Dangdut koplo on the front of the stage

Farel Prayoga performing at the Presidential Palace. Photo by Biro Pers Sekretariat Presiden.

The rhythm of dangdut music is a familiar soundtrack to daily life in both rural and urban Indonesian villages. But one place where this quintessentially Indonesian genre is rarely heard is at the presidential palace. That changed on August 17, when child singer Farel Prayoga performed the popular dangdut koplo song “Ojo Dibandingke” (Don’t Compare Me) during Indonesia’s 77th Independence Day celebrations, in front of the President , ministers and guests.

Soon high-ranking national figures like Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati and Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi joined Farel on the parade ground and danced. Even President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and First Lady Iriana smiled and jumped in their seats, creating a funny scene that quickly went viral on social media.

Many social media commenters praised the fun and lively atmosphere. Some, however, grumbled that a 12-year-old shouldn’t sing a love song like “Ojo Dibandingke”, while others balked at changing a line in the song’s lyrics from ” it’s only you” to “it’s only Pak Jokowi”.

At first, it was hard to understand why this performance, in particular, had gone viral. Independence Day celebrations often include cultural performances, designed to communicate ideas and imaginations about how Indonesia sees itself. In 2014, for example, I attended the Independence Day celebrations at the Presidential Palace, which also included cultural performances followed by songs by famous pop stars.

Even Soekarno regularly invited pop legend Titiek Puspa to sing at the Palace. Soeharto also hosted Titiek Puspa, as well as other stars like Sundari Soekotjo and Yuni Shara. Farel was simply continuing that tradition – he was already famous online long before this performance, garnering over 27 million views on YouTube for his cover of “Ojo Dibandingke”.

Holding dangdut performances at the presidential palace in front of distinguished guests is a symbolic recognition of dangdut – often derided as popular but tacky music of the underclass – as an important part of Indonesian culture.

It was not the first time that a dangdut singer was invited to perform at the presidential palace. In 2017, senior dangdut singer Ikke Nurjanah also performed during Independence Day celebrations. But this year’s Independence Day celebrations drew attention primarily because of the specific subgenre of dangdut that Farel performed: dangdut koplo.

Koplo is a variation of dangdut that emerged from the periphery in the mid-1990s, and was popularized by the now legendary Inul Daratista in the early 2000s. often suggestive words. Koplo was born in the nightclubs and cafes around Jalan Jarak in Surabaya, East Java. The word “koplo” refers to a mind-altering drug common in the region – the fast tempo of the music is meant to mimic the feeling of being on drugs.

The style quickly spread along the north coast of Java (Pantura), with pirated VCDs being shared among bus, transport and truck drivers. Mainly due to the controversy and interest in Inul, koplo singers are almost always female, who usually wear revealing outfits and perform eroticized moves on stage.

The popularity of “peripheral” koplo has led to a backlash from traditional dangdut musicians in the center, i.e. Jakarta. When Inul came to national attention in 2003, the so-called “King of Dangdut”, Rhoma Irama, condemned her and dangdut koplo as gender disrespectful. In 2012, he even said “Dangdut is dangdut, koplo is koplo. Koplo is not part of dangdut! “.

Recent years have seen the style continue to evolve. Some modern dangdut koplo sound more like pop music than typical dangdut. Other recent koplo songs have drawn inspiration from local culture and performing arts, such as “Jaran Goyang” and “Konco Turu” by Nella Kharisma, which are influenced by Jaranan dance, or “Stel Kondo” by Elsa Safira , which is influenced by East Java. patrol music.

Since its appearance on the national scene, the dangdut koplo has suffered from a negative stigma. The display of dangdut koplo in the palace grounds was therefore an important acknowledgment that the president himself recognized dangdut koplo as part of Indonesian culture. It brought something from the periphery to the center of the Indonesian state, presenting it alongside other traditional performing arts and popular music, and on the same level.

This recognition of dangdut koplo at the presidential palace can help break the stigma long attached to the gender. Independence Day celebrations featured a strong (adiluhung) culture rubs shoulders with the trivial (read). Whether one is a fan of dangdut koplo or not, his inclusion in the celebrations was a true representation of Indonesian diversity.

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