Modern Noise, Fluid Genres: Popular Music in Indonesia, 1997-2001

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What happens to “local” sound when globalization exposes musicians and audiences to cultural influences from around the world? Jeremy Wallach explores this question as it plays out in the eclectic, evolving world of Indonesian music after the fall of the repressive Soeharto regime. Against the backdrop of Indonesia’s chaotic and momentous transition to democracy, Wallach takes us to recording studios, music stores, concert venues, university campuses, video shoots, and urban neighborhoods.
Integrating ground-level ethnographic research with insights drawn from contemporary cultural theory, he shows that access to globally circulating music and technologies has neither extinguished nor homogenized local music-making in Indonesia. Instead, it has provided young Indonesians with creative possibilities for exploring their identity in a diverse nation undergoing dramatic changes in an increasingly interconnected world. Ultimately, he finds, the unofficial, multicultural nationalism of Indonesian popular music provides a viable alternative to the religious, ethnic, regional, and class-based extremism that continues to threaten unity and democracy in that country.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

The world is getting smaller, and even countries like Indonesia are producing new hybrids of popular and ethnic music. Most Americans who have never heard Indonesian music probably think of it in terms of the gamelan music of Bali. Those days are long gone. Here, Wallach (popular culture, Bowling Green State Univ.) shows that many foreign influences are changing the current popular music in Indonesia. For examples, traditional dangdut folk music now incorporates sounds and instrumentation from India and other countries of the region, while thrash metal punk bands are now sprouting. Wallach explores these genres and more, doing an excellent job of documenting the cultural and ethnographic aspects of his topic. However, considering the narrow focus and scholarly tone of the book, it is recommended for comprehensive world music collections.
—Bill Walker

From the Publisher
“This is one of the most exciting books from a new generation of scholars, addressing issues that matter profoundly to millions of Indonesians and ones that have been largely overlooked in the study of the world’s third largest democracy.”—Ariel Heryanto, author of State Terrorism and Political Identity in Indonesia

“Finally, we are beginning to get studies of globalization and popular music that are ethnographically rich and theoretically sophisticated. This is among the best of them.”—Timothy D. Taylor, University of California, Los Angeles

“A highly recommended text for undergraduate and graduate students in Southeast Asian music, or anyone interested in Indonesian popular music in particular.”—Matthew J. Forss, Southwest Journal of Cultures

“[A] fascinating tour through the complex and polemic world of Indonesian popular music from the perspectives of young, urban Jakartans. An ambitious ethnographic study, it is not bogged down with specialized, technical terms related to music production and playing but, instead, focuses on a variety of sites where music is consumed, produced, and performed. It is even more ambitious because Wallach does not limit the scope of the project to one specific genre of popular music, but three broad categories, dangdut, pop, and underground, each of which, especially pop and underground, can be subdivided into even more refined genres.” —Walter Little, American Ethnologist

“Wallach’s text is a valuable addition to the growing field of Indonesian popular music studies and this study is a welcome counterbalance to ethnomusicologists’ historical focus on gamelan traditions.”—Andrew Clay McGraw, Pacific Affairs

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780299229047
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
  • Publication date: 10/22/2008
  • Series: New Perspectives in Se Asian Studies Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeremy Wallach is a musician, anthropologist, ethnomusicologist, and assistant professor in the Department of Popular Culture at Bowling Green State University.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations                    
Part One: Sites
1. Indonesian Popular Music Genres in the Global Sensorium               
2. In the City: Class, History, and Modernity's Failures             
3. Cassette Retail Outlets: Organization, Iconography and Consumer Behavior              
4. In the Studio: An Ethnography of Sound Production             
5. On Location: Shooting Music Video Clips                
6. Offstage: Music in Informal Contexts            
Part Two: Genres in Performance
7. Onstage: The Live Performance Event                      
8. Dangdut: The Politics of Pleasure                 
9. Rock and Pop Events: The Performance of Lifestyle             
10. Underground Music: Imagining Alternative Community       
Conclusions: Indonesian Youth, Music and Globalization                      
Appendix A: Notes on Language Use in This Book                  
Appendix B: Other Indonesian Popular Music Genres              
Appendix C: More on Jakarta Speech Variants                        

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