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8 Apr, 2012

Indonesia’s Foot-Tapping Dangdut Music To Go Global


April 3 2012, Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Soon, Indonesians will not be the only ones shaking their bodies and swinging their hips to dangdut music, but so will people in America and other countries. Indonesia’s dangdut musicians are planning to propose that dangdut be included on the UNESCO’s cultural heritage list. In Washington DC, Indonesian Ambassador to the United States Dino Pati Djalal has launched a reality show called “Dangdut Goes to America” to introduce the music to Americans.

Dangdut is a genre of Indonesian popular music that is partly derived from Malay, Arabic, and Hindustani music. Dangdut is largely composed of cheerful rhythms and is very popular among Indonesian grass roots fans.

In the third congress of the Association of Indonesian Dangdut Malay Musicians and Singers (PAMMI) in Surabaya, East Java, in early March 2012, Dangdut artists suggested that the unique musical genre be proposed for inclusion on the UNESCO cultural heritage list.

“I am initiating the idea to propose dangdut to UNESCO. Let the world know that dangdut music belongs to Indonesia. It must be fought for, and of course we need support,” Rhoma Irama, the PAMMI chairman and ‘King of Dangdut’, said. Ikke Nurjanah, who was elected new executive chairman of PAMMI at the Surabaya meeting, also promised to do her best to send the proposal to UNESCO.

“After our batik received recognition from UNESCO, it’s now time for dangdut because it is a musical genre found only in Indonesia. No other country plays dangdut music but Indonesia,” the attractive, young dangdut singer said.

PAMMI’s idea was supported by Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare, “We agree with the suggestion to have dangdut recognized by UNESCO as being part of Indonesia’s heritage. All prerequisites should be met. The government is ready to support it,” Minister Laksono said.

He is optimistic that if dangdut receives international recognition, it will also bring economic benefits to Indonesia. The minister believes that, at present, all Indonesians and global communities are aware that dangdut music is exclusively Indonesian.

The minister encouraged dangdut musicians to contact related ministries, such as the ministries of education and culture, youth affairs and sports, as well as people’s welfare, to help prepare the proposal for UNESCO.

Items of Indonesia’s cultural heritages included in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity are the Angklung bamboo music instrument (2010), Batik traditional textile 2009, and Kris blade and Wayang Puppet Theatre (2008).

Saman dance, globally popular as the ‘Thousand Hands’ dance from Indonesia’s western most province of Aceh, was included in UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding in 2011.

Borobudur Temple was added to the World Cultural Heritage List in 1991, along with the Prambanan Temple compounds. In 1996, UNESCO included the Sangiran Early Man Site in Solo, Central Java, where the first hominid fossil of mammals walking upright was discovered during excavations conducted from 1936 to 1941.

As for Indonesian natural sites, the World Heritage List includes Komodo National Park (1991), Lorentz National Park (1999), Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra (2004) and Ujung Kulon National Park (1991).

In 2012, Indonesia plans to nominate the Noken traditional bag from Papua, a Balinese dance, the Beautiful Indonesia in Miniature Park (TMII), and the Sasando traditional musical instrument of East Nusa Tenggara to be included on UNESCO’s list of intangible world cultural heritage.

Even before PAMMI had the idea of proposing dangdut to UNESCO, Ambassador Dino has been actively promoting dangdut in the United States with the “Dangung Goes To America” reality show. “Music is not just something to enjoy, it can also be used to strengthen the relations among people in different countries,” Dino said in the US, early this year.

He chose dangdut because the musical genre is identified with the Indonesian people. “Dangdut Goes to America” is aimed at promoting the country’s musical heritage in the United States and encouraging interactions between the people of the two countries, Dino noted.

He said “Dangdut Goes to America” would become the pilot project to globalize Indonesian music. In January this year, at an event called “Evening with Friends of Indonesia” organized by Al Busyra Basnur, the Indonesian consul general in Houston, Texas, around 120 Indonesians and Americans gyrated to popular dangdut songs such as “Begadang”, “Darah Muda”, “Terlena”, and “Kocok-kocok”.

“In fact, the Americans in Houston like dangdut. They enjoyed the dangdut music and swung their hips following the dangdut rhythm,” Al Busyra Basnur said recently. “Dangdut rhythm lures people to shake their bodies. I cannot dance, but I just shook my hands and body to keep up with the dangdut rhythm on the dance floor,” Tina Ho of the Asia Society Texas Center, who attended the “Evening with Friends of Indonesia” event, said in a statement issued by the Indonesian consulate general in Houston.

The Indonesian embassy in Washington DC has planned to organize dangdut music performances in several American cities by presenting noted Indonesian dangdut singers.