Indonesia's punk scene is very much alive despite conservative and Islamic forces that try to repress it. From Medan, Sumatra, Deutsche Welle reported: “With the muezzins calling to prayer five times a day, it's a typical big city in Indonesia. Tulang earns money with screen printing at his bamboo home But what makes it different is Tulang's bamboo house on the city outskirts. Young tattooed men with mohicans go in and out. There is loud punk music emanating from the speakers. Tulang is a member of the band RKA. He's over 30 and has been a punk for a long time. He says his neighbors aren't bothered by the fact that punks from all over the world visit and that sometimes concerts are extremely loud. Right now, Kami Ada has come to visit. The Berlin-based punk band is made up of one Colombian, a Pole, a German and an Indonesian. Their name means "We Exist." Cimot, who is Indonesian and has been living in Berlin for three years, chose the name and then organized a five-week tour of Sumatra, Java and Bali. [Source: Deutsche Wellem DW.de, April 2, 2103 =*=]

“Whereas Indonesian punk subculture is as varied as its western equivalents and all styles from street punk to hardcore can be found, one major difference is the role of religion. Indonesia's punks take off their shoes when they play in clubs that belong to Muslims. They take breaks when it is time to pray so that people are not disturbed. However, some punks are worried about what is happening in the province of Aceh which borders Medan and where shariah law has been introduced. Poloh and Kiki refuse to be intimidated by the moral police: "We will continue to fight so that we can dress as we like and for freedom of speech and our democratic rights in Indonesia," they told Deutsche Welle. =*=

“Even in Jakarta there has been a crackdown on the punk movement. Until February this year, one of the few places punks could meet and make music freely was Pondok Jati Station. Punks lived there for years and organized well-attended concerts that would be interrupted only by the trains but the location has now been demolished. Armbon thinks it is a great loss. "We need a space and more freedom, especially in Jakarta," he says. Although there is some pressure from the authorities, Indonesia's punks stay in touch via the internet, at concerts and through fan magazines. They also organize benefit events to raise money for orphans or to campaign against corruption. Some have even set up a soup kitchen called "Food not Bombs." =*=

Punks in Aceh Detained and Shaved by Police

In 2011, police in Aceh province round up 65 youths at a punk concert perceived to be threat to Islamic values and shaved off their hair. Associated Press reported: “Police in Indonesia's most conservative province have stripped away body piercings and shaved off mohicans from 65 youths detained at a punk-rock concert. The teens and young men were also stripped of dog-collar necklaces and chains and then thrown in pools of water for "spiritual" cleansing, the local police chief, Iskandar Hasan, said. After replacing their "disgusting" clothes, he handed each a toothbrush and barked: "Use it." It was the latest effort by authorities to promote strict moral values in Aceh, the only province in secular but predominantly Indonesia to have imposed Islamic laws. Here, adultery is punishable by stoning to death, gay people have been thrown in jail or lashed in public with rattan canes, and women must wear headscarves. [Source: Associated Press, December 14, 2011]

“Punk rockers have complained for months about harassment, but Saturday's roundup at a concert attended by more than 100 people was by far the most dramatic. Baton-wielding police broke up the concert, scattering young music lovers, many of whom had travelled from other parts of the sprawling archipelagic nation. Dozens were loaded into vans and brought to a police detention centre in the hills, 30 miles (60 km) from the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, for rehabilitation, training in military-style discipline and religious classes, including Qur'an recitation.

They will be held there for at least 10 days, after which they will be returned to their parents. One 20-year-old detainee, Fauzan, was mortified. "Why? Why my hair?" he said, pointing to his clean-shaven head. "We didn't hurt anyone. This is how we've chosen to express ourselves. Why are they treating us like criminals?" But the police chief, Hasan, insisted he had done nothing wrong. "We're not torturing anyone," he said. "We're not violating human rights. We're just trying to put them back on the right moral path." However, Nur Kholis, a national human rights commissioner, deplored the detention, saying police must explain what criminal laws were violated by the youngsters."Otherwise, they violated people's right of gathering and expression," Kholis said, and promised to investigate it. Aceh was given semi-autonomy as part of a peace deal with Indonesia's central government after the province agreed to end a separatist struggle in 2005.

Punks in Aceh Sent a Re-education Camp

After their heads were shaved the 65 punks were sent to a re-education camp. Reporting from Seulawah in Indonesia’s conservatively Islamic Aceh state, Fakhrurradzie Gade wrote in Associated Press, “Mohawks buzzed and noses free of piercings, dozens of youths march in military-style for hours beneath Indonesia's tropical sun — part of efforts by authorities to restore moral values and bring the "deviants" back into the mainstream. But the young men and women have shown no signs of bending. When commanders turn their backs, the shouts ring out: "Punk will never die!" Fists are thrown in the air and peace signs flashed. A few have managed briefly to escape, heads held high as they are dragged back. [Source: Fakhrurradzie Gade, Associated Press, December 20, 2011]

Sixty-five young punk rockers arrived at this police detention center after baton-weiling police crashed a concert in Aceh. They will be released Friday, after having completed 10 days of "rehabilitation," from classes on good behavior and religion to military-style drills aimed at instilling discipline. Nineteen-year-old Yudi, who goes by only one name, says it's not working. He tried unsuccessfully to shake off police when they took an electric razer to his spiky mohawk. At the sight of his hair scattered in the grass, he recalls, tears rolled down his face. "It was torture to me." "I can't wait to get out of here," he added. "They can't change me. I love punk. I don't feel guilty about my lifestyle. Why should I? There's nothing wrong with it."

His girlfriend, 20-year-old Intan Natalia, agrees. Her bleach-blond hair has been cut to a bob and dyed black and she's been forced to wear a Muslim headscarf. "They can say what they want, but I like life as a punk," she says. "It suits me." Two young men hated it so much at the detention center, they tried to escape. They almost succeeded, pretending they had to go to the bathroom, then fleeing to the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, 30 miles (50 kilometers) away. Police found them strolling the streets nine hours later and brought them back. It was just after midnight. "They said they missed their parents, but it's pretty clear they were lying," said local police chief Col. Armensyah Thay. "They didn't go home. How could they? They've been living on the streets." The crackdown marked the latest effort by authorities to promote strict moral values in Aceh, which, unlike other provinces in the sprawling archipelagic nation, enjoys semiautonomy from the central government.

Justin Bieber’s Angers Indonesian Fans

Justin Bieber performed in Sentul and Bogor in Java in April 2011 as part a tour of Southeast Asia but a year later he angered fans there when he referred to Indonesia as “some random country”. Associated Press reported: “Indonesia may be one of the most exciting countries in the world right now – but it looks like Justin Bieber did not get the memo. The young pop star reportedly insulted the large Southeast Asian nation – breaking the hearts of thousands of fans in the process – labeling it “some random country” during an event in London. [Source: Shibani Mahtani, Associated Press, April 26, 2012 ***]

During an event in London to premiere his new album, Believe.Mr. Bieber took a swipe at the creative process for one of his new tracks – saying it was recorded in some “random country.” His manager, Scott ‘Scooter’ Braun, interjected and informed him it was produced in Indonesia, according to the Daily Mirror. “I recorded it in a studio. Some little place,” Mr. Bieber continued, “They didn’t know what they were doing.” ***

“In a country with nearly 240 million people, Justin Bieber has amassed a sizeable Indonesian following, with Twitter accounts like Bieber Indonesia and Facebook accounts set up in honor of the baby-faced idol. While these sites remained flooded with messages of support and adoration, many on social media forums were predictably upset and horrified that the singer dismissed their country – the world’s largest Muslim nation, and arguably Asia’s most exciting market – as “some random country.” “Justin Bieber calls Indonesia “some random country.” Okay, some random singer @justinbieber!” said one twitter user, @eMileySM. Others were more concerned that the country had lost Mr. Bieber’s affections; sending tweets to his official Twitter page and asking if he “really despises Indonesia”. Some simply didn’t care, reminding true “Beliebers” that the real “point” of the comments was that Justin Bieber “recorded one of his songs in Indonesia” – a source of excitement for many Indonesian fans, insult notwithstanding. ***

Lady Gaga Cancels Indonesia Show after Being Threatened by Islamists

Lada Gaga called off a concert in Jakarta after members of the Indonesian Muslim extremist group the Islamic Defenders Front threatened to confront the singer as she left the airport, Associated Press reported: “Lady Gaga cancelled her sold-out show in Indonesia over security concerns after Muslim hardliners threatened violence if the pop star went ahead with her Born This Way ball. The Islamic Defenders Front said the US singer's clothes and provocative dance moves would corrupt youth in the world's most populous Muslim country. The group said supporters had bought tickets to the concert and planned to enter and force it to be stopped. It also threatened that thousands of protesters would confront the singer on her way from the airport. [Source: Associated Press, May 27, 2012 ]

“Police said they would only issue the required permits for the concert if Lady Gaga agreed to tone things down. Instead, she pulled the plug on the show, which had sold out with more than 50,000 tickets. "With threats if the concert goes ahead, Lady Gaga's side is calling off the concert," Minola Sebayang, a lawyer for the concert promoter Big Daddy, said on Sunday. "This is not only about Lady Gaga's security, but extends to those who will be watching her."

“Jakarta was supposed to be the biggest stop on Lady Gaga's Asian tour, with 52,000 tickets sold in just a few days. Fans will be fully refunded, said Michael Rusli, head of Big Daddy. The Islamic Defenders Front, or the FPI, celebrated news of her cancellation. "This is a victory for Indonesian Muslims," said Salim Alatas, one of the leaders of the FPI. "Thanks to God for protecting us from a kind of devil." Music lovers in Jakarta expressed outrage that the threats were able to force the show's cancellation. Lady Gaga fan Johnny Purba, 25, called it an embarrassment to Indonesia. "This only shows to the world how weak security forces are in this country, how police are afraid of a bunch of hardliners," he said. "Gaga's two-hour show will not hurt Indonesian Muslims. For God's sake, she is not a terrorist!"”

Beyonce Plays Jakarta After Backing Out of Show in Malaysia

In 2007, after refusing to fulfill the Malaysian government's demand that she cover up from her shoulders to her knees, Beyonce cancelled her show in Kuala Lumpur and played in Jakarta instead. Deanne Whitfield wrote in the Jakarta Post, Beyonce Knowles wowed “Jakarta in her world tour concert ""The Beyonce Experience"" at the Swargaloka Jakarta International Event and Convention Centre (JITEC) in Mangga Dua Square, backed by a 10-piece all-female band and accompanied by 10 dancers on stage in a 90-minute extravaganza. [Source: Deanne Whitfield, The Jakarta Post, October 27 2007 +]

“The Beyonce Experience world tour, which kicked off in Tokyo, Japan, in April and will finish in Taipei, Taiwan, in November, sold out every show thus far. The Jakarta show, with an estimated audience of around 5,000, was concert number 91 of a total 97 in the world tour. The diva herself arrived in Jakarta, together with 75 stage and crew members and 60 tons of stage equipment, most of which is lighting. +

“The Beyonce Experience world tour was scheduled to visit Malaysia on Nov. 1 but the show was canceled after Beyonce refused to comply with the country's dress code for women, which meant she would have to change many of her outfits. Kuala Lumpur was replaced by Jakarta as the tour's next stop after Bangkok, Thailand. Singapore, a stop usually included in a world tour of this magnitude, will also miss out on seeing Beyonce live on stage. Local promoters for The Beyonce Experience tour, Electronic City Entertainment and Nepathya, said in a press conference Tuesday many fans from Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei would be traveling to Indonesia to see Beyonce perform and had already purchased tickets for the Jakarta show. +

“To see Beyonce live, a fans needed to fork out at least Rp 750,000 for a ticket; the cheapest available. Those who wished to get closer to the stage needed to buy a ""gold"" ticket (Rp 2,000,000), a ""platinum"" ticket (Rp 2,500,000) or a ""diamond"" ticket (Rp 3,000,000). When queried about the ticket prices, the promoters said the pricing was ""standard"" for such an international performance by one of the world's most popular divas.” +

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated June 2015

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