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Modern Noise, Fluid Genres

Popular Music in Indonesia, 1997–2001

Jeremy Wallach

Publication Year: 2008

What happens to “local” sound when globalization exposes musicians and audiences to cultural influences from around the world? Jeremy Wallach explores this question as it plays out in the eclectic, evolving world of Indonesian music after the fall of the repressive Soeharto regime. Against the backdrop of Indonesia’s chaotic and momentous transition to democracy, Wallach takes us to recording studios, music stores, concert venues, university campuses, video shoots, and urban neighborhoods.
Integrating ground-level ethnographic research with insights drawn from contemporary cultural theory, he shows that access to globally circulating music and technologies has neither extinguished nor homogenized local music-making in Indonesia. Instead, it has provided young Indonesians with creative possibilities for exploring their identity in a diverse nation undergoing dramatic changes in an increasingly interconnected world. Ultimately, he finds, the unofficial, multicultural nationalism of Indonesian popular music provides a viable alternative to the religious, ethnic, regional, and class-based extremism that continues to threaten unity and democracy in that country.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

Modern Noise, Fluid Genres is a study of Indonesian popular music and its audiences written by an American anthropologist and amateur musician. The book is divided into two parts. The first half examines the cultural dynamics of particular sites for the production, mediation, and reception of popular music, including record stores, recording studios,...

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pp. xiii-xvi

This ethnographic study, like any other, would have been impossible without the aid and support of a vast number of individuals and organizations. The length of the following list of thank-yous attests to the amount of assistance and encouragement I enjoyed during the long process of researching and writing this book. First, I am forever indebted to a multitude of figures in the Indo-...

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Introduction: A Brief History of Popular Music and Society in Indonesia

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pp. 3-23

This book is an ethnographic investigation of Indonesian popular music genres and their producers and listeners during a period of dramatic political and cultural transformation. Through a ground-level examination of the production, consumption, and discursive representations of popular musics in Indonesia, I hope to shed light on complex cultural...

Part One: Sites

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1. Indonesian Popular Music Genres in the Global Sensorium

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pp. 27-41

One result of Indonesian music’s complex history, upon which the description in the introduction barely scratches the surface, is a wide array of music genres that coexist in the Indonesian music market and significantly shape the consciousness of Indonesian listeners. The following abbreviated list of genres is meant as an introduction. Certain...

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2. In the City: Class, History, and Modernity’s Failures

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pp. 42-66

Jakarta is the least exotic locale in a country famous for being exotic. Although it has all the amenities one would expect from an ultramodern, globalized metropolis (for those who can afford them), foreigners and Indonesians alike tend to view the capital as an example of a failed, dystopian modernity—a blighted urban sprawl of traffic snarls, crime, poverty...

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3. Cassette Retail Outlets: Organization, Iconography, Consumer Behavior

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pp. 67-90

Despite a growing interest in mass-mediated music among ethnomusicologists, ethnomusicological studies of record stores remain uncommon. 1 This is a bit odd, since record stores are crucial sites of musical encounter in the contemporary world (moreover, most ethnomusicologists I know spend a good deal of time in them!). These specialized...

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4. In the Studio: An Ethnography of Sound Production

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pp. 91-120

The sources of Indonesian popular music are extraordinarily diverse. Middle Eastern pop, American hip hop, Ambonese church hymns, Sundanese degung, British heavy metal, European house music, Indian film song, Chinese folk music, and Javanese gendhing are but a fraction of the influences one might detect on a single cassette. Despite this...

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5. On Location: Shooting Music Video Clips

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pp. 121-138

As is the case with recording studios, a discussion of Indonesian music videos must take into account the interactional dimension of cultural production: the negotiation of meaning and the concretization of metacultural abstractions that take place “on location,” in this case, at taping sessions for Indonesian video clips. In the following discussion I...

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6. Offstage: Music in Informal Contexts

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pp. 139-167

What happens to the musical artifacts created in recording studios? After recordings are mixed, mastered, duplicated, packaged, distributed, promoted through video clips, and displayed in retail outlets, their fate becomes more uncertain. Some recordings become hits, others do not, depending on the number of consumers who choose to buy them.

Part Two: Genres in Performance

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7. Onstage: The Live Musical Event

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pp. 171-189

We now move from the informal performances of everyday urban settings to more-structured performance events where, unlike at local hangout spots, a perceptible division exists between performers and audience. These sites include public places where humble street musicians perform with hopes of monetary gain and social recognition as much as...

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8. Dangdut Concerts: The Politics of Pleasure

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pp. 190-209

Whether the event took place in a smoky, darkened nightclub, at a wedding celebration in a cramped kampung backyard, or among thousands of revelers at a large outdoor festival, I found that the structure and personnel of dangdut acara were remarkably consistent. The key performers were a master of ceremonies, several singers of both genders,...

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9. Rock and Pop Events: The Performance of Lifestyle

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pp. 210-225

Chapter 7 investigated the acara as a culturally meaningful unit, and the preceding chapter applied those insights specifically to the world of dangdut performance. We learned how musical performance could break down social boundaries and explored the central role of genre and gender ideologies in conditioning concert-related behaviors. This chapter...

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10. Underground Music: Imagining Alternative Community

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pp. 226-246

Underground music is the third genre category in our discussion of live musical performance. While the rock and pop festivals discussed in chapter 9 frequently included underground groups, this chapter investigates the social meanings of acara that were exclusively devoted to underground music and the communities those acara purported to rep-...

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Conclusion: Indonesian Youth, Music, and Globalization

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pp. 247-264

Our journey is nearly at its end. In this book I have attempted to capture the musical life of young urban Indonesians at a unique historical moment. Through ethnographic accounts of various musical practices— recording, performing, listening, purchasing—I have also tried to reveal some fundamental dynamics in contemporary Indonesian national culture...

Appendix A: Notes on Language in This Book

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pp. 265-266

Appendix B: Other Indonesian Popular Music Genres

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pp. 267-270

Appendix C: More on Nonstandard Speech Variants

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pp. 271-277

Glossary of Indonesian and Jakartanese Terms

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pp. 279-280


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pp. 281-297

Works Cited

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pp. 299-313


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pp. 315-323

CD Track Listing

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pp. 328

E-ISBN-13: 9780299229030
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299229047

Publication Year: 2008