My Indonesian Soundtrack Part 1


            One of the things that I quickly realized within the first few weeks of being in Jakarta is how much Indonesians love to listen to music, karaoke and dance.  I am amazed that almost everywhere I go, whether it’s to the supermarket, the mall or a restaurant, I am sure to hear blaring music or a live band.  The Indonesians embrace all kinds of music and you can hear local music, traditional and modern, popular music from Japan, Korea and other Asian nations, as well as American music of all varieties.  In fact, my morning was made a little brighter as one of my favorite Tupac songs, Do for Love, came on the radio as I was driving to a meeting.  Although I do view this morning’s Tupac break as a bit of a surprise because I do not hear much hip hop music, the music I do hear almost daily is pop and rock music from the 80’s.

            Now if you were to ask anyone of my close friend or family members what music I enjoy the most you might get a variety of answers, but most of them are going to say hip-hop or rap.  I was fortunate enough to grow up with a variety of music lovers that had an even bigger variety of tastes.  This meant that I grew up listening to everything from Rock & Roll, R & B, pop, and even country in all its variations from basically the 1950’s on.  Of all the influences surrounding me as a young boy, it is difficult for me to pin point how I was introduced to hip-hop.  I remember hearing it around our apartment complex, and I have a fond memory of my sister passing me a Too Short tape with the song Cusswords, but I ultimately can’t attribute it to any of my family members and believe it was my own love of music, curiosity and youthful rebellion that opened my ears, mind and heart to the genre of hip-hop.  Two memories that stick out the most for me are the day I walked up to a group of neighborhood boys and my friend Ryan’s older brother David had a huge boom box and was jammin’ to Run DMC’s It’s Tricky.  I remember watching all the guys bob their head and rapping along with the song.  Of course I was amazed mostly because these were the older boys in the neighborhood, the ones who would beat you up any chance they got yet I looked up to them because I wanted to be as cool as they were when I got older.  Even though I never got a boombox quite so big, I remember bugging David almost every time I would go to Ryan’s because I wanted to play one of his tapes or just mess around with all the nobs and the equalizer that would leave me mesmerized as I would listen to all this great music including the music I wasn’t supposed to like Too Short and 2 Live Crew.  The second memory of my introduction to hip-hop is when my mother bought me my first record; yes it was a 45 record of the single Parent’s Just Don’t Understand by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince.  From that point I transitioned, like most of the kids my age who probably do not want to admit it, to artists like Tone Loc, Young MC, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch and of course Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer.  Eventually like most teenagers, music became such an integral part of my life that I rarely remember it not having an influence on every aspect of my life.

            So hip-hop has always had a big influence over me, and because of this, it actually influenced another genre of music that I enjoy so much; 70’s and 80’s R&B and pop music which is essentially what most hip-hop beats through the 80’s and into the 90’s were created from.  I remember growing up listening to a lot of pop music courtesy of my mom and MTV, but it was really in college that I begin to really reconnect with it.  This was perpetuated by both of my sisters who began buying all those CD boxed sets that were sold on the TV infomercials, and they were more than willing to share or make me mix CDs.  Needless to say 80’s music has become one of my favorite decades of music and I continue to be reintroduced to great music from that era.

            Which leads me back to the Indonesian people and their love listening and performing all genres of music from all over the world. One thing that caught my attention quickly was how frequently I was hearing 80’s music in public.  In fact on any given night you can hear live music at most restaurants and shopping centers.  Of course I absolutely love this and have been amazed with the quality of music I have heard here.  Some of my favorites so far are a group called Romantic Four that I heard at Café Batavia during Chinese New Year.  They did a few covers of some hits from the 80’s group Surface, as well as the Peter Cetera’s Glory of Love from Karate Kid II.  I also got the opportunity to listen to a few bands at the USBI Youth Festival at my school’s campus.  My two favorite bands that performed at the event were Bonita and the Hus Band and Killing Me Inside, which from the looks of the crowd seem to be pretty popular band here.  I also recently had the opportunity to travel to Bandung and visit Saung Angklung Udjo (  The Angklung is a traditional instrument made of bamboo that originated with the Sudanese people of West Java.  Below you can see a few pictures from our visit which included not just a musical performance but dances featuring local youth and a Wayang (traditional puppet show). It was a great experience and I even got to play an Angklung, along with the rest of the audience, to an Elvis Presley song!  I continue to be amazed with the cultural music and dancing I have had the opportunity to witness and am excited about further opportunities to explore the Indonesian culture.  So I leave you with some links below so that you can enjoy some of the music I have discussed as well as some that I discovered while writing this post.


               Angklung Performance @ Saung Angklung Udjo


Bo and I with some Sudanese boys from one of the local schools. Many of the students asked us to take pictures with them on their cell phones so I finally asked if I could get one too!


DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince-

Romantic Four (Indonesian Cover Band)-

Peter Cetera-

Surface (80’s R&B Group)-

Killing Me Inside (Indonesian Alternative/Rock Band)-

Bonita and the Hus Band (Indonesian Jazz/R&B fusion)-

Iwa K (Viewed as the greatest MC in Indonesian Hip-Hop history)-

Dangdut Musik (popular with youth but controversial because it’s considered sexually explicit)-

Saung Angklung Udjo performance-


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