Local, Global, Or National? : Popular Music On Indonesian Television


R. Anderson Sutton, University of Wisconsin-Madison

How does a centralized, non-interactive medium such as television contribute to the negotiation between local particulars and global cultural flows? To what extent can nationwide television broadcasts in a country as diverse as Indonesia accommodate local elements in its broadcasts of performing arts, including music, and to what extent can they localize global popular forms? This chapter offers introductory remarks on the content and audience reception of popular music broadcasts on Indonesian television. By "popular music" I mean music that is packaged, commercially promoted, and disseminated as commodity through the mass media and intended primarily as entertainment. The closest term in Indonesian might be "musik komersial" (lit. "commercial music"), as the loan-word "pop," even in its broadest usage, refers to only one (albeit major) category of popular music, distinguished by elements of musical style from other popular genres.(2)

In Indonesia, as elsewhere, television is a powerful sign of the modern. It is expected to connect the viewer with an imagined modernity that, for Indonesians, is foreign-derived, but reinterpreted and refashioned to fit internal needs. Popular music is a major arena for participation in modernity as well, and its prominent place in the programming schedules of all six Indonesian television stations attests to its importance in Indonesian cultural discourse.

Critically situating television within contemporary Indonesia has barely begun. Several recent collections of essays by Indonesian scholars have offered a promising set of perspectives, ranging from personal reflections to social theory (see esp. Siregar 1995, Nugroho 1995, and Mulyana and Ibrahim 1997). Yet few of the essays even mention music, popular or any other. Indonesian artists and writers have occasionally written about the representation of traditional arts on television (Suryadi 1994:161-173; Sapada 1997:59-64; Soemanto 1997) usually complaining about its shortcomings. Several foreign scholars have written on Indonesian popular music (Frederick 1982, Yampolsky 1989, Hatch 1989, Pioquinto 1995, Lockard 1998), and a few have considered traditional/regional performance on Indonesian television (Hughes-Freeland 1995, among others). But only in the Indonesian press does one find writing on popular music on Indonesian television,(3) and this coverage is necessarily brief and generally more informational than critically reflective.

In this chapter I consider three spheres of popular musical activity on Indonesian television: MTV (music video clips from both Indonesian and foreign performers employing predominantly Western idioms), dangdut (a national genre, with roots in Indian film music and regional music from Sumatra), and Dua Warna ("Two Colors," a mix--some would say a post-modern pastiche--of mainstream Indonesian pop and experimental "ethnic" music drawing on assorted Indonesian regional idioms). Each sphere involves creative dialogue between local and global forces, but in different ways. I will argue here for a view of televised music as both subject to and resistant to global homogenization--subject to it in the pervasive borrowing of aural and visual idioms from abroad, resistant in the incorporation of local elements in musical broadcasts. Countering the arguments warning of global homogenization, Arjun Appadurai writes,

What these arguments fail to consider is that at least as rapidly as forces from various metropolises are brought into new societies they tend to become indigenized in one or another way; this is true of music and housing styles as much as it is true of science and terrorism, spectacles and constitutions." (Appadurai 1996:32)

But going a step further, I contend that some instances of what is touted as "local" may also be interpreted as tokenistic--mere ethnic tinge, reinforcing the hegemonic cultural order in which global, Western-based forms dominate.

The "reading" (i.e., the formation of meaning) of Indonesia's television texts is subject to multiple interpretations, particularly because of the extremely diverse social locations of the foreign and domestic producers and performers who fill its programs (diverse along lines of ethnicity, nationality, and social class). As media scholar John Fiske has argued,

Textual studies of television now have to stop treating it as a closed text, that is, as one where the dominant ideology exerts considerable, if not total, influence over its ideological structure and therefore over its reader. Analysis has to pay less attention to the textual strategies of preference or closure and more to the gaps and spaces that open television up to meanings not preferred by the textual structure but that result from the social experience of the reader. (1987:64)

My interest in the popular music on Indonesian television arose during a period of research in 1997-98, when I was studying the broadcast representations of what are generally referred to as "traditional" performing arts. In Indonesia, the term "traditional" (Ind. "tradisional" or "tradisi") is used widely to indicate forms of expression linked to a particular ethno-linguistic group and its regional homeland. While the newest private station, Indosiar, broadcasts various genres of Javanese and Sundanese traditional arts on a weekly basis to much of the nation, the other private stations seldom offer any traditional performing arts at all. It is simply not economically viable, I was often told, given the ethnic diversity of their audience and their reliance on advertising revenues. Broadcast of traditional arts on the branches of the national television station, TVRI, range from relatively frequent, e.g., in Yogyakarta (Java) and Den Pasar (Bali), to rare, e.g., in Ujung Pandang (South Sulawesi). Yet all stations, including TVRI, broadcast forms of popular music.

Indonesian Television Stations and the Distribution of Popular Music Broadcasts

Each of Indonesia's six television stations has developed a distinctive profile, setting itself off in some way from the others, although none broadcast exclusively one type of programming in the manner of CNN for news or ESPN for sports. Television broadcast in Indonesia began with the establishment of the national station, TVRI (Televisi Republik Indonesia) in 1962 in Jakarta. Since then, TVRI has expanded both its reach and its ability to offer local programming through thirteen branch stations around the nation with broadcast and studio production capabilities and nine additional stations with mobile units. Much of the programming, however, is produced and disseminated nationally, forging and strengthening national unity through shared cultural experience. It is the official station of government's Department of Information, with the dual mission: to inform and to entertain.

After over a quarter century during which the government prohibited any television broadcast other than TVRI, the media laws were relaxed and the era of private television stations began, with the establishment of RCTI (Rajawali Citra Televisi Indonesia), founded in 1989 in Jakarta. This first private station sought to set itself apart from TVRI by creating a sophisticated image, aiming at upper and upper middle class audiences, with sophisticated productions and a mix of local and foreign programs. A second private station, SCTV (Surya Citra Televisi) was founded in 1990, first based in Surabaya, but shortly thereafter in Jakarta. SCTV aims at a middle class audience, especially young adults, with its own mix of local and foreign programs. At first conceived as a more "educational" alternative to either of the first two private stations, TPI (Televisi Pendidikan Indonesia--lit. "Indonesian Educational Television") began broadcasting in 1991, with its main office and studio located in Jakarta. For its weekday morning broadcasts it made use not only of its own frequency, but also the TVRI frequency, since TVRI does not begin its broadcast day until mid-afternoon, except on Sundays. Despite the initial emphasis on education, TPI's broadcast offerings have been largely entertainment, including Indonesian music and dramas, but distinguished from its private competitors by aiming at lower and lower-middle class audiences, all ages. Members of former president Suharto's family have had controlling ownership interests in these three private stations: Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana (Mbak Tutut) in TPI, and Bambang Trihatmojo and his wife Halimah, through the Bimantara conglomerate, in RCTI and SCTV.

The first station to be established through business interests not directly tied to the first family, ANteve (Andalas televisi) began broadcasting in 1993, with a rather different profile than of the other private stations. The name Andalas is a literary term referring to the island of Sumatra and this new station was originally conceived to be the first station whose main offices and studio would be located in Sumatra (Lampung, South Sumatra)--not only outside Jakarta, but off the main Indonesian island of Java. However, for business practicalities, it chose, like its competitors, to be located in Jakarta. It has emphasized sporting events and popular music among its main offerings, and in 1995 developed a cooperative agreement with MTV Asia (see further below), seeking a "trendy" image and aiming its broadcasts at middle and upper class urban youth. The fifth and youngest private station is Indosiar (= Indosiar Visual Mandiri), founded in Jakarta in 1995 by Chinese business tycoon Liem Sioe Liong (Sudono Salim). Indosiar broadcasts a range of talk shows, dramas, and traditional, regional arts--mostly popular and commercial Javanese theatrical arts, such as kethoprak, ludruk, and various forms of wayang (puppetry)--as well as other local content shows. It aims at a wide audience and has won a dedicated following among many of the majority Javanese and Sundanese, whose traditional arts are featured regularly. This station also occasionally broadcasts regional popular music (pop daerah) from other regions.

Indonesian Television broadcast time has been cut substantially since the beginning of the financial crisis that began in late 1997, the but morning and mid-afternoon to late evening periods offer a range of choices. And as of early 1999 at least several stations are broadcasting at all times except from late evening (post midnight) to early morning (pre-dawn). From early morning until late evening, then, with the exception of some primetime evening hours, one can almost always find, on at least one of these stations, one or more popular music shows, usually featuring music video clips. ANteve, in particular, devotes enormous blocks of time to pop music shows, some produced by the ANteve staff, many produced by MTV Asia, and all of which, regardless of the national identity of the performers, employ the styles and idioms of Western popular musics--rock, country, R & B, and the milder forms of rap. TPI emphasizes the throbbing sounds of Indonesia's widely popular dangdut genre, which is also featured in several shows on Indosiar, but seldom heard on the other private stations.(4) RCTI and others have produced and broadcast glitzy shows in which top-selling pop music stars perform in collaboration with performers of what is now being called "musik etnik" ("ethnic music"--i.e., music using instruments, scales, or styles of traditional musics, primarily but not exclusively Indonesian).

How pervasive are music shows on contemporary Indonesian television? If we include those shows that mix banter with music video clips, we find that in a total of 677.6 hours of broadcast on Indonesia's six stations from August 5-11, 1998 (a typical recent week--i.e., without special holiday or anniversary programming), 85.6 hours (12.6%) were music shows. These figures do not include the additional hours devoted to traditional arts (mainly on TVRI and Indosiar), 1-2 hour specials devoted to popular music (aired occasionally on all stations), nor do they include the sometimes lengthy (2-3 hour) Indian movies, which are almost always musicals. The distribution of popular music broadcasts is uneven. ANteve devotes 28 hours, or 24.1% of its weekly schedule to music shows; TPI is not far behind with 23 hours, 18% of its weekly schedule. The choice of programming is, of course, driven by market considerations, weighing viewer tastes against costs. The cost to television stations of the music shows they broadcast varies widely. Those produced by a station for its own exclusive broadcast can be quite expensive, but shows of music video clips in many cases represent income for the station as recording companies pay fees to have some artists's video clips aired.

Without going into detail on the quantitave side of the economic picture, we still need to keep in mind the market forces underlying most choices in television programming. My interest in this chapter, however, is primarily with the patterns of interaction in televised music between global and local (local in various senses). I would like to begin by focusing on the genre most readily seen as global--the music of MTV, one of whose station identification segments declares "One World, One Image, One Channel" (Goodwin 1993:62).

Both Sides Now: MTV on Indonesian Television

By far the most pervasive form of musical presentation on Indonesian television is the single-song video clip--most widely represented worldwide on music shows broadcast on MTV. Music video clips are seen on all Indonesian stations on a regular basis and are routinely used to fill an extra few minutes between shows, in lieu of commercials.(5) Single-song video clips, with singers lip-synching the lyrics and appearing in various scenes (rather than merely on stage), have been seen on Indonesian television for several decades.(6) The style and content of recent clips, however, bears the unmistakable mark of American and American-inspired music video clips seen on MTV. Though eschewing the "nastier" or "raunchier" side of some Western MTV clips, many of which are simply too lewd or too violent to pass Indonesian censorship, many of the clips now seen on Indonesian television involve the rapid sequence of images, the disjointed hints at and subversions of coherent narrative that pervade many MTV clips in the West. This is characteristic not only of the Western-made clips of Western groups seen on MTV in Indonesia, but of Indonesian videos of Indonesian groups. Producers, musicians, and viewers I spoke with saw a very strong and immediate impact of MTV on Indonesian video clip production style.

MTV has a major presence in Indonesia today. Beginning in 1991, satellite dish (parabola) owners in Indonesia were able to view shows produced by MTV when it was part of the Star TV platform, with headquarters in Hong Kong. MTV was attracted to Asia particularly "because it included several countries like India and Indonesia that were increasinlgy open to commercial media ventures." (Banks 1996:99). In 1994, MTV broke away from Star TV and, in 1995, set up offices in Singapore, where it was launched as MTV Networks Asia (personal communication, Shabnam Melwani, MTV Asia, 10 September 1998) This office manages three programming services: MTV Mandarin (for Taiwan and Mainland China), MTV India (for India), and MTV Asia (for Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines, primarily, but seen in Brunei, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and South Korea as well). MTV Asia shows can now be seen on the 24-hour MTV channel carried on the satellite Palapa-C2, and by regular "terrestrial" broadcast on Indonesia's ANteve, which in 1995 worked out a cooperative, revenue-sharing agreement with MTV Asia to broadcast a block of MTV shows, filling a significant portion of its broadcast day and shown with the MTV logo appearing in the upper right-hand corner of the screen through the entire duration of all MTV shows (video clips, announcing, interviews, even screen and sports news).

What is the content of MTV shows broadcast in Indonesia? On a channel that boasts "One World, One Image, One Channel," we might expect to see shows made in the United States (MTV's "homeland"), like many other shows aired on Indonesian television, ranging from American cartoons to American serials and feature films. Many of the videos seen are American, European, or Australian, but the MTV shows themselves are conceived and produced in Southeast Asia--in Singapore and, most recently, in Indonesia. Indeed, the plurality of networks (MTV Asia, MTV India, etc.) is MTV's market-driven strategy to localize its global product. Video jockeys (VJs) speak on some shows entirely in English, on others in a mix of English and Indonesian, and on several of the newest shows almost entirely in Indonesian. The shows with English-language announcing are broadcast as such via satellite, but for ANteve broadcast some of these are taped, subtitled in Indonesian, and broadcast a week later. Three Indonesian VJs (all fluent in English as well as Indonesian) live and work in Singapore; two others work in Jakarta, announcing Indonesian MTV shows in Indonesian, with only occasional short phrases in English ("now listen up"; "or something like that, anyway"; "well, that's it"), as if to legitimize the show as part of MTV's global kingdom, where English is the operative language.(7)

The video clips played on MTV shows may be all or mostly of Western groups, but they are selected for (and sometimes by) Asian audiences. MTV Asia Hitlist, for example, presents a countdown of the top 20 videos, based on sales figures and viewer polls in MTV Asia's targeted countries (Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, and South Korea, in addition to Indonesia). The list often consists entirely of Western artists. Yet there are numerous shows that offer either a mix of Indonesian and foreign artists, or exclusively Indonesian artists, including several shows seen only on ANteve (and not on the satellite). The foreign artists are almost entirely Western; very rarely are other Asian artists shown on MTV in Indonesia, except by satellite. But satellite reception constitutes an increasingly significant part of the market in much of Asia. Indeed, MTV programming on satellite clearly contributes to the internationalization of pop Indonesia, broadcasting a number of the Indonesian shows that play at least some Indonesian clips (including "MTV 100% Indonesia," "MTV Most Wanted," "MTV Ampuh," and "MTV Getar Cinta").

Two regular shows present clips of Indonesian performers only: "MTV 100% Indonesia" (produced in Jakarta) and "MTV Ampuh" (an acronym for "Ajang Musik Pribumi Sepuluh"--the top ten Indonesian hits of the week; produced in Singapore). And both of these shows are announced entirely in Indonesian, except for the occasional phrase in English. The opening segment of MTV Ampuh, prior to VJ Sarah Sechan's remarks, consists of a young "modern" Indonesian couple, dressed in hip, Western clothes, seemingly on the run from several characters from Balinese and Javanese theatrical and ritual traditions--monkey characters with tails and headresses as in Javanese dance drama (wayang orang), and the terrifying Balinese witch, Rangda. The segment ends with one of the monkeys triumphantly holding up a tablet, which then transforms into the show's title: "Ampuh" (meaning "magically powerful," "potent," in Indonesian and Javanese--a kind of local response to MTV's preference for "in-your-face" names: "MTV Wow," "MTV Most Wanted," etc.).(8) MTV Ampuh continues the Balinese reference by incorporating brief phrases of Balinese gamelan music each time the number (from 10 down to 1) representing the ranking of the forthcoming video clip hit is shown on the screen.

Thus, even on the MTV viewed in Indonesia--the most "global"/international/foreign of the three types of televised music I am considering here--local input is evident at a number of levels. At the most general, the tastes of Asian viewers determine content on some shows. And Indonesian input abounds, from the VJ banter in Indonesian to the inclusion of Indonesian video clips, and entire shows devoted to Indonesian groups.

We should note that both local and global content on Indonesian MTV represent a relatively narrow selection from what is possible. Many artists who appear frequently in American and European MTV broadcatss are excluded from the shows seen by Indonesian viewers, especially those shown on ANteve. African American artists appear relatively seldom; and those who do are mostly those who perform the softest varieties of soul, R&B, and, rarely, rap.(9) And Western video clips by heavy metal groups celebrating wildness and rebellion are also absent, due not only to government censorship, but to notions widely shared by decision makers across the Indonesian television industry concerning the tastes and tolerance of the Indonesian viewing public.

Also excluded are some major genres of Indonesian popular music. Pop daerah, popular songs in regional languages (Javanese, Minang, etc.), are not, to my knowledge, ever included on MTV shows, though TVRI and Indosiar broadcast entire shows devoted to pop daerah. The only regional elements that find their way into MTV broadcasts in Indonesia are the frequent visual references to particular ethnic groups and regions, most notably in costumes and choreographies inspired by regional traditions (though rarely replicating them). The other glaring omission is, by carefully weighed decision, the enormously popular but still d�class� genre known as dangdut (see below).

MTV in Indonesia, as of 1998, thoroughly mixes representations of the global and the local (or, more precisely, national)--placing English and Indonesian language in unpredictable juxtaposition in VJ banter, and placing Western and Indonesian popular musicians, songs, and images within the same medium, often on the same half-hour show. MTV seems to be trying its hardest, if not to blur the distinctions, then at least to give pop Indonesia (defined, we must note, as that category of Indonesian popular music which conforms most closely to international pop expectations in musical style and ethos) a greater international platform, and simultaneously to make Western popular music more accessible to Indonesians, all with obvious marketing goals. Hence, Indonesian VJs in Singapore interact with Western performers who appear on their shows. Sarah Sechan interviewed the British three-some 911 as MTV Asia's artist(s) of the month in August 1998, showing them interacting in a personable, informal, but respectful way with a young Indonesian VJ.(10) And international stars, such as Australian Natalie Imbruglia, utter a few well-practised words of Indonesian as they beseech their Indonesian audiences on promotional ads to "nongkrong bersama saya di MTV" ("hang out with me on MTV").

Representatives of MTV in Jakarta and Singapore both indicated the desire on the part of MTV to enhance the popularity of Indonesian artists within Indonesia as well as abroad, but the Jakarta office director, Daniel Tumiwa, informed me that much of their fan mail indicates a sustained preference for Western groups, growing from the desire on the part of MTV viewers to be up-to-date on the latest trends--trends apparently always being set elsewhere, by the international, Western-dominated community, trends often followed by Indonesian popular musicians.

Recent surveys indicate that MTV reaches some 16 million households in Indonesia, that MTV shows are watched by 80% of urban Indonesian youth at least once a week, 33% watching at least some MTV every day (personal communication, Daniel Tumiwa, Jakarta Office of MTV, 10 August 1998). While these survey results are suspected by many to be inaccurate, this type of programming is unquestionably popular.(11) The fact that similar shows (video clips, with an announcer or VJ) are seen on most of the other Indonesian television stations attests to the success of the format. Dramas, quiz shows, information/news shows, and foreign films certainly have their following, as I found when I conducted a small survey in Jakarta and Yogyakarta in 1998; yet music shows are popular. Bianca Adinegoro, a producer for MTV in Jakarta, put it bluntly: "It's just simple, people want to be entertained, and looking at music you don't have to think much" ("Simple saja, orang 'kan ingin dihibur dan melihat musik itu nggak usah terlalu banyak mikir") (Kompas 19 August 1998:12).

Local, global, or national? MTV is not just global or globalizing--in Indonesia it is also national, promoting those Indonesian artists who exclude regional elements (language, musical instruments, scales, forms, etc.) in their music, but who in turn may incorporate more specific, local elements in the visual dimension of their videos. In the case of MTV Asia, local may mean national, or even transnational within a large world region. The MTV targeted at Indonesia, both through satellite broadcast and terrestrial broadcast on ANteve, skillfully blends and juxtaposes, but its approach is motivated by the marketing smartness of the thinking it has co-opted from very different sources. As media specialist Arif Dirlik notes:

The radical slogan of an earlier day, "Think globally, act locally," has been assimilated by transnational corporations with far greater success than in any radical strategy. The recognition of the local in marketing strategy, however, does not mean any serious recognition of the autonomy of the local, but is intended to recognize the features of the local so as to incorporate localities in the imperatives of the global. (Dirlik 1996:34)

MTV Networks Asia would seem to be no exception, but in Indonesia, at least, the extent of local determination suggests a more complex (and perhaps less bleak) view than Dirlik provides. However, it is very likely--though still awaiting the survey research to confirm it--that MTV penetrates to a wider market thanks to its attention to local detail.

Class Act: Dangdut on Indonesian Television

Clearly one of the most popular musics throughout Indonesia, one that is identified both there and abroad as a distinctly Indonesian form--albeit deriving from a mix of indigenous North Sumatran features with influences from Indian films, Arabic popular musics, and Western rock-- dangdut is Indonesia's de facto national music. But because of its ongoing popularity primarily with the lower eschelons of Indonesian society, the erotic nature of its beat, some of its lyrics, and many of its video clips, and perhaps also because of its association for many Indonesians with Islam, it has been avoided by stations cultivating a "sophisticated" audience (ANteve and RCTI) and by MTV Asia.(12) Despite its being championed since the mid-1990s by East Javanese governor Basofi Soedirman and by former Secretary of State Moerdiono, who has publically claimed that dangdut "is very Indonesian" ("sangat Indonesia") (Simatupang 1996:109), this music carries a very different ethos than the Indonesian pop shown on MTV and other stations, making it no less problematic as a "national music" than is "country music" in the United States (associated as it is with a less sophisticated rural, and now lower class urban white subculture). Yet dangdut's popularity, on television as well as in cassette sales--more than one third of total sales for 1997, according to singer and music scholar Nyak Ina (Ubiet) Raseuki (personal communication, 26 September 1998)--demonstrate the firm place this genre holds among the Indonesian populace, a genre that may sound Indian or Arabic in some ways, but is, as Hatch and others point out, clearly NOT Western in its sound (despite its reliance on mostly Western instruments). Dangdut enjoys some popularity in neighboring Malaysia, where Indonesian dangdut recordings are widely sold along with dangdut sung by Malaysian artists (Amelina, Sheeda, Eva, Mas Idayu) (see Theodore KS 1996). And it has a few imitators in Japan (Sandii Suzuki) and the Philippines (Maribeth), but does not have the international appeal of Celtic, African, or mainstream Western popular musics. It is still an Indonesian music, likened by Moerdiono to the nation itself: "from the people, by the people, for the people" ("dari rakyat, oleh rakyat, untuk rakyat," using the word rakyat, which is often used to identify the common people as distinct from the elite). (Simatupang 1996:110)

Given its lower status vis � vis other genres of popular music, its appearance on any national television station would seem to contribute both to its legitimacy and to its position as national (rather than regional, i.e., specific to one or another ethnic group). Some judge its appearance on TPI as appropriate given the relatively low status of this station (often chided as "Televisi Pembantu Indonesia"--Indonesian Servants' Television), or argue that the inclusion of so much dangdut contributes perhaps more than any other TPI programming strategy to define that status.

Dangdut videos have tended to stress the erotic, with the artists' hips gyrating irresistably to the beat. Many of the newcomers to this genre in the video era have been young, attractive female singers, whose video clips find a ready male audience. Most of the popular male dangdut singers are older men (e.g., A. Rafiq, Meggy Z.), whose video clips are less likely to satisfy the romantic fantasies of consumers than those of younger singers. Many clips have shown the singer dressed in garb inspired by Indian film stars, usually romantically engaged with a young member of the opposite sex, whether happily or tragically. Yet the video clips of dangdut in the last few years have become increasingly sophisticated, with MTV-inspired narratives, moving away from the basic hip-grinding shots of the artist on stage (or as if on stage) to romantic vignettes, set in sylvan parks, luxurious mansions, or futuristic landscapes.

Those involved with dangdut programming at Indosiar told me in August 1998 that they attempted to alter dangdut's image in order to make it more appealing to a broader Indonesian audience. This was good for dangdut, they said, and good for Indosiar in its quest for a broad spectrum of Indonesia's viewers. Their weekly hour-long show Dangdut Ria, produced in a studio with artists present rather than as a series of video clips, has a different theme each week, in a conscious--and often humorous--attempt to break with the usual image. Among other recent themes, which have included New Year's celebration and even wayang orang (with artists dressed as characters from the Mahabharata and Ramayana in the style of Javanese wayang orang dance theater), I saw an hour devoted to a Mexican theme (9 August 1998), with all the male performers decked out in sombreros and ponchos, female performers in Mexican lace or peasant tops, with long skirts, all on a stage imitating an old Mexican village, under a banner identifying the whole scene as "Perkampungan Mexidhut" (Mexican Dangd[h]ut Village/Barrio). The host arrived by horse, dressed as Zorro, and called the hostess "se�orita." Interspersed between humorous announcing and a range of dangdut songs (no Mexican influence at all in the music) were a short educational segment on varieties of Mexico's emblematic plant, the cactus, and cooking tips on chicken fajitas by the owner of a Mexican restaurant in Jakarta. I would not argue that this represents an attempt to internationalize the genre--i.e., making it appeal to a Latin American audience--but rather that it was intended to erase some of the entrenched associations held by Indonesians. (What could be less Islamic than a Mexican village?) The humorous element in this and other Dangdut Ria shows reinforces its appeal to a broad Indonesian audience, but it also keeps it from the pretentious realm of international-style pop Indonesia.

Dangdut is NOT trendy, does not give its viewers a finger on the pulse of the world, of the global now (cf. Appadurai 1996:2-3). It is not "traditional," not "regional"; but neither is it "modern" in the same way that the more Western forms of pop are. Its use of electronic instruments, and its strong presence in the electronic mass media (broadcast and recording) give it sufficient trappings of modernity for many Indonesians. It ties them in with modern entertainment technology because it is so unambiguously theirs in ways that pop Indonesia, which constantly shifts in imitation of international trends, is not. Dangdut is modern and local (as opposed to global), thereby incorporating some contradictions, challenging the too-facile dichotomy between traditional/regional/non-Western on the one hand and modern/international/Western on the other.

Local, Global, or National? Dangdut is not yet global (despite its popularity in Malaysia and its few imitators elsewhere); its presentation on Indonesian television contributes to its strong identity as a national music--incorporating some foreign elements, but at the same time maintaining, through its cultivation of an "Eastern" style, resistance to the oft-feared onslaught of globalization.

Indigenized Exoticism: "Dua Warna" on Indonesian Television

The third perspective I would like to consider on Indonesia's television broadcast of popular music comes from "Dua Warna" (lit. "Two Colors"), a show produced on the elite private station, RCTI, in which top-name popular musicians perform pop songs, accompanied not only by their usual musicians on electric guitars, electronic keyboards and drum sets, but by an ensemble of various non-electronic, non-Western, mostly Indonesian instruments. The latter are played by members of Kua Etnika (lit. "As If Ethnic"), a group directed by Djaduk Ferianto, a veritable "ethnic music sensation" of the mid- and late-1990s.(13) One of the sons of Bagong Kussudiardjo, the famous Javanese dancer, choreographer, teacher, and arts manager extraordinaire, Djaduk grew up in the Javanese court-city Yogyakarta, in close contact with the music and dance not only of Java, but of the many other Indonesian regional traditions represented in his father's schools (see Sutton 1991:218). His Kua Etnika consists of nine or ten young male musicians, all of them Indonesian and most of them Javanese (two are from Bali, one from North Sumatra). They play on a range of instruments: gamelan instruments of Java, Bali, and Sunda; drums from Java, Bali, Sunda, South Sulawesi, Ghana, and the West; boat-lutes from North Sumatra, South Sulawesi, and Kalimantan; bamboo flutes from various parts of the archipelago and Japan; a seemingly limitless variety of bamboo idiophones; and electronic keyboard.

Several producers at RCTI (Dradjat Usdianto, Jay Soebiakto, and Duto Sulistiadi) are credited with concocting the idea of combining pop music with something more traditional and regional. This is hardly a new idea in Indonesia. One finds various kinds of synthesis between Javanese music and Western music from at least as early as the mid-19th century, and hardly anyone with access to Indonesia's mass media since the 1970s would not be aware of the music of Guruh Soekarnoputra, who composed and arranged rock music with very obvious Balinese musical elements (instruments, scales, vocals). Yet the RCTI idea, which took the name "Dua Warna," was conceived to avoid representing one single Indonesian ethnic group over others. Djaduk, although Javanese, was known to be well-versed in a range of Indonesian instruments and musical styles. And he was known to be prone to experimentation, seeking new musical patterns rather than repackaging existing regional traditional styles. To work on the arrangements, RCTI also enlisted the commitment of an American-trained electronic musician-composer-arranger, Aminoto Kosim, who told me in an interview (8 August 1998) that he had no real interest in Indonesia's regional traditions as such, had not studied them, but found it interesting trying to come up with an effective synthesis. Raharja, one of the Javanese musicians in Kua Etnika for the first three shows, noted to me that Aminoto would typically give Djaduk the basic framework of song--its rhythm, melody and form, asking Djaduk and his musicians to work up an accompaniment that fit. He would then add the pop instrumental arrangement, seldom seeking very substantial changes in what Djaduk and his musicians came up with. (Raharja, personal communication, 1 October 1998)

The results of the collaboration between these two arrangers have been seen on five 90-minute shows produced and broadcast by RCTI during evening primetime--twice on Indonesian Independence day (17 August, 1996 and 1997), and most recently on 2 January 1998.(14) It is clear that the pop predominates over the etnik, particularly in the aural dimension. Javanese and Balinese pitched metallophone instruments (saron and gend�r) are retuned from the indigenous intervallic structures of sl�ndro and p�log to conform with the Western scale used by the pop musicians; drumming and other percussion patterns are tailored to support, rather than alter, the established rhythms of the pop musicians. Musical forms are not those of indigenous songs or pieces of any Indonesian region, but rather those typical of international pop music. In short, the etnik musical elements must work around the pop, nearly all compromises being made by Djaduk and his ensemble. Philip Yampolsky's observations on the decidely less prestigious genres grouped under the rubric pop daerah ("regional pop"), which use nearly all the idioms of pop Indonesia and whose main distinction from pop Indonesia is the use of regional languages rather than Indonesian, aptly describes the music of "Dua Warna" as well:

...it is clear that in these encounters between Pop Indonesia and regional musics, Pop "wins" musically. One or two or even several symbols of the regional music may be present, but they bring no coherent or compelling message from outside. They are wholly subordinated to Pop, decorating the edges or the backgrounds. (Yampolsky 1989:15)

Although I might have predicted this before I first saw this show, I was not prepared for the remarkable imbalance in the sound mix. While the final edit incorporated frequent shots of Djaduk and his musicians hammering away on Javanese or Balinese metallophones, or beating various Indonesian drums, the viewer could hardly hear the sounds they were making. Two of the producers involved (Yogi Hartarto, 7 January 1998; and Dradjat Usdianto, 11 August 1998) informed me that the sound technician had kept the playback levels low for Djaduk's musicians in the final mix for fear of obscuring the pop singers and their pop accompaniment. A more balanced mix would, they all felt, have disappointed viewers and led to lower ratings. Duto Sulistiadi, executive manager for special events on RCTI, even expressed concern that this show might mess up Indonesia's music industry ("akan mengganggu industri musik di negeri kita") (Republika 2 January 1998:19)--almost certainly an exaggerated worry, or claim, as the case may be. Yet there was clear agreement that, at least for RCTI viewers, too much "ethnic" music in the mix would have been disastrous.

Another indication of the unfulfilled promise of a successful musical mix was evident in the visual dimension, which showed members of Kua Etnika responding to each other's playing, but being largely ignored by the pop musicians. Only during the instrumental numbers--Western pieces such as Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo � la Turk" (2 January 1998) and "Mission Impossible" (17 August 1997)--did musicians of both "colors" seem to interact at all.

So why the "ethnic" music? Was it just a gimmick to stimulate viewer curiosity, to win press publicity? No, say the producers emphatically, it was a sincere project to stimulate musical creativity which turned into a more clearly commercial venture than was first envisioned--because of the medium of television, and the watchful eye of the RCTI general manager (who, in the current economic crisis, has cancelled production of further "Dua Warna" shows). I point this out not to criticize the producers, but to stress the extent to which the norms of pop clearly rule in the context of a national mass media such as television. In the area of radio and cassettes, which can and do operate on smaller scales and in particular locales, regional traditions fare comparatively better.

How has "Dua Warna" participated in the dialogue between global and local? Here we have music that is inspired by multiple levels of global impact, and yet draws on local elements to create a self-consciously "less Western" sound and image than pop Indonesia: (1) the persistent impact of Western popular music in many (though not all) of its stylistic manifestations and (2) the aesthetic impact of recent commercial world music/world beat, which exploits identifiably exotic/"ethnic" musical sounds in combination with established popular musical sounds and idioms. Why should this be desirable in Indonesia? A response to the endless rhetoric over loss of national and regional identity in the face of globalization? A rational response to the realization that Latin, African, and African American rhythms have become more "natural" for Indonesian listeners than the rhythms of their indigenous traditions? Pop singing star Chrisye, who appeared on the January 1998 "Dua Warna," described Indonesians' resistance to local elements in their popular music as a kind of "allergy." This music hopes to be newly "Indonesian" (hence, national--or local as distinct from global), and in terms of its audience (sophisticated viewers of RCTI) it can be said to have succeeded. But analytically we can certainly suggest that it is much more in the spirit of Western exoticism, which fuels the world music/world beat market, than are either the pop Indonesia presented on MTV or the dangdut presented in video clips and televised stage shows. In fact, one could argue that this show represents in explicit, musical terms, the ongoing struggle between global and local forms and demonstrates, indeed celebrates, the triumph of the Western popular idiom over any and all local Indonesian traditions--the very opposite of the claims of its creators. The gamelan instruments are tuned to Western scale, and lightly decorate the contours and chords of the popular songs presented. The drums and other non-pitched percussion instruments fall into line, musically speaking, to enhance the back-beat and predictable syncopations. The result--pop music with an "ethnic flavor" (nuansa etnik). The very fact that the term "ethnic" (etnik) is now widespread in the discourse about Indonesian regional musical traditions, including very prominently the discourse about this television show, is indicative of the marginalized space accorded these various traditions among popular musicians and, most importantly here, television producers.


It is abundantly clear that Indonesian television is not a one-way medium in the flow of global cultural forms. Certainly the private stations, particularly ANteve with its MTV shows, fill the airwaves with great quantities of foreign pop music, just as multi-national recording companies keep a ready supply of foreign pop music on the shelves of cassette stores throughout the country. But unlike the cassette stores, where the commodity sits on the shelf until it is bought, the foreign commodities presented in the form of video clips on MTV are talked about by Indonesian VJs, foreign stars are interviewed, and the music is made to seem as if it "belongs" in Indonesia. Furthermore, MTV Asia incorporates a growing number of video clips of Indonesian pop musicians, placing them in the same trendy context as the big-name foreign stars, and giving them unprecedented exposure throughout Southeast Asia. To a surprising extent, these broadcasts attempt both to glamorize pop Indonesia as a viable genre on par with the music of world-famous pop stars, and to de-exoticize these world-famous pop stars by making them familiar.

Dangdut has enjoyed television coverage for many years, which has undoubtedly contributed to its enormous popularity and its status as a "national" music; but programming has also tended to segregate it from other forms of popular music, particularly Western and Western-inspired pop. A genre that has numerous international influences, but a circumscribed audience, still mostly Indonesian lower and lower-middle class, dangdut is a "local" music in a very different sense than Javanese karawitan (gamelan music) or Minangkabau saluang (bamboo flute)--Indonesia's regional musics. Yet, from an international perspective (global or Asian) it is very much a "local" music, one that resists the hegemonic forces of Western pop, even as it paradoxically employs some of the stylistic features of Western pop, particularly in instrumentation (cf. Taylor 1997:85). That at least some of Indonesia's national television stations devote airtime to dangdut has certainly contributed to the ongoing vitality of this music despite its problematic class associations. Indeed, had it not already enjoyed an established position in televisions broadcasts, might former Secretary of State Moerdiono have so readily appropriated it in mid-1990s for political purposes?

In contrast, "Dua Warna" is (or, more correctly, was) not a broad genre of music, but simply a musical experiment, packaged in glitzy production and given prime airtime on Indonesia's upper crust station. Its negotiation between local, global, and national forces is especially complex and contradictory, for in its self-conscious quest to Indonesianize pop Indonesia by combining it with various regional musical elements, it exoticizes the indigenous and champions the Western. The producers may be right that their viewers are not yet ready to accept greater exposure to indigenous musical traditions, that their insatiable taste for Western-style pop would have them turn off anything that represented a more even blend. We cannot deny that some form of dialogue is taking place here, with local elements working their way into the musical fabric of pop Indonesia. Yet it strikes viewers as a confirmation of the supremacy in Indonesia now of Western-style pop, and the subverient, marginal/exotic position not only of indigenous regional "traditions," but of experimental music made on the instruments of those traditions. No matter how radical or original, music made on traditional instruments is still perceived by many as "traditional" by nature of the fact it does not conform in sound or image to what is perceived to be "modern."

Placing local elements in the midst of musical symbols of modernity simultaneously contextualizes the global, making it more possible for Indonesians to feel a part of modernity, and legitimzes "local" (regional/traditional) cultural expression as compatible with the modern. Localness--representations of Indonesianness or Javaneseness or Minangkabauness--abounds on Indonesian television in the late 1990s. Yet these elements, these "nesses," are increasingly separated from the larger core of local cultural practice; they become arbitrarily exploited "nuances"--not quite the free-floating simulacra seen by Baudrillard to characterize much of the postmodern, mediatized world, but certainly signifiers no longer bound exclusively to particular localized interpretations. We have not considered the instances, albeit relatively few, of "traditional arts" on Indonesian television; some of those have been explored in depth in other chapters. Certainly there, too, much is changed as they are presented on television, not least the whole context of audience apprehension. What I have tried to argue here is merely that globalization, which would seem to be so readily promoted by national television, particularly when it goes into partnership with a transnational corporation such as MTV, is both aided and resisted by Indonesia's music television broadcasts.

It is important to bear in mind that Indonesian government policy has long been wary of globalization. Indonesia under Sukarno banned Western rock and roll during the latter part of his presidency (early 1960s). During the 32 years of Suharto's presidency, although Western popular music and local imitations were no longer banned outright, state discourse, from the president to small village officials, constantly warned of the aesthetic and moral dangers of excessive exposure to Western popular culture at the expense of local expression. The various branches of the national television station incorporate regional shows, including music, as part of cultural policy. And all stations, private and public, are by law to limit their broadcast of foreign material to 30% of their broadcast day, even though this is not fully observed or strictly enforced. But as we have seen, the question of identity in popular music broadcasts is complex, constantly negotiating between the facile opposites of foreign and domestic. Language, video images, musical instruments, vocal style provide "Indonesianness" in television broadcasts of popular music--transforming the local and continually engaging the global, now accommodating, now challenging. This engagement, of course, is not limited to the realm of broadcast, but it is evident there, if you will, in high resolution. If culture is contested, as many now argue, then television--music television--seems a very good way to watch--and hear--that contestation unfold, in Indonesia as much as anywhere else in the world.


1. I would like to thank the many people who have contributed to this paper, providing everything from raw scheduling data and promotional materials to extended discussions of media history and musical aesthetics. Many in the television industry spoke with me, often at length, concerning a range of issues covered in this paper. In particular, I would like to mention George (Chossie) Kumontoy at TPI; Yayang, Rusman Latief, Eka Prathika, and Wishnutama at Indosiar; Niniek Sidawati and Bambang Winarso at TVRI Jakarta; Anggit Hernowo, Yogi Hartarto, Drajat Usdianto, and Ietje Komar at RCTI; Adhi Massardi and Amalia Ahmad at ANteve. At MTV in Jakarta, thanks to Bianca Adinegoro, "Bimbom" and especially Daniel Tumiwa and Muthia Farida. And at MTV Singapore, thanks to Shabnam Melwani, who responded to my many questions via email. I am particularly grateful to Daniel Tumiwa and Amalia Ahmad for staying in touch by email, answering questions large and small as they have arisen. In addition, I appreciate the extended conversations concerning popular music on television that I had with the following: "Dua Warna" music arranger Aminoto Kosin; "Kua Etnika" musician Raharja; anthropologists Lono Simatupang, Budi Susanto, and Made Tony Supriyatno; and my doctoral students in ethnomusicology, composer and music critic Franki Raden and "creative pop" singer and teacher Nyak Ina (Ubiet) Raseuki.

2. Hatch posits three main categories, each with subcategories: "Almost all pop songs sound recognizably western in ways that almost all kroncong and dangdut songs do not" (1989:590). (Kroncong is a broad category of music characterized by acoustical string accompaniment with particular rhythmic configurations involving interplay of off-beat patterns. It has Portuguese roots, but has been indigenized in various ways over the course of several centuries. Dangdut is a pulsating popular music, similar to Indian film music and some popular musics of the Middle East.) Yet the term pop is also used in a narrower sense, as a subcategory of mellow, "middle of the road" music, distinct from the harder-edged rock and the Indonesian versions of country--all three of these sounding "recognizably western." Cf. Yampolsky's statement, "...it is possible to use "Pop" as an umbrella term for Pop Indonesia, Rock, and Country." (1989:2, n.3) This assessment, though dating from the late 1980s, still holds as of 1999.

3. Lockard's ambitious study of popular music in Southeast Asia includes a 60-page chapter on Indonesia that barely mentions television other than to note the growth of private stations, the spread of television ownership from urban elite to a wider segment of society, and several instances of censorship (1998:54-113). Taylor's coverage of Indonesian superstar Rhoma Irama, in a book devoted to "global pop," avoids any mention of Rhoma or any other Indonesian artist appearing on television (despite Irama's being banned from Indonesian television for a period in the 1980s). Taylor does point out the pivotal role of MTV in the international success of Anglo-Asian singer Apache Indian (1997:157), but never mentions MTV or other televised music in Indonesia.

4. From the early 1980s until the rise of dangdut on private stations a decade later, TVRI devoted significant portions of its music shows, such as Aneka Ria Safari, to dangdut. During the 1970s, when television reached mostly the upper and middle classes, TVRI chose its music accordingly. But with the sharp increase in television viewership, particularly among the lower and lower-middle classes in rural as well as urban areas, TVRI responded by incorporating dangdut, music it knew this new viewership to enjoy.

5. Advertisements are seen on all stations except TVRI. Government broadcast laws forbid advertising on the national television station, and require the private stations to pay 10% of their advertising income to TVRI, an especially burdensome ruling in the midst of drastically reduced advertising revenues precipitated by the current economic crisis.

6. Jay Soebiakto, a producer of music television shows for RCTI (including "Dua Warna," discussed below) and an independent producer of music video clips, made the first Indonesian video clip seen on MTV, with a song by Indonesian pop star Chrisye, in 1990.

7. The use of English for the satellite channel is intended to make the broadcasts accessible to viewers in areas outside of Indonesia (all the countries covered by MTV Asia), and to give these shows a trendy, international feel, playing on documented preferences of Indonesia's urban middle- and upper-class youth.

8. The acronym Ampuh, curiously incorporating the word pribumi, a racial term distinguishing "indigenous," Malay peoples from "foreign," Chinese and others, did not seem to strike those I questioned about it, including representatives of MTV, as potentially incendiary, even given the heightened sense of tension between pribumi and non-pribumi since the onset of the economic crisis.

9. In the many hours of MTV I watched in Indonesia during three weeks in August 1998, I saw the following: Boyz II Men, 98 Degrees with Stevie Wonder ("True to Your Heart" from the Disney film Mulan), Will Smith ("Just the Two of Us"), Lighthouse Family ("Lost in Space"), Brandy and Monica ("The Boy is Mine"), and Whitney Houston ("Greatest Love of All"). Otherwise I saw no African American performers.

10. Goodwin has noted that MTV VJs "offer a girl/boy-next-door point of identification for MTV viewers" and that this "identification point established by the VJs is, unsurprisingly, a conscious MTV strategy." (Goodwin 1993:55) MTV sought VJs who would not usurp the fame and larger-than-life image of the celebrity musicians. MTV's Indonesian VJs seem as relaxed, unpretentious, and just slightly unprofessional as (some) American VJs, but in spite of their on-air style (or perhaps because of it), all three Singapore-based Indonesian VJs have won celebrity recognition. Indonesian VJ Nadya Hutagalung won "The Best Light Entertainment Presenter Award" in the Asian television awards, held in Singapore in January 1998, and she was recognized as one of 25 "Asian Trend Makers" in Asiaweek (6 March 1998). She and fellow Indonesian VJ Sarah Sechan were among ten television personalities named by television tabloid Bintang Indonesia as "Bintang Yang Paling Berkilau" (lit. "Most Brightly Shining Stars") on Indonesian television for 1997. Indonesian VJ Jamie Aditya was named by the same tabloid as one of ten "Bintang Baru Yang Potensial" (lit. "Promising New Stars"), as well as being chosen from a field of 47 nominees as "The Hip, Hot and Happening Bachelor" for 1998 by Cleo magazine. (promotional literature from MTV Asia, Jakarta office, August 1998.)

11. Several television professionals suggested that many people, particularly adolescents, consider any video clip show on any television station to be MTV--as if MTV were a genre: any music video presentation, rather than a company with a fixed number of shows broadcast only on ANteve. This may explain the high numbers that MTV boasts (to potential advertisers), based on "survey research."

12. SCTV has a daily music show "Sik Asik" (a colloquial phrase approximating the English "totally into," "turned on") that presents dangdut video clips. Yet RCTI has only included dangdut singers in a few specials: the last production of "Dua Warna" (2 January 1998) with Iis Dahlia, which involved a mix of Dahlia's dangdut with Djaduk Ferianto's "etnik" music (see further below); and a show they offered at the end of the Muslim fasting month in 1997, in which several top stars (Iis Dahlia, Ikke Nurjanah, and Fahmi Shahab) sang dangdut songs gentrified by an accompanying orchestra, with several ethnic tinges, such as an Indian sitar and costumes which "had an ethnic Betawi nuance" ("bernuansa etnik Betawi") (Hangguman 1997:2). On the show, Erwin Gutawa, one of Indonesia's most famous pop music arrangers, acknowledged that dangdut has become enormously popular, and for this reason he wanted to try experimenting with it.

13. The term etnik or etnika is being used with increasing frequency in the discourse on Indonesia's music as a catch-all to refer to non-pop, non-Western music, especially the countless regional traditions of the archipelago. It has the advantage of avoiding the dichotomy between "traditional" and "modern", although other similar dichotomies are still implied. The term seems to be primarily used in the context of the music industry, by those whose primary concerns are with global, national, or supra-ethnic markets. Other terms persist, however. The bi-weekly tabloid published for private radio stations around Indonesia, Eksponen, now incorporates a four-page insert with the rubric musik tradisi (traditional music), but the articles often make use of the term etnik and daerah ("region," "regional").

14. The first and fourth shows were both broadcast on Indonesia's Independence Day (August 17), 1996 and 1997, respectively--a clear indication of the prominence the RCTI executives intended for this experimental musical show. I was unable to obtain a verifiable list of the popular musicians appearing on the second and third shows. I present here a list of those appearing on the first, fourth, and fifth. First show (August 17, 1996): Atiek CB, Katon Bagaskara, Dewi Gita, Ebiet G. Ade, Nicky Astria. Fourth show (August 17, 1997): Hetty Koes Endang, Iwa K, Ruth Sahanaya, Harvey Malaiholo, Nugie, Imaniar. Fifth show (January 2, 1998): Gatot Sunyoto, Chrisye, Kris Dayanti, Rama Aiphama, Gigi, Ikke Nurjanah. Most of these are pop Indonesia stars, singing in the styles most heavily indebted to Western (American and British) popular music. However, Gatot Sunyoto and Hetty Koes Endang are both known for their keroncong singing, and Endang has recorded songs in regional languages (her native Sundanese and also Minangkabau). Iwa K. performs rap music, with all the mannerisms of America's rappers of the 1990s. The only dangdut singer (see below) among these is Ikke Nurjanah; and in her appearance on "Dua Warna," the dangdut musical elements were masked under a heavy overlay of mainstream pop.

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