Combining Islam and humor, grandmothers singing, Indonesian youth idols

published on Friday, January 27, 2023 at 11:22 pm

In front of thousands of young Indonesians, singer in his sixties, Rien Djamain, stormed onto the stage at a festival in the capital Jakarta, belting out a jaunty tune that evoked the threat of nuclear bombs.

Dressed in a hijab and a black and silver dress covered in sequins, the musicians of the female group Nasida Ria accompany the singer’s gentle voice to the sound of bongos, violins, mandolins, bamboo flutes and tambourines.

“Cursed to create the atomic bomb. Why summon the final judgment?”, they sing in the song “Bom Nuklir”.

Young fans listen to this spooky tune and cheer their favorite musician on by shouting “Umi!” (“mother!” in Arabic).

Formed 47 years ago as a Quran recitation group, the formation now brings together dozens of musicians who happily blend the heritage of Arabic music and popular Indonesian dangdut music, long considered vulgar and old-fashioned. .

Their pop songs, mixing Islam and humor with serious themes, such as justice or human rights, have appealed to a young generation looking for a bit of vulgarity.

– “More than cool” –

Taking advantage of the resurgence of the Indonesian music scene, the group with fun songs found new popularity.

In his texts, full of metaphors and similes, he compares lovers to “ungrateful bats” and emphasizes that “monkeys love to carry weapons, and humans show their nipples”.

Fathul Amin, a 22-year-old fan, called the group “more than cool”. “Because all its members are women who play more than three instruments.”

Many of the group’s colorful expressions have become wildly popular memes, widely shared on social media.

“That’s how young people communicate today and that suits us. But the most important thing is that it shows that the messages of our songs are convincing,” said Rien Djamain to AFP.

“I am thankful that despite the old age of most of the band members, Nasida Ria is still loved by the youth. And our music appeals to them.”

– “Guilty pleasure” –

Music tastes are changing in Indonesia. Along with Western hits, the public increasingly appreciates music that combines traditional sounds – such as dangdut -, Javanese lyrics or reggae sung in dialects from eastern Indonesia.

Because of this trend, Nasida Ria’s music is more up-to-date, according to music journalist Shindu Alpito.

“The new generation appreciates music with a sense of humor. They are attracted not only to the aesthetics of music but also to the musical comedy aspect,” he told AFP.

The popular dangdut music, often played in the villages, saw its popularity. Bands are now invited to festivals across Indonesia to perform for young audiences alongside rock bands.

“Many young people in Jakarta have rediscovered local music. They describe this kind of music as a ‘guilty pleasure'”, said the critic.

“Islamic songs are generally serious, with lyrics that refer to the teachings of the Quran. However, Nasida Ria has attracted a wider audience with an easy-to-understand and entertaining style.”

– The YouTube effect –

Nasida Ria’s youngest musician, 27-year-old Nazla Zain, attributes the band’s success to new technologies that allow audiences from all walks of life to access their music.

“We stay on trend with YouTube and other apps.”

“That way you can listen to our songs on their smartphones. That’s why they like us.”

They have seen their number of YouTube subscribers multiply by six since March 2020 to nearly 500,000.

They also accumulate more than 50,000 plays per month on the Spotify streaming platform and around 38,000 subscribers on Instagram.

“It’s so cool that they perform on stage at their age,” says metal and punk fan Ricky Prasetyo.

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