Andrew N. Weintraub
“Dangdut Soul: Who are ‘the People’ in Indonesian Popular Music?”
This essay is an ideological critique of popular print media about dangdut, a genre of Indonesian popular music. The audience for dangdut has been imagined, represented, and mobilized in various ways to support the ideological interests of commercial, government, and critical institutions. In popular print publications, representations of dangdut as the music of ‘the people’ (rakyat)—the majority of society—have been produced with great frequency and in a variety of popular print media. I describe the ways in which popular print media ‘speaks for’ people, and the relations of power that define those discourses. Using an historical approach, I construct an interpretation of these representational practices, taking into account shifts in the social meaning and function of dangdut’s audience. Formerly associated with the disenfranchised and depoliticized underclass, the music was marketed to appeal to middle class and elite audiences in the 1980s. While dangdut’s audience has certainly grown, dangdut has not been thoroughly incorporated into the national culture of Indonesia, as claimed by government and military officials in popular print media. By taking this approach, I seek to provide a critical understanding of Indonesian media and its construction of popular music audiences within the changing social and historical conditions of modern Indonesia.