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28 mei 2008 01:30

Dangdut, “Orkes Melayu,” Malay no more.

Yogyakarta, Melayuonline.comdangdut, having Malay historical and musical background as people notice, is a familiar music for Indonesia people. However, the only Malay element in dangdut is the attribute name “Orkes Melayu” – abbreviated OM and literally means Malay musical bandthat embeds before dangdut music group‘s name. One of famous figures of music dangdut is Rhoma Irama with his group named OM Soneta since 1970s.

Such opinion was moulded in a monthly discussion forum held by Balai Kajian dan Pengambangan Budaya Melayu – BKKBM (Center for Research and Development of Malay Culture), Yogyakarta presenting ethnomusicologist, Dr. G.R. Lono Lastoro Simatupang, M.A. on Monday, May 16th, 2008. In this discussion, Lono Simatupang delivered his paper entitled Kisah Sebuah Nama: ‘Orkes Melayu‘ dalam Dangdut (The History of Name: Malay orchestra in Dangdut) from his thesis in Anthropology Department, at Monesh University, Australia. 

He argues that Orkes Melayu has come before the emergence of dangdut. Dangdut, is a development of Malay folk performance art in Deli, North Sumatra, in the 17th century. There was a close relationship between Deli Sultanate and Penang Sultanate in Malaysia, so there was a rapid development in Malay performance art in both those two areas.

Close relationship between Deli Sultanate and Penang Sultanate can be clearly seen from Malay theatre called Bangsawan (noble) that developed in Penang first before being popular in Deli Sultanate. Bangsawan theatre is one of Malay theatre combining local folklores and musical performance together spurting out of musical instruments such as rebana (percussion) from Malay, mandolin from Latin America, tabla from India, piano, and violin. Later on, such eclecticism was a cause of dangdut music‘s emergence.

The words “Orkes Melayu” was introduced firstly by Dr. A.K. Gani – Indonesian Islamic Union Party – in the 1940s as a medium to raise up nationalism spirit. Orkes, derived from “orchestra” that was aimed to boost up dangdut‘s prestige among other music genres such as symphonic orchestra, string orchestra, and chamber orchestra. Melayu is chosen to differentiate dangdut from other music genres so that dangdut can stand in equal position to European music.

Great revolution in dangdut music occurred after the 1970s when all dangdut musical instruments were turned into electric following the development of dangdut music industry. According to Lono Simatupang, this started from Rhoma Irama who preferred using electric guitar for composing a new taste of dangdut music. Rhoma Irama‘s musical sense has changed, but nothing the same as the name of his group, Orkes Melayu Soneta. He does not change his dangdut group‘s name. The revolution in music industry – from conventional compact disc into cassette – also signified the fast development of dangdut music in Indonesia.

No matter how dangdut music has changed, there is no significant change on the audience of dangdut music. Dangdut music is familiar with the rabble. Citing Pierre Bourdieu‘s concept about habitués, Lono Simatupang views that such tendency depends on rabble‘s musical sense. Moreover, Indonesian people tend to cordially receive Western culture – including music – rather than developing and preserving indigenous culture. This preferences is a result of colonialism occurred for along time in Indonesia.

Malay no more

One of the participants questioned what the remaining traces of Malay culture within dangdut music are. “This question demands us to take a look at the history of Malay culture wherein rebana musical performance is available,” Lono said

Answering this question, Lono Simatupang states that dangdut music today does not have Malay musical characteristic anymore. Dangdut performance, lyrics, and composition are no longer truly Malay. The only Malay element within dangdut music is the attribute name called Orkes Melayu embedded before dangdut music group‘s name.


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