday, as quoted by kompas.com. "Music is always following changes in cultural and social conditions. Ideas always change. There's always a process."

Dangdut started out in the 1950s, with Malayan drum and flute orchestras using the instruments to create a variety of moods, and used to be a marginal form of music.

Gadjah Mada University (UGM) cultural studies researcher Professor Faruk HT, said that dangdut has become regimented. Different places in Indonesia now have different perceptions of the music.

Depending on the area, fans want to see dancers who will either arouse them or raise their spirits, Faruk said.

When the media began promoting the music in the 1980s -- and the government did the same in the 1990s -- dangdut helped to provide a national narrative popular with most Indonesians.

Government officials strategically used the genre to promote political messages on a national stage, often singing and dancing alongside dangdut artists, while cultural institutions used the music to create national unity.

In March, an Indonesian official said the government was in the process of having dangdut promoted to the heritage list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Additionally, Papuan noken bags have also been nominated for inclusion in the list, which will be decided in November at UNESCO’s annual meeting.

Last year, UNESCO officially placed the traditional Saman dance of Aceh on the list at a meeting in Bali. (png)

Post Your Say

Selected comments will be published in the Readers’ Forum page of our print newspaper.