Making Scenes: Reggae, Punk, and Death Metal in 1990s Bali

Making Scenes: Reggae, Punk, and Death Metal in 1990s Bali

by Emma Baulch

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822390343
Publisher: Duke University Press
Publication date: 11/20/2007
Series: e-Duke books scholarly collection.
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Emma Baulch is a Senior Research Associate in the Creative Industries Faculty at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia.

Read an Excerpt


Reggae, Punk, and Death Metal in 1990s Bali
By Emma Baulch


Copyright © 2007 Duke University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8223-4115-4

Chapter One

Messy Decay

Like guerrillas, washed up and depleted, Aryo and his gang retreated from the battlefield at Lebak Bulus, destroying any property their enemies may have found useful. Seven cars were set alight. Hundreds of others were damaged. Rich and poor, roadside stalls and shops alike were ransacked.

... Even before the battle had begun, Aryo's gang had been beaten. They came from the slums in the early morning, and packed themselves tight around the outer bounds of Lebak Bulus stadium, where the biggest, most spectacular thrash metal concert was going to be held. For seven days, they had been preparing for this struggle: to see their adored thrash metal kings. Live! "We're all gonna go thrash style," said Aryo, his hands on his hips. "With fake tickets. Better to use any money we might have to buy pills." Six days before d-Day, the local metal crowd started boasting that they had already devised a strategy to foil security guards at the concert, and began to count down the days. Five days before the show, they got their metal outfits together-bell-bottom jeans and a scruffy old jacket, adorned with chains and pins and other angry, defiant metal accessories. Then they started revving themselves up in anticipation of the concert, and assaulted their eardrums daily with their favorite thrash songs, which they played at full volume over the neighborhood loudspeaker.... When security guards herded him across the road, away from the entrance to the stadium, Aryo, humiliated, screamed: "Apocalypse now!"

They had been anxiously waiting all day for a chance to slip into the stadium. Baking under the sun, they gaped dumbly at the molly-coddled kids who sailed through the gates, simply by flashing their 30,000 or 150,000 rupiah ticket, which they'd paid for with some of daddy's spare change. Stress, frustration. When the shot went off, there was no stopping them. Panicking, the crowd of strangers came together as one, like cattle in a cowboy film. Run! The mass got hysterical and started lashing out indiscriminately. Gang leaders were put to the test: Would their flunkies follow them, or not? DARMANTO JATMAN, PERILAKU KELAS MENENGAH INDONESIA (1996), 142-43

In the above account, translated from the Indonesian and excerpted from his essay, "Metal or Fight," Darmanto Jatman offers a snapshot of the life of a slum dweller and Metallica fan, Aryo. Jatman weaves a story which places Aryo at the center of riots that took place when the L.A.-based thrash metal band Metallica played at the Lebak Bulus stadium in Jakarta in April 1993. The riot was sparked when fans, gathered outside the concert venue because they could not afford thirty thousand rupiah for the cheapest tickets (the most expensive cost Rp150,000), attempted to force their way past security guards and into the Lebak Bulus stadium. During the several hours of mayhem that ensued at the stadium and in surrounding suburbs, cars were set alight and overturned, luxury houses were robbed, and people who had attended the concert were attacked as they left in their cars.

The government blamed the riots, officially dubbed the "Metallica Incident," on tattooed preman (underclass thugs), who provided an antithesis to the officially idealized, patriotic, and well-educated youth (pemuda). Much media analysis, however, contested this official view. Contrasting the official identification of the rioters as criminals, a Tempo report a ligned them with the Indonesian Democracy Party (Partai Demokrasi Indonesia, PDI), which had appropriated some metal symbols in its 1992 election campaign. In the truly oblique style demanded of the press during the New Order period, Tempo (1993: 22) noted that "many of those attending the concert were familiar with the metal symbol Metallica displayed as a way of communicating with their fans, as it was adopted by one of the political parties as a symbol of their campaign [in the last election]." This report depicted rioters as authentic rock fans, the riots as politically and economically motivated, and rock fandom as an arena for class conflict as well as a channel for the expression of dissent.

When the first international rock concerts to take place since the Metallica riots occurred three years later, the media image of rock fandom had changed. Media images of alternative music fans generated by two alternative rock concerts in early 1996 celebrated wealth, privilege, hedonism, and consumerism. In these images, unlike in those of the Metallica riots, poverty was presented not as a sign of rock authenticity but as a menace. Following the Metallica riots, tensions had emerged between the official version of rock fandom, which depicted it as a criminal realm, and other media analyses, which presented it as accommodating discontented lower-class Indonesian men. In 1996, media images of alternative fandom began to include growing numbers of young, metropolitan, bourgeois men and women and their transnational and consumerist aspirations.

These images of rock and pop fandom as a realm of hedonistic and consumerist youth clashed with a number of established identity discourses. Their idealization suggested a desire to revise the official ideal of Indonesian youth as humorless, diligent, and patriotic university students-a will expressed in a different way by the student activists who hijacked this legacy and helped overthrow the regime in 1998. It also chafed against the military's cultural policy in the final years of the regime, which pronounced liberal ideologies and "globalization" to be threats to Indonesian identity, and which forcefully attempted to eradicate these influences.

Ariel Heryanto has documented both the economic and cultural/political aspects of the New Order's ideological decay over the course of the 1990s. He shows the illogical nature of the operation of both authoritarianism and its successor and observes "how authoritarianism, and by anticipation postauthoritarianism toward the next millennium, operates in ways that are much more diffuse, insidious and messy than familiar labels capture" (Heryanto 1999b: 148). Such messiness also emerges in conflations of (formerly distinct) youth ideals and menaces, as well as shifts in discourses of rock fandom toward the end of the New Order. This chapter elaborates on these fluctuating discourses, which serve as the book's contextual frames. In the first part of the chapter, I attend to events on the national level which made apparent, and exacerbated, tensions and shifts within discourses of "youth" and "rock." I begin with an account of the broader genealogies of these discourses in Indonesia, then discuss the media deregulation policies that prompted shifts within them in the final decade of New Order rule. Finally, I evoke these tensions by juxtaposing my analyses of two media events which took place over the course of 1996, seeking thereby to highlight the contrasting yet coexisting moods of celebration and repression that were a feature of New Order's demise.

I begin this evocation by analyzing a report on the Jakarta Alternatif Pop Festival in Hai magazine (at the time the only national teen publication in magazine format), which depicts a wealthy class of metropolitan youth who, inspired by the images of a deregulated media, celebrate increased opportunities to experiment with global, transnational styles. The idealized nuances of these images of wealthy teens challenged negative stereotypes of the rich, upheld in the official version of the national identity, and echo similar identity expressions by other new rich groups, as discussed by Heryanto (1999a). I then focus on a police campaign, dubbed Operasi Kilat Jaya, conducted in 1996. Operasi Kilat Jaya tempers the optimism inherent in media images of alternative fandom: although society was poised to celebrate the New Order's end, this had not quite arrived, for one of the Order's most sturdy vestiges, the Indonesian Armed Forces (Angkatan Bersenjata Republik Indonesia, ABRI), continued to launch terror campaigns in an effort to cling to power.

In Bali, this context of flux and uncertainty was compounded by unprecedented development fed by the tourism boom, the increasing presence of Jakarta in local landscapes, and the subsequent emergence of a local regionalism, which will be the subject of the final part of this chapter. This sudden shift from "national" to "local" is, in its very clumsiness, in the spirit of 1990s Bali, and I intend it to evoke a sense of the increasingly dichotomous notions of "center" and "periphery" that prevailed at that time. As will become clear in the stories to unfold throughout this book, Balinese punk, reggae, and death metal enthusiasts straddled center-periphery divides in their attempts to revise dominant identity discourses about Balinese youth. In their performances and self-descriptions, they referred to national and local politics, revealing their enmeshment in both. In the interests of the book's coherence, it is worth elaborating on these political references, which extend in two directions. First, toward official, New Order institutions of "rock" and "youth" (and various contestations thereof), and, second, toward dominant Balinese identity discourses, which have their roots in local peoples' interactions with tourism and in a long history of "reflexive essentialization" (Picard 1999), by which Balinese people appropriated images of Balineseness designed for tourists in order to generate notions of ethnoreligious solidarity among themselves.

Pemuda, Preman, Remaja, Gaul

On 28 October 1928, members of a protonationalist student organization, Budi Utomo, came from all over the Netherlands East Indies to a gathering at which they proclaimed a Youth Oath (Sumpah Pemuda), identifying their movement as one for a single nation-state with one official language. The Sumpah Pemuda is a significant signpost in the emergence of a transethnic anticolonial movement which made the imagining of "Indonesia" possible. It is in this history that the patriotic and educated connotations of the word pemuda (youth), have their roots.

Much later, in 1965-66, students were key to the fall of Indonesia's first president, Soekarno. They aligned with the military and supported the establishment of the New Order regime. Subsequently, the New Order drew parallels between anticolonial and anti-Soekarnoist pemuda, which became an important trope in the regime's attempts to legitimize its foundation.

Ironically, given the importance of the pemuda trope in the regime's politics of legitimacy, in the New Order's final years, a similar class of people-privileged, educated, and casting themselves as patriotic-organized demands for political reform and Suharto's resignation. In 1998 their victory was spectacular. When Suharto stepped down in May, students in yellow blazers (indicating that they attended the prestigious state Universitas Indonesia) mounted the twin domes of the parliament building and colonized these mounds with their moss-like presence.

As early as the beginning of the 1970s, students had grown publicly critical of the government, particularly of Suharto's nepotistic excesses, and the New Order pemuda ideal began to prove problematic. Loren Ryter (1998: 58) observes that the New Order's frequent reference to the important role of young people in nation-building posed a dilemma for the regime:

On the one hand, the role of pemuda provided an ideal way to legitimate the new regime within the teleology of the nationalist struggle. On the other hand, too much emphasis on the role of pemuda left open a possibility of an undesirable repeat performance. If youth had been designated as the embodiment of radical change, and change was now to be stalled in favor of stability and regime consolidation, the question became how to contain the excess of youth. Having established the historic role of pemuda, the task for the New Order, somewhat ironically, was to establish youth's role as merely historic.

But the New Order government was unable to do this, despite its introduction in 1978 of a policy known as the Normalization of Campus Life (Normalisasi Kehidupan Kampus, NKK) by which campus-based political organizations were outlawed. By the late 1980s students had begun to devise ways to skirt the NKK and organize surreptitiously. Moreover, as Edward Aspinall (1993) observes, student activists of this generation began to cast themselves and their antigovernment activities as patriotic and nationalist. They built an opposition movement that culminated in the scene described above, one that has come to symbolize the end of the New Order: the yellow-blazered student mass atop the parliament building.

Contrasting the privileged, patriotic ideal encapsulated in the campus was the threatening gangland of the bus terminal, cast as the womb of one of the regime's prime moral demons-the preman. In fact, the preman often enjoyed official patronage. The military engaged such groups to massacre suspected communists in 1965-66 and to storm the headquarters of PDI-P and instigate the ensuing riots on 27 July 1996. However, the regime also found it useful to cite the existence of an unlawful underclass when seeking a scapegoat for increasing rates of crime in the early 1980s. Between 1983 and 1985, it conducted Operation Combat Crime (Operasi Pemberantas Kejahatan, OPK), popularly dubbed petrus (short for penembakan misterius: mysterious killings), in which the military initially concealed its role, aimed at the elimination of alleged preman, supposedly identifiable by their tattooed bodies. The opk resulted in the execution of between five and ten thousand people (Bourchier 1990: 193).

In the month following the Metallica riots, the specter of the 1983 petrus campaign reappeared in the Indonesian press. At the end of May 1993, Indonesian police announced that they were cracking down on crime in the nation's capital. Reporting that in May at least twenty-five suspected criminals had been killed, some of them "shot in the head and trussed up in sacks," local newspapers surmised a return of the petrus death squads.

Just as tattoos had been the main identifiers of criminality in the early 1980s, they emerged again in the official interpretation of the "Metallica Incident" in 1993. In his analysis of press reports on the Metallica riots, Edmund Thompson (1993: 6) notes how, contrasting those press reports which intimated that the rioters were politically motivated, "the main thrust of the official response was to view it in law and order terms. The causes of the disturbance were put down to the criminality of ... 'people whose bodies are covered with tattoos and who do not own identity cards.'"

Official response to the Metallica riots depicted a society in which criminality was at once omnipresent and invisible. The response, that is, was not retribution for transgressions of the law, or for the practices of extortion, theft, and violence with which the preman had come to be associated. As did the petrus of the early 1980s, the official response to the Metallica riots criminalized tattoos, as if these were alone responsible for the riots and destruction of property of rich Indonesians. The menacing rioters thus were cast as at once disembodied and, given their allegedly uniform refusal to be officially documented, nebulous and opaque, as if illegible.


Excerpted from MAKING SCENES by Emma Baulch Copyright © 2007 by Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Note on Spelling, Names ix

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction 1

1. Messy Decay 15

2. Gesturing Elsewhere 49

3. Reggae Borderzones, Reggae Graveyards 73

4. Punk's Beginnings 91

5. Grounding Punk 113

6. Metal Blossoms 145

Conclusion 177

Notes 187

Glossary 199

References 205

Index 217

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