Riots broke out, so fierce was the Muslim opposition to Lady Gaga’s sold-out performances in Indonesia, which had to be cancelled. In the videos below, you’ll see ‘Dangdut,’ a very sexually provocative form of entertainment that is wildly popular with both the masses as well as children.
BBC Dangdut sounds like a cross between techno and Bollywood, but it is 100% Indonesian. With influences from Indian, Arabic and Malay music, it has traditionally been extremely popular with the working classes and lower income groups, but it can be heard in train stations, police offices and even the bank, if your teller likes it.
Dangdut is an integral part of Indonesian life. The world’s most populous Muslim nation even wants to register it as part of its musical heritage with Unesco.
During a live performance of Indonesia’s highest-rated morning television show Dahsyat, it was evident that dangdut songs ruled the roost. Even teenage sensation Justin Bieber’s songs are Indonesianised on the show – his chart-topper “Baby” set to a dangdut score resulted in peals of laughter from the crowd watching the show.
Yahya Iwan Wel, the executive producer of Dahsyat, said dangdut had been modernised to suit Indonesians’ changing tastes, but rejected criticism that it was vulgar. “Nowadays there are singers who perform in small towns and villages who use very erotic and sexy moves,” he said. “And yes, certainly some of their lyrics are suggestive. But it is toned down for TV performances.”
Critics say dangdut performers like Julia Perez – or JuPe as she is known – do not demonstrate any Kind of control. JuPe contests that she is not vulgar – she is just sexy. Her entrance on the Dahsyat show was greeted with loud applause and wolf whistles from her fans. Known as Indonesia’s “sex-bomb,” she did not disappoint, wearing a skin-tight black leather outfit with an embossed skeleton, which left little to the imagination.
Hiding her eyes behind sunglasses studded with crystals, she gyrated to her popular number “What JuPe likes the most”, ending her performance being dragged across the floor of the studio in a rather precarious and suggestive fashion by one of the TV hosts.
Dangdut singer Malinda said, “This is my creation,” she said in her dressing room, “so either you like it or not. I’m doing something to make people happy.” She rejected the suggestion her music could be misinterpreted by others as being far too sexually suggestive for Muslim-majority Indonesia. “It’s because I’m sexy, that’s why they don’t like me,” the singer said, referring to the Muslim clerics who have spoken out against her. But how come the ratings are always high? The people like me because I don’t have to pretend that I’m a good Muslim – when I talk about my faith it’s between me and my God.”
Dangdut has always been the music of the masses and has, even in the past, had racy undertones. Now, though, conservative groups feel it has moved too far from its roots and risks corrupting Indonesian society. But the majority of Indonesians are dancing to a different tune – and they are not complaining.