The wonderful cocktail of Dangdut

The wonderful cocktail of Dangdut

There are many wonderful forms of indigenous music which continue to inspire generations of music lovers throughout the world. In Indonesia one particular form of music that has endured has been Dangdut.

The term itself derives from the Javanese word conveying the literal sound of a drum (known as the table or gendang). Although there is a certain amount of confusion as to how the expression was first used – some claiming that Dangdut was originally a derogatory term used by the rich to describe music favoured by the island's poor, there is no doubt that the music it inspired came to have a universal appeal.

Is in a foreign the widespread popularity of this type of music is the fact that it is extremely rich and vocals, melodies and harmonies. In addition, Indonesians love to dance to this type of music because of its strong rhythmic content.

Typically, the musicians performing this type of music will consist of a lead singer who is backed by several musicians. The actual instruments employed can vary considerably. As well as traditional bamboo flutes, or drums made from cow skins, their may be guitars mandolins and even synthesizers. It is this latter aspect that makes this music particularly appealing because it is able to transcend genres and traverse cultures. There will never be any danger of this form of indigenous music ever dying out because it has proved itself to be highly resilient in its ability to adapt to modern styles.

While traditional Dangdut is music that may have an echo of the past, in its modern setting it can embrace a whole load of eclectic influences, from house and R&B to reggae and hip-hop. The guitars can even be cranked up to incorporate aspects of western rock music.

If you should find yourself in a city on the island of Java, then the chances are there will be a venue somewhere in the vicinity that will be offering regular Dangdut performances. Even if you don't feel like making your way out to these venues, the events are so popular that they are very often broadcast on TV. And just because it Dangdut is based on very traditional music forms is no reason why it should be considered somewhat dull and old-fashioned. In fact, a fair amount of controversy has sometimes centred around the music form.

Over a decade ago Dangdut musicians found themselves at the centre of a media frenzy. A certain singer, Inul Daratista, was singled out by religious groups for her rather racy style of performing and dancing. Naturally this form of publicity has only helped raise the status of the music form, rather than having the opposite effect, as curious concert-goers flock to the shows to see what all the fuss is about.

Whatever the thoughts of conservative commentators, there can be no denying the enduring appeal of Dangdut. It has become a core aspect of Indonesian culture, and the fact that it brings so many people together in the spirit of shared joy and the love of music is something that should be celebrated rather than denigrated.

Powerful stories from D'Masiv

Powerful stories from dMassiv

The YouTube video for the song by Indonesian band D'Masiv, 'Sudahi Perih Ini' has been seen by 8 million viewers. One reason for its popularity is that rather than simply being an accompaniment to the music, the footage tells a story. As the track unfolds, there is a moment of drama that contrasts very well with the delicate nature of the instrumentation. It seems obvious that we are witnessing the demise of a relationship, with a girl shrugging off the advances of her partner.

Be slow but consistent drumbeat keeps a regular rhythm while the guitar picks out some simple, sustained notes. Against this plaintive backdrop vocal comes in with a wistful melody. While the story of regret continues, we see the female again, this time obviously packing her personal belongings away. As she heads for the exit, bag nonchalantly slung over her shoulder, the despondent man perched at the end of the bed reaches out one last time. For a little longer this time, but eventually breaks away to continue her escape. The video is perfectly synchronized with the band footage, because at that precise moment when he lets go of her, the music begins gathering momentum, the action switching from the storyline to footage of D'Masiv.

The walls that have somehow been constructed in this relationship are given a metaphorical twist. As the accompanying melody becomes ever stronger, we see the male protagonist again, this time dressed in a crash helmet and uniform, and surrounded by riot police shields deployed for some civil disturbance. As clouds of tear gas part we see his former girlfriend materializing, surrounded by various fellow demonstrators brandishing placards. Amongst their banners are ecological slogans about saving the planet and resisting climate change, as well as messages about stopping cruelty to animals and general abuse of the environment. The girl marches right up to the row of shields while the riot policeman can only watch her, torn between his duty and his feelings.

There is another flashback to their previous life, where they are obviously having issues. This cuts back to the faces of both, from either side of the wall of riot shields, their expressions consumed with regret. An effective tool here is that the vocals of the song are spoken by the man in riot police gear. While the girl gazes on, someone amongst the other demonstrators wraps his arm around her shoulder – although she is obviously still pining a little for her former boyfriend?

Eventually the stand-off reaches a point where the police must have received orders to clear the streets. Visors are flipped down and they charge into action, truncheons at the ready, while fire and smoke fill the screen. While the action gets messy, with people milling around barbed wire, the music reaches a crescendo, soaring into a powerful guitar solo.

The male protagonist removes his helmet and rushes to the girl's aide as she is roughed up by another policeman. But he can only watch from the ground as she is led away.

The fact the story does not have a happy ending is one of its strengths. D'Masiv are all about making passionate music, with strong lyrical statements, not clichéd rock videos that are merely a tool for selling a band's music. If you need more head over to the bands official site.


Rock in Solo

Rock in Solo

While some people love to relax to soothing music, for others the whole point of listening to their favourite bands is to do so loudly. Forget chart-friendly pop or trendy dance vibes – if you are ever visiting Indonesia's capital Jakarta during 'Rock in Solo' time, prepare to have your ear-drums assaulted!

Every year since 2004, between May and November, festival-goers will be subjected to a diverse range of bands sharing one thing in common: extreme volume. The types of music on offer falls into various genres, but none of it would be particularly welcome blaring from an apartment in a crowded residential area. Rock in Solo boasts thrash metal, gothic music, death metal, heavy metal, metalcore and stoner rock. While the very mention of these genres is enough to have the uninitiated running to their pharmacist for a supply of anti-headache tablets, for the devotees of an event that attracted 37 bands in 2012, this festival is wildly popular.

The festival's beginnings were fairly humble. A decade ago, seven local bands gathered together to entertain a small but enthusiastic audience on a single stage. The second event was launched three years later, with festival number three occurring in 2009 – the first to include international bands in the line-up. Ever since that third festival these rock n' roll parties have been held on an annual basis. By the fourth festival seven bands had expanded to three times that number, spreading over two stages. A year after that, for festival number five in 2011, four stages were utilised to accommodate the 33 bands who congregated to wow the mostly black-clad audiences in Jakarta.

As well as the number of musicians who can now been seen at this annual rock event, the size of the audiences attracted has expanded at a similarly ferocious rate. For that debut festival back in 2004, the total of appreciative fans numbered around 1,500. By 2012 this had rocketed to over 8,000.

Rock bands are notoriously short-lived phenomena. For every Rolling Stones notching up several decades in the business, there is a Nirvana, whose career was notoriously short-lived (amounting to albums that, for all they were acclaimed, could be counted on the fingers of one hand). How many of the bands who first graced the stage for 2004's Rock in Solo are still with us? The bands were Tengkorak, Seringai, Down For Life, Sporadic Bliss, Automatic, Russian Roulette and The Brandals. By the following year only two of those made it back to the stage: Seringai and Down For Life.

The most recent event, held at the Kota Barat football field in Surakarta over November 2nd and 3rd 2013, attracted an eclectic mix of raucous rock exponents. Their names, including Behemoth, Noxa, Outright, Psychonaut and Djiwo, may not necessarily be household names in every corner of the globe, nevertheless the enthusiasm and dedication of these bands for providing hours of gloriously passionate rock n' roll noise for their devotees is unparalleled. If you happen to find yourself holidaying in Indonesia later this year, why not visit Jakarta and take in this fabulous array of headbanging entertainment?!

Gigi – their greatest moments

Gigi – their greatest moments

Ya Ya Ya

The video for their single ‘Ya Ya Ya' has attracted around 1 million hits in YouTube. It illustrates their perfect blend of hard-edged guitars and fluid melodies. The film itself is very arresting, featuring the band playing live on the banks of some suitably industrial-looking docks. The typical ‘band being filmed' scenario is counterbalanced with a short film, containing unnerving images of a mysterious woman, her first appearance a striking high heel and slender ankle slithering out of a car door.

Gigi run through their infectious melodies against a backdrop of towering cranes. The track is powered by strong riffs, a solid rhythm section, and an extremely catchy chorus, and it pounds towards its climax, leaving the listener in no doubt they have been thoroughly entertained.

Gigi live at Java Rockin' Land 2013

Gigi's appearance at the open-air festival is captured here in its sun-soaked brilliance. Armand Maulana demonstrates his impressive vocal range, giving a heartfelt performance over Gigi's customary power rock base. The opening track benefits from a mix of solid Marshall stack-driven rhythm guitar, which allows Dewa Budjana to alternate between raucous chords and more delicate flanger-inspired melodies. Like many of their tracks, it slowly builds to a thundering climax. At various points the vocals dip out, leaving the crowd to supply the words they know so well.

The second track starts as more of a soft ballad, capturing Gigi's ability to create beautiful soundscapes, as well as gritty rock n' roll. However, it soon begins to gather momentum, keeping those thousands of expectant feet tapping. Dewa Budjana provides one of his memorable guitar solos, to give the tune a pleasant high point, before all the instruments come in to collide as the track accelerates to its powerful finale, stopping dead on one note.

Track three is more of an upbeat rocker, and if anyone in the crowd isn't bopping along by that point, they must have serious taste issues! The entire gig last for just under an hour, all faithfully captured here in the official Rockin' Land video. The concert has already gathered 81,000 hits and counting.


This song has been a sizeable hit for the Indonesian rockers. The video weaves images of the band performing the insanely catchy tune, featuring strident acoustic guitar and layers of strings, with suitably shots of seriously attractive young women who appear either seductive or threatening – sometimes both! When the guitar solo kicks in two-thirds of the way through, rather than a standard electric guitar job, we are treated to some sublte mandolin-style plucking by the maestro Dewa Budjana. This YouTube clip has inspired over a quarter of a million hits.

Bisa Saja

Sultry models in monochrome outfits strutting along a catwalk introduce Gigi's Bisa Saja number. As champagne flows into slick glasses and some playboy tempts his targets with trinkets and jewellery, Gigi play their ultra-catchy up-tempo rock classic, grooving to the sounds from a catwalk. Bassist Thomas Ramdhan is clearly relishing being back in the Gigi fold after a short three-year hiatus when the founding member departed. He bops to the groove in a white t-shirt emblazoned with ‘Stayin' Alive', which is exactly what this brilliant Indonesian band have been doing, despite various ups and downs, since their inception in 1994. So far Bisa Saja has accumulated half a million hits.