Indonesian Reggae Inna Political Stylee

images1By Richard Gehr

As in Malaysia, indie and underground headbangers and skankers in Indonesia are also taking to the stage and freely expressing political opinions as the country gears up for its July 8 presidential election. With a population of 228 million, 200 million of whom are Muslim, Indonesia boasts the world's largest Islamic population. People listen mostly to Western influenced pop Indonesia and also to dangdut, a fascinating hybrid of local, Arabic, and Hindustani sounds. But this article focuses on an emerging reggae singer named Ras Muhamad, 26, who's become a particularly outspoken critic of political business as usual:

"'Not everyone likes what they hear. Lawmakers probably see me as an enemy. I don't single out specific individuals so I haven't got into serious trouble yet,' Muhamad told AFP....'I'm nationalistic and I want society to progress. I want the government to provide our youths with proper education, end child labour, protect migrant workers. I'm not a mere entertainer. I have opinions,' he said."

Indonesia's political climate has changed substantially since the authoritarian president Suharto (1967-98) dominated the country through military control with the help of the U.S. government. As the unlikely named Happy Bone Zulkarnain (of Suharto's former political group, the Golkar Party) told France 24, "I don't see why any political leader should feel offended by the lyrics unless he or she has done something wrong and feels guilty."