Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sexy dance shows all the rage even as Indonesia sends Lady Gaga packing

  • Print

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Titin Karisma parades onto the stage wearing a rhinestone bustier and matching bottoms, with sequin fringe that jiggles wildly to the rhythm of the beating drums.

Pre-teen boys watch the singer wide-eyed as she straddles a speaker, whipping her long hair wildly. She licks the microphone and drops to the ground, repeatedly thrusting her pelvis toward a camera.

Lady Gaga's onstage antics are almost tame compared to this act, known as dangdut, the most popular genre of music in this predominantly Muslim nation of 240 million.

But while the pop star's show was effectively banned from Indonesia, tens of thousands of young women here put on performances like Karisma's every night. They shake and grind in smoky bars, ritzy nightclubs, at weddings, even circumcisions. In most cases the hosts say the sexier the better.

The apparent double standard highlights divisions between Indonesia's largely tolerant majority and a vocal minority of Islamic hard-liners. The conservatives hold outsized influence in government, and have successfully picked high-profile battles like the Lady Gaga show, but they haven't been able to stop dangdut, which has a long tradition here.

Karisma's stage shows have gotten nearly a million hits on YouTube. Julia Perez, an actress and wannabe politician, is dubbed the "sex bomb" for her racy act. Another performer, Dewi Persik, is known for her powerful back-and-forth hip thrusting "saw move" and public acknowledgments that she had surgery to become "a born-again virgin" to please her future husband.

The up-and-coming Trio Macan, made of three Gaga look-alikes, with dyed hair and catlike poses, often simulate sex with male customers on stage.

Members of the Anti Apostasy Movement, Indonesian Mujaheeds Council and the notoriously thuggish Islamic Defender's Front, better known as FPI, are quick to say they go after provocative dangdut performances. From time to time their followers jump in vans and ransack dangdut bars and nightclubs in the capital, Jakarta, and its outskirts.

But they know this won't get them the kind of attention they crave, said Andrew Weintraub, a professor of music at the University of Pittsburgh and author of the book Dangdut Stories.

"Lady Gaga is a big name," he said. "It's a big stage for conservative Muslim organizations to promote their own agenda. They'll get a lot of attention internationally -- which is also what makes the state nervous."

All 52,000 tickets for the concert Lady Gaga planned to give June 3 sold out within days, but members of the FPI had vowed to meet her at the airport if she dared step off the plane. Others bought tickets to her show saying, if it went ahead, they'd wreak havoc from inside the packed stadium.

As the weeks-long controversy raged, conservative politicians and members of more mainstream Muslim organizations piled onto the anti-Gaga wagon. And police -- for the first time ever -- denied a permit to one of the many Western stars passing through, citing security. Lady Gaga eventually pulled the plug.

"We hold huge concerts here all the time," said Desi Anwar, a local television anchor, noting that crowd control is nothing new. "This is what happens when the government is perceived as weak and not consistent."

Indonesia is often held up by U.S and others as a beacon of how Islam and democracy can coexist, and in many ways they are right. Most of the secular nation's 210 million Muslims practise a moderate form of the faith and accept differences in others, with schoolgirls in headscarves regularly seen in shopping malls walking arm-in-arm with friends wearing tiny short shorts and T-shirts.

Sweeping reforms that followed the ouster of Gen. Suharto's 32-year dictatorship in 1998 have allowed citizens to directly pick their own leaders, while vastly improving human rights, opening up the media and allowing artists freely express themselves for the first time in decades.

But a small extremist fringe has become more vocal in recent years, using its influence to push through controversial laws banning everything from kissing in public to showing too much skin. They've also become more violent, going after Christians and members of other religious minorities with batons and machetes, usually without paying any price.

More recently, mobs attacked Alex Aan, an atheist, now in jail for his beliefs, and rampaged a book discussion by visiting Canadian liberal Muslim activist, Irshad Manji.

Conservative opponents of dangdut don't worry fans like Imam Siswanto, who says the genre is powerful because it often touches on issues that resonate with the masses: heartache, social inequality and, sometimes, faith.

He said that although critics sent Gaga packing, "I can firmly and confidently say that dangdut will never die."

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 3, 2012 A16

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Inside peek at Real Pirates, new Manitoba Museum exhibit

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • June 24, 2012 - 120624  -  Amusement riders on the last day of The Ex Sunday June 24, 2012.    John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press
  • Ruth Bonneville Winnipeg Free Press January 18, 2011 Local Standup -

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Will you get out and vote for a new mayor and council?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google