Catatan tentang keindahan, kesunyian, dan perjalanan

Setiap perjalanan selalu dimulai dari satu langkah kaki

Kenangan di Pulau Buton

Di sinilah saya memulai perjalanan, sekaligus menjadi tempat kembali

Menghitung Hari di Athens, Ohio

Amerika Serikat adalah negeri tempat saya menemukan diri

Keluarga Kecilku

Mata air yang memancarkan kasih sayang.

Belajar Menyerap Hikmah

Semoga catatan-catatan di blog ini bisa menginspirasi

Bukan Penerus Shahrukh Khan


saat Camilo mengambil gambar di kamar saya

TULISAN ini mestinya saya buat seminggu silam. Apa daya, saya didera kemalasan untuk menuliskannya. Dua minggu lalu, saya menuntaskan pengambilan gambar terakhir untuk proyek dokumenter tentang perjalanan saya sejak dari Buton hingga Athens. Saya sangat lega dengan selesainya proyek ini.

Enam bulan silam, sahabat Camilo Perez, sutradara asal Kolombia yang juga mahasiswa Ohio University, meminta kesediaan saya untuk berbagi cerita dalam film dokumenter. Mulanya, Camilo meniatkan film ini sebagai bagian dari syarat kelulusan untuk kuliah Dokumenter. Tapi, Camilo ingin menseriusinya. Ia ingin membuat semacam etnografi refleksif yang kemudian bisa dituliskan sebagai bahan presentasi di banyak seminar atau konferensi. Malah ia ingin menyusun buku.

Posisi saya bukan sebagai obyek yang kisahnya di-eksplor, melainkan sebagai subyek yang bisa diajak berdiskusi dan sama-sama berbagi pengetahuan tentang film. Makanya, film ini merupakan ajang dialog antara saya dan Camilo untuk sama-sama menentukan ide cerita, kemudian menarasikannya dalam bahasa visual.

saat sesi wawancara 

Camilo bekerja secara tim dengan seorang wartawan televisi asal Afganistan Zulfia Zaher, dan seorang mahasiswa Amerika, Kayle. Mereka bertiga menjadi sahabat saya selama enam bulan ini. Kami sering janjian untuk ketemu dan diskusi. Mereka mewawancarai saya tentang banyak topik. Melalui wawancara itu, saya bisa belajar banyak dan menimba pengalaman dari mereka.

Saya seakan menjadi artis yang diikuti kemanapun bergerak. Saat latihan menari untuk Indonesian Night, mereka rajin datang latihan dan mengambil gambar. Demikian pula saat pementasan Indonesia Night, mereka mengikuti kemanapun saya pergi, mewawancarai tentang banyak hal, lalu memasang kamera depan panggung. Saya seolah menjadi aktor. Saat mengambil gambar, Zulfia sering meledek, “Sekarang kamu tahu bagaimana perasaan Shahrukh Khan. Tapi kamu bukan dirinya. Kamu adalah Yusran Khan.”

Saya memang bukan seorang yang terbiasa di depan kamera. Pada mulanya, saya amat ketakutan depan kamera. Secara jujur, saya menampilkan ekspresi yang tidak terbiasa untuk diambil gambar dalam wawancara resmi. Apalagi, Camilo dkk bekerja dengan peralatan kampus yang canggih. Mereka menyorotkan lampu ke wajah saya serta memasang banyak peralatan di sekitarnya. Saya langsung grogi. Tapi saya berusaha untuk mengatasi grogi ini. Saya menghormati para sahabat ini dan berusaha untuk mengatasi segala hambatan psikologis.

Saya sangat salut dengan kesabaran mereka. Dalam keadaan apapun, mereka selalu memahami semua ekspresi yang saya tampilkan. Dalam setiap janjian dan pengambilan gambar, saya berusaha untuk selalu menepatinya. Saya berusaha untuk menjawab semua pertanyaan yang mereka ajukan sebisa mungkin.

kamera di kamar saya
suasana syuting di kamar saya

Lebih saya saluti adalah vitalitas yang mereka tunjukkan. Camilo adalah tipikal sutradara yang tahan banting. Ia pernah datang bermalam ke apartemen saya demi untuk mengambil gambar di subuh hari ketika saya salat subuh. Ia juga rajin ikut ke semua pertemuan mahasiswa Indonesia demi mendapatkan sense atau kepekaan atas segala yang saya alami selama di Athens. 

Ia juga berusaha mengenal semua sahabat saya di Athens, termasuk mengambil mata kuliah yang sama dengan saya. Ia tipe seorang peneliti dan sutradara hebat yang membangun relasi atau networking yang kuat dengan subyek penelitiannya.

Dari sekian banyak wawancara, saya memilah ada beberapa topic yang paling sering dibahas. Pertama adalah aspek human interest menyangkut kerinduan atas keluarga. Kedua adalah soal identitas saya sebagai pendatang di Amerika yang berada dalam dilemma antara identitas keindonesiaan dan keharusan menyesuaikan diri di tempat ini. Ketiga adalah soal hambatan dalam bahasa serta strategi-strategi untuk mengatasi segala hambatan itu. Keempat adalah soal nasionaisme keindonesiaan sebagai api yang mesti dijaga dan dikuatkan di negeri asing. Kelima adalah pengalaman masa lalu dan target-target masa depan setelah lulus kuliah.


Zulfia sedang megambil gambar di kamar saya
Zulfia Zaher

Setiap kali usai mengambil gambar, saya akan memberikan pertanyaan, “Apakah menurut kalian kisah saya menarik untuk dilanjutkan sebagai documenter?” Saya memang memberikan pilihan dan kebebasan jika mereka hendak membatalkan documenter ini. Saya beranggapan bahwa kisah ini biasa saja dan dialami semua mahasiswa internasional. Tapi entah kenapa, mereka tetap menganggapnya sebagai kisah yang unik dan sangat layak untuk diteruskan. 

Saya menjalani banyak pengalaman hebat bersama mereka. Mungkin, saya mesti menuliskan satu per satu pengalaman tersebut sehingga kelak bisa didokumentasikan. Di akhir pembuatan dokumenter, saya tidak lagi menganggap mereka sebagai orang lain. Mereka adalah saudara dekat yang belajar memahami persoalan dengan cara pandang saya sendiri. Untuk itu, saya sangat salut dengan mereka.

pengambilan gambar terakhir bersama Abdul Hakim Alle

Kapan film dokumenter itu kelar? Nampaknya dalam beberapa minggu ini. Saya sudah menyaksikan sebagian, dan cukup untuk membuat saya malu saat menyaksikan wajah sendiri di layar, dengan bahasa Inggris pas-pasan. Hmm.. Pada akhirnya saya sadar bahwa saya bukanlah penerus Shahrukh Khan yang amat cakap di hadapan kamera. Saya hanyalah seorang biasa yang menjalani hidup dengan cara-cara yang biasa. Tak istimewa.



Athens, 28 Mei 2012

Mencari Diaspora Indonesia


stand Indonesia

CINA identik dengan kebudayaan serta filosofi. Jepang identik dengan music dan tarian yang menghentak. India identik dengan tarian Bollywod dan penduduknya yang tersebar di mana-mana. Thailand identik dengan makanannya yang tersebar di seluruh penjuru Amerika Serikat (AS). Lantas, apa yang menjadi ciri khas warga Indonesia perantauan? Apakah mereka punya ciri yang unik dan khas?

Kemarin, Sabtu (27/5), saya mengunjungi kota Colombus untuk menyaksikan Asian Festival. Acaranya ramai sebab menampilkan kebudayaan Asia. Acara ini menjadi ajang bagi warga Asia perantauan untuk berkumpul bersama, menampilkan kesenian, serta menjadi ajang promosi kebudayaan di AS.

Dari berbagai stand serta atraksi yang ditampilkan, saya mendapat kesan kalau Asia identic dengan Cina dan India. Stand yang menampilkan dua budaya ini amat banyak. Ada toko cenderamata, pakaian, hingga jenis tari-tarian. Saat menuju tenda-tenda yang menyajikan makanan, saya terkejut menyaksikan di mana-mana terdapat masakan Thailand yang dijajakan oleh warga Thailand. 

tarian India
tarian Cina

Cina dan India memiliki warga perantau yang tersebar merata di seluruh penjuru Amerika. Mereka sudah menyebar warganya sejak masa lampau. Mereka sudah lama memenuhi kota-kota besar di Amerika dan menguasai pusat-pusat ekonomi. Kualitas SDM-nya juga hebat-hebat. 

Beberapa sahabat asal India di Ohio selalu cerdas-cerdas dan tidak pernah menyombongkan diri. Pada diri mereka terdapat kualitas rendah hati dan pintar. Sementara warga Cina menguasai sector ekonomi. Anda akan ia menemukan mereka membangun perkampungan besar di seluruh penjuru Amerika.

Sementara Thailand justru muncul belakangan. Seiring dengan kian populernya masakan Thailand, warganya lalu berbondong-bondong ke Amerika, lalu membuka restoran di mana-mana. Saya agak sulit menjelaskan fenomenadiaspora warga Thailand. Kalau India dan Cina, saya bisa memahaminya dari sisi banyaknya penduduk serta peluang kerja yang menipis di negaranya. 

Tapi Thailand justru berbeda. Negeri itu adem-ayem saja. Ekonominya biasa saja, sebagaimana Indonesia. Tak pernah ada konflik atau perang berkepanjangan. Tapi penduduknya bisa bermigrasi dalam jumlah banyak ke Amerika lalu membuka restoran di mana-mana. Mereka mulai punya brand atau ciri sendiri sebagai negeri yang kulinernya enak-enak.

makanan Thailand
makanan Thailand
sate khas Thailand

Benarkah kulinernya enak? Buat saya, tak ada beda rasa antara kuliner Thailand dan Indonesia. Kuliner Thailand selalu identi dengan nasi, sea food serta jenis-jenis olahan daging. Rasanya sama persis dengan menu-menu makanan di Indonesia. Kalaupun ada beda, palingan hanya namanya saja. Saya suka dengan the Thailand. Itupun rasanya sama saja dengan the tarik yang banyak dijual di Indonesia. Lantas, mengapa Thailand sukses memasarkan kulinernya menjadi masakan global yang laris dijual?

Saya punya asumsi. Mungkin jawabannya terletak pada sejauh mana perhatian yang diberikan negara kepada warganya yang berdiaspora atau bermigrasi. Bagi Cina, India, dan Thailand, para warga yang tinggal di luar, tetap dianggap sebagai warga yang harus diperhatikan. Negara tidak meminggirkan mereka. Namun berusaha menyentuhnya dengan berbagai kebijakan.

Dalam hal Thailand, ternyata ada upaya sistematis dari negara untuk memproosikan masakan Thailand. Sebagaimana diceritakan Bondan Winarno, pada masa pemerintahan Thaksin Shinawatra, pemerintah Thailand memberikan bantuan bagi siapapun warganya yang mau membuka restoran Thailand di Amerika. Mereka membantu modal dan akses.

Kebijakan ini jadi gayung bersambut. Warga Thailand langsung berbondong-bondang pindah ke luar negeri lalu membuka restoran yang menunya adalah nasi goreng, tumis ikan, hingga kreasi daging. Pada mulanya, pelangganya hanya warga Asia Tenggara. Hari ini, restoran Thailand bisa ditemukan di mana-mana. Warganya jadi entrepreneur sejati yang membuka bisnis kuliner di mana-mana.

bersama dua gadis Kamboja

Bagaimana halnya dengan Indonesia? Saya sangat jarang menemukan restoran menu Indonesia. Amat sangat sedikit. Mengapa? Saya hanya berasumsi. Ini disebabkan karena warga Indonesia sangat jarang yang mau bermigrasi ke ngeri-negeri lain. Kita, orang Indonesia, jauh lebih nyaman tinggal di dalam negeri. Sebab kita senantiasa merasa cukup serta tiadanya keinginan untuk membuka tantangan-tantangan baru.

Padahal, sejarah kita justru mengajarkan bahwa sejak masa silam, warga Indonesia sudah terbiasa berpindah-pindah. Buktinya, orang Bugis pernah mendirikan Singapura. Bukti lain, Perdana Menteri Malaysia, Nadjib Razak, adalah keturunan Bugis. Sejarah mengajarkan bahwa warga Nusantara adalah bangsa yang berpindah-pindah hingga ke negeri-negeri jauh seperti Afrika. Tapi hari ini, kita kesulitan menemukan warga Indonesia diaspora di banyak negara. Palingan, hanya mahasiswa yang jumlahnya juga tidak seberapa. Mereka tersebar dan tidak punya ikatan kuat sebagaimana warga India dan Cina. Selain itu, kita juga terperangkap dengan perbedaan geografis serta ego kesukuan yang tinggi.

Lantas, apakah yang bisa dibanggakan dengan diaspora warga Indonesia yang amat sedikit ini?


Athens, 28 Mei 2012

Mencari Serpih Jejak Kesultanan Buton


Sultan Buton yang baru dilantik saat duduk di baruga (foto: La Yusri)

Setelah vakum selama lebih kurang 52 tahun, Jumat (25/5) hari ini, Kesultanan Buton dihidupkan kembali. Sultan baru akhirnya terpilih dan dilantik di depan Masjid Agung Keraton Buton. Suasananya meriah. Serasa kembali ke masa silam, ketika semua perangkat kesultanan masih berdiri.

Ada banyak perdebatan tentang eksistensi kesultanan hari ini. Kita sama tahu bahwa republik sedemikian kuatnya mengakar dan menguasai semua sumber daya. Sementara kesultanan mungkin hanya menjadi pajangan yang tidak dianggap penting. Kesultanan mungkin serupa museum. Lantas, mengapa pula harus ada sultan? Mengapa harus ada kesultanan?

Saya melihatnya secara positif. Saya yakin, generasi yang hendak menghidupkan kesultanan di Buton sana adalah generasi yang berprasangka positif. Saya yakin mereka bekerja dengan ikhlas serta dipandu keyakinan bahwa eksistensi kesultanan mesti dipertahankan agar tidak punah. Mereka pasti tahu bahwa masa silam tidak mungkin dikembalikan. Dahulu, seorang sultan menempati posisi penting yang menjadi symbol satu kawasan. Akankah sultan hari ini masih memiliki getar?

Saya yakin, orang-orang yang hendak menghidupkan kesultanan itu tahu persis kalau kesultanan sudah tidak berdaulat sebagaimana masa silam. Namun, kesultanan itu masih memiliki jejak yang tak bisa dihapuskan begitu saja oleh sejarah. Buat saya, sejarah tidak perlu mengalami pengkultusan. Pada akhirnya, keberadaan sultan di setiap zaman akan selalu ditentukan oleh dinamika warga di zaman itu. Jika hari ini sultan kehilangan getar, mungkin itu disebabkan masyarakat kita yang punya orientasi berbeda.

sultan terpilih (foto: Elwin)
dua kapitalao atau semacam pimpinan pasukan (foto: La Yusri)
perangkat kesultanan menanti depan masjid (foto: La Yusri)

Para perangkat kesultanan itu jauh lebih ikhlas daripada mereka yang sekarang duduk di pemerintahan. Buktinya, para perangkat itu tidak mendapatkan gaji apapun. Malah, uang pribadi mereka banyak keluar untuk proses tersebut. Mereka bekerja hanya dengan keyakinan bahwa masa silam selalu penting, dan mesti dipertahankan sebagai spirit zaman ini. Kisah-kisah kesultanan tidak harus dilihat sebagai sejarah yang berdebu, melainkan menyimpan inspirasi bagi masa kini.

Jika hari ini seorang sultan lahir kembali, mungkin bisa ditafsir dari banyak sisi. Bisa saja ada yang melihatnya sebagai pelebaran ruang sosial baru bagi para bangsawan masa silam yang kemudian berkarier lalu pensiun di masa kini. Mungkin saja mereka sedang dibius oleh romantisasi kesejarahan yang luar biasa sehingga merasa bangga ketika disapa sebagai sultan.

Tapi saya tidak ingin berpandangan demikian. Saya melihatnya sebagai satu ruang sosial di mana masyarakat sedang dibius oleh kerinduan akan sejarah masa silam. Enth apakah ada kejayaan di masa silam ataukah tidak. Tapi saya melihat ada harapan dan keinginan yang kemudian tidak terwadahi di zaman kini. 

Mungkin ini juga cerminan bahwa apa yang kita sebagai Repubik Indonesia adalah proyek sejarah yang hingga kini belum selesai. Keindonesiaan tidak menelma sebagai ingatan kolektif. Malah keindonesiaan bisa dilihat sebagai praktik pembonsaian kekuatan lokal yang pernah berdaya di masa silam. 

usai dilantik (foto: La Yusri)
menerima perwakilan warga (foto: La Yusri)
ikatan merah di leher, biasa disebut katambina ade,
sebagai simbol siap mati demi membela sultan (foto: La Yusri)
Sultan Buton yang dikawal dua orang dengan memakai kain merah di leher,
simbol berani mati demi menjaga sultan (foto: Petty Hatma)

Tak perlu jauh-jauh. Sebagaimana dicatat Anthony Reid, dahulu Makassar adalah salah satu kota dunia, yang penduduknya sama dengan kota London. Dahulu, ada delapan negara yang membuka perwakilan di Makassar. Setelah bergabung dengan Indonesia, malah Makassar hanya bisa mengenang sejarah. Posisinya menyempit. Posisinya jadi tidak penting. Maka jangan salahkan warga Makassar ketika mereka lebih suka nostalgia masa silam ketimbang nostalgia di masa kini.

Demikian pula yang saya saksikan di Buton, Ternate, Tidore, hingga Papua. Dahulu, daerah itu sedemikian berkuasa dan berdaulat. Mereka bisa menjalin kontak dagang dengan bangsa asing dalam relasi yang setara. Kini, daerah-daerah itu hanya jadi satelit dari kota semacam Jakarta. Mereka seolah tak punya sejarah. Tak punya andil pada republik ini. Haruskah kita berperang dulu agar eksistensi kita diakui?

Makanya, saya lebih suka melihat keberadaan sultan ini secara positif. Dalam pahaman saya, posisi sultan tidak sama dengan pemerintah. Sultan menyandang peran spiritual sebagai sosok yang menjadi jembatan masyarakat hari ini dengan langit. Mungkin saja, sultan bisa membawa suara moral masyarakat yang kemudian bisa menjadi pengimbang suara pemerintahan. 

Mungkin saja sultan bisa menjadi suara alternatif yang kemudian bisa meningkatkan kebanggaan selaku pewaris satu kebudayaan. Mungkin saja kelak sultan bisa lebih didengarkan dan lebih efektif dalam memadamkan konflik atau untuk mempererat solidaritas antar komunitas di masyarakat.

Saya melihatnya positif. Kalaupun ada ketidakcakapan seorang figur sultan, maka ini bukan berarti kelemahan terletak pada institusi. Ini yang harus dicamkan pada banyak orang yang menuntut lebih pada sultan di masa kini. 

Maka biarkanlah semuanya berjalan sesuai yang dikehendaki mereka yang menginginkan lembaga ini terbentuk. Kelak, sejarah yang akan memberikan jawaban pada generasi masa depan, apakah apa yang terjadi hari ini merupakan kemestian sejarah, ataukah hanya karena sejumlah figur haus kekuasaan.  


Athens, 25 Mei 2012

Kembalinya Iphone yang Hilang



TIGA minggu silam, saya kehilangan salah satu benda berharga yakni Iphone 4 yang saya bawa dari Indonesia. Selama beberapa hari, saya memikirkan terus kehilangan itu. Bukan karena Iphone-nya, namun  di situ ada demikian banyak kenangan yang tak mungkin tergantikan.

Beberapa teman meyakinkan saya kalau benda itu pasti akan kembali. Sahabat saya kehilangan dompet sampai tiga kali. Namun, dompet itu selalu kembali ke apartemennya dalam keadaan utuh. Makanya, saya pernah berkesimpulan kalau di tanah Amerika, yang sekuler ini, justru malaikat bertebaran dalam wujud orang-orang baik.

Ketika mengalami kehilangan, tak urung saya ikut bersedih. Saya memang trauma dengan kehilangan. Sebelum ke Athens, Ohio, saya kehilangan tas yang berisikan laptop dan semua dokumen penting. 

Sebulan setelahnya, seseorang menelepon keluarga saya di Indonesia dan mengaku menemukan tas situ. Ia menolak menyebutkan tinggal di mana. Dengan gaya yang sedikit mengancam, ia mengajak kakak saya untuk ketemu di satu tempat di Jakarta, tengah malam. Nampaknya ia hendak memeras. Saya memilih untuk mengikhlaskan saja semua dokumen itu, daripada nyawa terancam dan diperas seseorang.

Tiga minggu silam, saya kembali kehilangan Iphone 4. Ini bukan soal benda. Tapi kenangan. Apalagi, saya mendapatkan benda itu secara gratis saat menjadi juara kompetisi menulis yang disponsori Telkomsel dan diikuti sekitar 667 penulis di Indonesia (beritanya DI SINI). Di situ juga ada kenangan, ketika istri saya menujum kalau sejak lomba itu diumumkan, ia sudah yakin kalau saya akan memenangkannya. Apalagi, ia tahu kalau saya menginginkan Ipad 2 sebagai hadiah untuk juara 2. Ternyata, saya malah jadi juara pertama.

Tak urung, kehilangan benda itu cukup mengganggu hari-hari saya yang berjalan. Selama beberapa hari, saya menghubungi bagian lost and found di beberapa gedung di kampus Ohio University. Hasilnya nihil. Maka saya lalu memilih untuk bersabar dan merelakannya. Toh, dengan mengikhlaskannya, maka saya tidak begitu meratapi kehilangan itu.

kenangan saat menerima hadiah Iphone 4 dari Kang Pepih Nugraha
(redaktur senior Kompas) sebagai juara lomba menulis

Hari ini, tiba-tiba saja seseorang mengirimi email. Namanya RJ Andrews. Ia bekerja sebagai konsultan di AT&T, sebuah perusahaan telekomunikasi yang paling besar di Amerika. Ia memperkenalkan diri dengan sopan, kemudian memberitahu kalau ia menemukan Iphone 4 saya dan berniat mengembalikannya. Katanya, ia membuka Iphone itu dan menemukan alamat email saya.

Saya amat bahagia saat membaca email itu. Tadinya, saya berpikir kalau barang itu sudah hilang tak berbekas. Ternyata, malah ada orang baik yang tiba-tiba saja bersedia mengembalikan barang yang dtemukan. Padahal, tadinya, saya sudah berpikir bahwa Iphone saya akan senasib laptop dalam tas yang hilang di Jakarta.

Saya lalu janjian dengannya. Ia langsung memberikan Iphone itu, tanpa meminta apapun. Ia hanya tersenyum lalu berkata kalau ia sangat bahagia karena sudah membantu. Batin saya tiba-tiba dibasahi oleh rasa haru karena bertemu seorang baik yang tak meminta apapun.

Uniknya, bersamaan dengan berita ditemukannya Iphone, saya tiba-tiba kehilangan satu benda berharga. Namun, dalam waktu hanya dua jam, seseorang menelepon demi memberitahu kalau ia menemukan benda itu dan menitipkannya pada seorang pegawai di salah satu gedung di kampus. 

Saya lalu memikirkan dua keping kenyataan yang saya hadapi hari ini. Sungguh, saya tak menyangka. Di negeri yang penduduknya banyak sekular dan atheis ini, warganya sangat menjunjung tinggi moralitas untuk mengembalikan sebuah barang yang hilang, tanpa berniat untuk memilikinya.

Padahal, bisa saja sang penemu barang itu mengklaim sebagai miliknya. Ia tinggal menghapus semua file-file di Iphone itu, kemudian memilikinya sendiri. Tapi ia tidak mau melakukannya. Sebab ia tahu bahwa itu bukanlah haknya. Hal yang sama dengan sahabat saya yang kehilangan dompet hingga tiga kal dan selalu kembali dalam keadaan utuh.

Saya terkagum-kagum membayangkan kebaikan banyak orang di sini. Mereka laksana malaikat yang berjalan ke muka bumi dan hendak mengajarkan mana yang patut dan mana yang tak patut. Di sini, masyarakat tahu bagaimana menempatkan diri ketika menemukan sebuah barang hilang, tidak tergoda untuk memilikinya, kemudian berusaha dengan segala cara untuk mengembalikannya. Saya amat bahagia tinggal di satu masyarakat yang dipenuhi banyak orang baik. Saya merasa sangat aman dan terlindungi oleh kebaikan yang menjadi moralitas bersama.

Saya masih terkesima dengan kebaikan itu. Saya lalu membayangkan negeri saya yang katanya religius. Saya membayangkan negeri saya yang merupakan pemeluk agama Islam terbesar di dunia. Negeri yang penduduknya paling banyak bergelar haji. Namun ketika barang hilang, maka penemunya tidak mau mengembalikan. Kalaupun berniat mengembalikan, maka diawali paksaan serta permintaan imbalan. Duh negeriku!


Athens, 24 Mei 2012

Kulukis Namamu dengan Kaligrafi Cina


KULUKIS namamu dengan kaligrafi Cina. Amat indah. Kupesan khusus dua lembar kertas. Satu bertuliskan namamu. Satu lagi bertuliskan nama anak kita, Ara. Lewat aksara itu, aku hendak mengatakan bahwa di sini, pada jarak ribuan kilometer, nama kalian tetap kulukis dengan indah. 

kata DWI dalam aksara Cina
kata ARA dalam aksara Cina
gadis pembuat kaligrafi
diriku yang memegang dua nama kalian

Kaligrafi itu dilukis seorang gadis dengan wajah sebagaimana dirimu. Tadinya, aku mengira dirimu tiba-tiba datang ke Athens dengan mengenakan baju khas Cina. Tapi kusadar, dirimu sedang terpaut jauh di sana. Maka, kuminta gadis itu menuliskan namamu dan nama anak kita. Tadinya kuragu dengan kemampuannya. Ternyata, kaligrafi itu seindah wajahnya yang bersemu kemerahan. Seindah dirimu. Seranum pipi peri biru kecil di pangkuanmu.

Mulanya ia kesulitan mengeja namamu. Belakangan kuketahui kalau aksara Cina dibuat berdasarkan bunyi. Ketika kusebut namamu, ia langsung tahu bagaimana melukiskannya. Demikian pula dengan Ara. Ah, jangan-jangan ia menulis dengan asal.

Kutemui para sahabat, mahasiswa asal Cina. Salah satunya adalah sahabatku Shuyi. Ketika kuperlihatkan tulisan itu, ia langsung menyebut namamu dan nama Ara. Ternyata si pembuat kaligrafi itu tidak asal menulis. Ia menulisnya dengan tepat, sesuai dengan caraku membaca namamu.

Aku teringat sesuatu. Aku teringat saat beberapa bulan silam memahat namamu di salju kota New York.  Sayang sekali, karena diriku tak bisa menunjukkan lukisanku yang lain. Lukisan namamu di hati ini.

Kekasih, apakah gerangan kabarmu hari ini? Apakah kamu masih bermimpi tentang bunga-bunga di padang indah yang serentak bersemi merekah ketika dirimu mendekatinya?


Athens, 24 Mei 2012

kupahat nama kalian di salju kota New York


IWAN FALS: The Voice of Rebellion




Introduction

Oppression and abuses of power
Are too numerous to mention
Stop, stop, don't go on
We're fed up with greed and uncertainty

-- Iwan Fals, "Demolish", a hit song of 1989


Each period has its own history. Each period has its own heroes. In 1999, the famous Indonesianist Benedict Anderson wrote that what Indonesian people called "reformasi" in 1998 had actually occurred in early 1900. Since that period, there have been many heroes who raise the national awakening. Thus, what is happening today is similar to what happened in the past.
Ben Anderson said that Indonesia had given birth to many heroes. They are Dr. Sutomo, Natsir, Tan Malaka, Kartini, Haji Misbach, Pramoedya Ananta Tur, Yap Thiam Hin, Sudirman, Roem, Sukarno, Hatta, Armijn Pane, Sudisman, Haji Dahlan, Hasjim Asj'ari, and more. In his article, he asked a question: who is the hero in contemporary Indonesia? Which person is  worth admiring in modern Indonesia?
He asked this question to many Indonesian students in Cornell at that time. He wanted to compare about present and future figures in Indonesian history. Most of the students didn’t know how to respond to this question. Anderson hoped that they will mentioned one from the many names that are mentioned above. But he was questioning when the students mentioned Iwan Fals as their hero.  He said: "Is not this rather terrifying?" [1]
I assume that not everyone understands about the contribution of Iwan Fals to social change in Indonesia. Maybe he did not understand that through his songs, Iwan Fals always talks about the sad social reality of Indonesia. Anderson’s view reflect the opinion of many people who think popular music is not important.
As noted by Lockard (1998), there is always a connection between popular music and the political situation in Southeast Asia. Lockard believes that a singer has a function as a political actor, especially in the way these performers use music as a social weapon or tool – and even sometimes as a call to change, challenge or overthrow the existing government or socioeconomic condition that they consider as unjust systems.


In this context, Iwan honestly speaks about poverty, prostitution, government corruption, rising prices, and also public representatives who always sleep at the parliamentary hearing. He also played an important role to kindle the spirit of reform of Indonesian students during the reformasi period.[2]
I still remember that in 1997, when I was a freshmen student at Hasanuddin University at Makassar. At that time, Indonesia and other Southeast Asia countries were hit by the monetary crisis. Everywhere, prices soared. In all major cities, protests continued, requesting President Soeharto to step down from the presidency.
Almost every day, I always lead Hasanuddin University students to demonstrate. Unfortunately, there were not many students interested to join our demonstration. Most of them just watched us marchng in the streets. At that time, the New Order regime was still powerful. Many activists were kidnapped and killed by the military. One day, me and other student activists had an initiative to invite the living legend of Indonesian music, Iwan Fals to play.
In 1997, Iwan Fals came to Hasanuddin University. He came as a member of Kantata Takwa band with the poet W.S Rendra, the musician Sawung Jabo, and the businessman Setiawan Djody. They sang critical song about the government. The students hoped that Iwan would sing Bongkar and Bento, two powerful songs that we always sang in our demonstrations.
Then, Iwan sang Bongkar (demolish) and Bento. The songs ignited the spirit of thousands of Makassar students. After that time, most university students joined us in every demonstration. Hundreds of students went to Jakarta and joined with thousands of other students to demonstrate in front of the House of Representatives.  Iwan Fals and his band traveled to many areas and sang his critical songs. Finally, our effort paid off. On May 21th, 1998, Soeharto resigned as President of the Republic of Indonesia.   
For me, Iwan Fals is a contemporary hero who inspires many people to be critical of the authority. Iwan Fals has always been the voice of Indonesia's grassroots movement since the New Order era, but until now, he has preferred not to be its formal leader. He just keeps doing what he does best - singing and cheering - and maintaining the qualities of his song and conviction that keeps his fans loyal to him.
In 2002, Time magazine named Iwan Fals as the Asian Hero.[3] In this edition, there were only two Indonesians in the list. They were Iwan Fals and novelist Pramoedya Ananta Toer. Their profiles were put together with the profiles of other Asian leaders such as the famous Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan, the Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the Tibetian monk, Karmapa Lama, and the East Timorese leader, Xanana Gusmao. Interestingly, Iwan Fals picture became the Time magazine's cover. In the article entitled "Iwan Fals Sings a Timeless Message of Justice for All", Time noted:

Here's why Iwan Fals matters: because boy bands don't take on dictatorships. They don't stand up when everyone else is hunkering down. They don't put to song what others are afraid to put in print. Pop stars should give a damn—when they do, remarkable transformations are possible.

Time also noted that Iwan Fals concert is the most widely attended concert in Indonesia. Time noted: "He's the voice of the people. And he has been a thorn in the side of those who would abuse power."


Another prominent magazine focusing on music, politics and lifestyle, Rolling Stone, also wrote a comprehensive report about Iwan Fals. This magazine made ​​a list of 150 best songs in the history of Indonesian music. Iwan Fals’ song “Bongkar” became the best song on the list. Two other songs such as Guru Oemar Bakri and Bento were also in the top ten. According to Rolling Stone, Iwan was a musician who inspired many people with the power of his lyrics.
Iwan Fals, nevertheless, is not alone in the ranks of musicians that voice critical songs in the history of Indonesian music. In the late 1940s, some nationalists controlled several radio stations during the Indonesian revolution and employed that advantage to spread their message. They adapted keroncong as a weapon, with many ‘lagu perjuangan’ (struggle songs) written in this kind of genre and broadcasted them on revolutionaries-controlled radio stations. Hence keroncong came to represent not just lower-class but also nationalist aspirations. Even today most of these songs are performed in the keroncong style. The nationalist songs are known as keroncong revolusi (revolutionary keroncong) and deal with issues of freedom and independence. One of the best-known songs was “keroncong merdeka”
            During the 1950s and early 1960s, Indonesia was led by the charismatic President Soekarno, the founding father of Indonesian independence. In this period, Brigadier General Rudi Pirngadie, a veteran of the revolution sometimes called “General Kroncong”, attempted to create an updated (and somewhat westernized) version that could serve as ‘a concrete symbol of nationalist ideology.’ Sukarno supported Pirngadie’s attempt to create a national music for international distribution.
            During the tumultuous Sukarno era, however, keroncong gradually declined in popularity, seen by many as overly mellow (even insipid) and –ironically, given its origins – bourgeois. In this era, a new form of proletarian theater called ludruk became widely popular in some cities in Java; the closely related art form, lodrok also developed in Madura. The styles were considered crude compared to the elite wayang. Mixing music, comedy, and satire, the ludruk performance generally depicted problems and issues of modern society, including social criticism and problems of slum dwellers.
Under the New Order, control of the arts and media by the government was mixed and inconsistent, but generally Indonedia enjoyed a thriving and vibrant artistic scene –including music. Between the mid-1960s and 1990s, Indonesia developed a wide variety of popular music styles, some of which proved conducive and supportive to socio-political comments and critiques.  Popular music became a major component of the background for daily life (Lockhard 1998; 78).
In 1978, a singer, Mogi Darusman[4] appeared with his song Rayap-Rayap (termites) and Koruptor (corruptor).  After that, in the early of 1980s, Iwan Fals came with his song, Oemar Bakri, a story about the fate of a teacher whose salary is not rising. Then, Bimbo became popular with a song that talked about social reality. Bimbo’s famous song was Hitam Kelam (Black), which tells about the life of prostitutes in Jakarta. After that, Bimbo launched Tante Soen[5]. This song told a story about the government official wives in Jakarta.
There was also Ebiet G. Ade who saw the disaster caused by man's sin. Besides these artists, there was also Doel Soembang with his song Mimpi Siang Bolong (daydreaming). This song told about a farmer who was ruled by a wealthy king. The king had unlimited money that was stored in many banks. Other names that followed the same direction in this period were Harry Rusli (1951 - 2004), Franki Sahilatua (1953 - 2011), Leo Kristi, and Rhoma Irama.
Why should Iwan Fals be an icon of Indonesian protest music? In this article, I propose some arguments.
First, Iwan Fals is one of the most prolific musicians in Indonesia. A senior musician from Surabaya, Gombloh (1948 - 1988), which is also known to be very critical of the government, only produced six albums during his whole music career.
Another productive musician, Franky Sahilatua, produced around 30 albums. Some of them actually were composed with the help of Iwan Fals. Iwan Fals himself produced about 45 albums. Until now, he remains productive to deliver musical albums that are made in accordance with the spirit of his time.
Second, Iwan Fals has many fanatic fans who spread his ideas across Indonesia and the world. The fans come from different social backgrounds, ranging from the upper class, the middle class, up to the 'grassroots'. Many of them see Iwan Fals like a God (dewa). They display Iwan Fals’ poster picture everywhere. The imagery of Iwan Fals is also illustrated in their t-shirts. Also, many of his fans made a tattoo of Iwan Fals as a symbol of loyalty.
Iwan also has a charisma that makes nearly everyone willing to attend his show. This is the power that is not owned by other singers and musicians. It is not surprising then to hear that Iwan Fals’ concert became the biggest concert with the largest audience in Indonesia.[6]
In addition, Iwan Fals is the only singer who forms a massive organization for all fans called Orang Indonesia (OI). Indeed, other singers also form fans club. But, Iwan Fals’ fans organization is different compared to others. Iwan manages the organization with the goal to empower its members economically and develop a sense of community. This explains why, on August 2, 1999, he invited thousands of its members to come to his home in Leuwinanggung, Bogor, to talk about this organization.
A huge number of fans that have various backgrounds came to his house. They agreed to make the people of Indonesia (OI) into a mass organization. They planned a national gathering which was attended by thousands of fans. They formed the organization in all cities throughout Indonesia with an estimated number of members up to 500,000 people.
However, this number is not totally true. According to a study by a student of the University of Indonesia in 2002, Iwan has 46 million fans. In comparison, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) garnered slightly over 60 million votes in the 2004 elections to become the country's first democratically elected president, while the incumbent Megawati Sukarnoputri at that time collected only slightly over 40 million votes in the runoff election.[7]


Third, Iwan Fals songs could explain many socio-political contexts of the New Order. The songs recorded the events in the New Order period and also described human interactions that existed at that time. Prostitutes, the jobless, thugs, underpaid teachers, newspaper vendors, the homeless and thieves, all of them have their own special place in Iwan's lyrics.
Some attribute his close relations with the marginalized people to his experience as a street singer in Jakarta and Bandung from the age of 13. Even after producing four albums from 1979 to 1987, including Sarjana Muda and Sugali, Iwan often still performed on the streets, especially in the Blok M area, South Jakarta.
Fourth, Iwan Fals is one of the few musicians who have a strong network with pro-democracy activists. On the eve of reformasi, Iwan Fals joined with the Kantata Takwa, a progressive network of the regime’s challengers, along with the critical poet WS Rendra. According to the noted journalist, Andreas Harsono, in the 1990s, Iwan often came to Salatiga to meet the prominent sociologist, Arief Budiman. He learned how to understand political issues from Arief Budiman. He also read a book, Catatan Seorang Demonstran (Notes of A Demonstrator), that was written by Soe Hok Gie, the younger brother of Arief Budiman.
Iwan also often held discussions at his home in Leuwinanggung, Bogor. He invited speakers such as Budiman Sudjatmiko, Sri Bintang Pamungkas, Khofifah Indar Parawansa, Anang Hermansyah, Franz Magnis Suseno, and the former Minister of Youth and Sports, Adhyaksa Dault. The discussion topics were varied, such as religion, love, politics, piracy, violence against women, AIDS disease, the fuel price hike, corruption, strikes, labor issues, until the national debt. Through this discussion, Iwan tried to get inspiration. He also built a network with these critical figures in order to learn from them.
Fifth, Iwan Fals’s influence is not only felt in Indonesia but also in other countries. Mandal (2003) noted that Iwan Fals influenced many Malaysian artists in their anti-establishment criticisms. One of them is the famous Malaysian cartoonist Zunar. Similar to Iwan’s lyrics, Zunar creates political cartoons to criticize politics in Malaysia. Zunar has also written about the collaboration of Iwan Fals with several artists as an effective force to overthrow the regime. Zunar wonders in his conclusion, if artists in Malaysia might be able to collaborate fruitfully to do the same thing.[8]

 ***

In addition to the above mentioned arguments, I want to highlight two controversies concerning Iwan Fals. First is his family background. This history is a very interesting fact to be explored. Though his songs often promoted grassroots phenomenon, Iwan actually came from a middle class family. His father was a soldier with the rank of colonel. If Iwan comes from a military family, why would he make some lyrics criticizing the military?
Second is Iwan’s close connection with many businessmen. As part of the upper classes, who made ​​friends with entrepreneurs, can we say that Iwan was a propaganda tool of the entrepreneurs and the middle class to topple down Suharto? Given the circumstances, can we explain the reformasi as an expression of the middle class who actually wanted social change?
This article aims to explore these two questions. I will start with analyzing the family background and experience of Iwan as well as his elite connections, especially in the period before the reform.

The Short Biography

            His full name is Virgiawan Listianto. He was born in Jakarta, September 3th, 1961 as the fifth of nine children. His father's name is Harsoyo who came from Blitar, East Java. His father was a soldier with the rank of colonel. His mother was Suudiyah Lies, originally from Solo, Central Java. His mother is a woman of Arab descent.
Information about Iwan's father is very limited. It seems that Iwan very rarely talks about his father. He has a lot to discuss about his mother; he even created a song about his mother. But he never wrote a song about his father. In one interview, he said that he grew up in a military-style discipline. As a boy, he dreamed of becoming a soldier. He failed to accomplish his dream later on because he was far more interested in becoming a musician.

Hj Lies (Iwan's mother), Iwan Fals, Harsoyo (Iwan's father), Yos (Iwan's wive)

In an interview with Tempo magazine, he says that in his childhood, he was very proud as a soldier’s child. When one day he fought with the neighboring children, he took his father's AK-47 to scare the neighbors.[9]
At the age of 11 years, Iwan moved to Bandung where two of his sisters lived. He attended school in junior high school (SMP) 5 Bandung. Since he didn’t want to live with his sisters, he lived alone in a dormitory. Apparently, he wanted to be more independent. Maybe, he felt more freedom without his family.
In several interviews, he said that before passing his junior high school, his parents moved him to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. His parents wanted him to be more focused in school. He stayed there for more than eight months. Finally he returned home. On the way home, he met a stewardess who taught him about Bob Dylan song called Blowing in the Wind.
Returned from Jeddah, he lived in Jakarta. Soon after, he went to Yogyakarta, and after that he returned to Bandung. He also went back to school and spent time as a street musician. Then he moved to Jakarta. There is no clear answer why he became a musician. He explained his choice in one of his songs.[10]

Aku pergi
meninggalkan coreng hitam
di muka bapak
yang membuat malu
keluargaku

Kuingin kembali
Mungkinkah mereka mau terima
rinduku

I run away
leaving a black stain
in my father’s face
that shames
my family

I want to go back
Could they be willing to accept
my longing for them?

With respect to Iwan’s experience, there are two assumptions that can be mentioned here. First, as noted by Shiraishi (1997), what was missing in New Order family is the sense of belonging. Children, both young and old, were rarely found in their houses during the day time when school is over. They freely moved around the neighborhood alleys and the narrow spaces between houses.[11]
            Second, Iwan Fals grew up in a middle-class family who enjoyed many facilities and luxuries in the New Order. But it seems that he choose to leave the house, and then express himself through his music. In the New Order period, its rapid development program successfully created a layer of middle-class. Later on, the middle class became a group that was politically educated about their rights. This group held a critical awareness and understanding of the complex social reality, which explains why they began to criticize the government.
In the early period of his career, Iwan played country songs. The character of each of his songs plus the lyrics made his style often associated with Bob Dylan’s. When he launched his debut album Sarjana Muda, he gained an immediate popularity. The media also began to refer to him as the creator of songs of social critiques. Most of his successful early songs told stories about social inequalities. Guru Oemar Bakri from his first album in 1981, recounts the saga of a mathematics teacher who, even this technological age, still had to ride an old bicycle, while his low wages consistently dropped every month.

Oemar Bakri (2x)
pegawai negeri
Oemar bakri (2x)
40 tahun mengabdi
jadi guru jujur berbakti
memang makan hati
Oemar Bakri (2x)
banyak ciptakan menteri
Oemar Bakri (2x)
professor, doctor,
insinyur pun jadi
tapi mengapa gaji guru
seperti dikebiri
…….

……..
Oemar Bakri (2x)
a civil servant
Oemar Bakri (2x)
40th served
as a teacher honestly serve
is eating liver
Oemar Bakri (2x)
create many ministers
Oemar Bakri (2x)
creates professors, doctors, and  engineers
but why the wage of Oemar Bakri
seems to be corrupted
……

Gradually, Iwan gained a large audience with songs like Demokrasi Nasi (Rice Democracy) and Tahun 2000 (Year 2000), a warning that overpopulation might eventually sink Java into the sea. He also wrote Mbak Tini (about the struggle of a truck driver laid off by the government.). His song reflected sympathy for and criticisms against the human cost of New Order’s socio-economic changes, such as underpaid teachers, shoeshine boys, desperate prostitutes and unemployed university graduates. 

Iwan and family

The critical lyrics of his songs soon attracted even more attention, incluiding a twelve-day interrogation by local police in Riau Island in 1984, after he helped a student fundraising effort. His notoriety as a potential oppositionist may have deterred further serious media coverage.
Iwan’s songs demand democratization and human rights, condemn corrupt power holders in government and bussines, sympathize with the poor, criticize the hypocrisy of the media and the blindness of parents. For example, his 1998 hit Puing (ruins) conveys the following:

Nuklir seperti  Dewa
Tampaknya sang jenderal bangga
Dimimbar dia berkata
Untuk perdamaian
Mana mungkin
…….

……..
Nukes are like a god
The general looks proud
From the podium he says:
For peace, for peace…
What a Crap!
……


Iwan particularly has achieved wide popularity among the urban youth , including both from the kampungan (villages) and university circles. Everyday dozens of youth visit the singer’s home, mimicking his fashion trademark of blue jeans, long hair, and bandannas. Indeed, in 1990, a magazine was banned for a survey that listed Iwan (and Soeharto) more popular than the Prophet Muhammad, who was the eleventh and as a result, devout Muslims were outraged.
In 1990, Iwan formed a new group, Swami, which also included a prominent vocalist Sawung Jabo.  They made ​​a number of critical songs. Among them are Bongkar and Bento. The song Bongkar was written ​​ when the Kedungombo village will be forcefully sunk by the government for a dam construction project. In 1990, Swami’s concert with Rendra and his Bengkel Theater group spectacularly attracted 120,000 to 200,000 to the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, marking it as the largest concert in the nation’s history.
The song Bento was based on the fact that many entrepreneurs who built real estates and bought villager’s land. Many mass media said that Bento was an abbreviation of Benci Suharto (Hate Soeharto). Others said Benci Tommy Suharto (Hate Tommy Soeharto).

Namaku Bento, rumah real estate
Mobilku banyak, harta melimpah
Orang memanggilku, bos eksekutif
Tokoh papan atas,
atas sgalanya, asik!

Wajahku ganteng, banyak simpanan
Sekali lirik, oh bisa jalan
Bisnisku menjagal, jagal apa saja
yang penting aku senang, aku menang
Persetan orang susah,
karena aku
Yang penting asik,
sekali lagi, asik!

Obral soal moral, omong keadilan, sarapan pagiku
Aksi tipu-tipu, lobi dan upeti,
woo jagonya
Maling kelas teri,
bandit kelas coro, itu kantong sampah
Siapa yang mau berguru,
datang padaku, sebut 3 kali namaku
Bento bento bento..
asik..


My name is Bento
My house is exclusive
My cars are many, money’s no problem
People called me an executive boss
A figure of first ranking, a cut above the rest, that’s great

My face is handsome, my lovers are many
I just give the girls a wink
and everything‘s OK
My business is to win deals,
whatever comes along
Damn the people if they suffer
because of me
So long as I feel great,
let me say again, that’s great

Summons of morality, talk of justice
That’s my breakfast menu
Scheming, lobbying, and business graft
I’m the champ
Petty thieves and small-time hoods
They’re just rubbish to me
If you want to learn, just come to me
Say my name three times,
Bento, Bento, Bento
That’s great


            It’s interesting to analyze that the personnel of Swami are from the middle-class background. While Iwan is from a military family, Sawung Jabo is also from the middle class background. Jabo graduated from one of the prominent universities in Australia. He is also married to Suzan Piper, an Australian girl.
After dorming the Swami Band, Iwan and Jabo Takwa joined with WS Rendra (1935 - 2009) and Setiawan Djody to create Kantata Takwa. Each person has a unique background. Renda was born in Solo, Central Java. He is a poet who is often dubbed as the Peacock. He founded the Bengkel Theater in Yogyakarta in 1967. When a theater group in disarray because of political pressure, then he founded the Bengkel Teater in Depok, October 1985.


He was active in writing short stories and essays in various magazines since he was studied in the college. Rendra was a poet with an international reputation. He also actively participated in festivals abroad, including the Rotterdam International Poetry Festival (1971 and 1979), The International Poetry Festival Valmiki, New Delhi (1985), Berliner Horizonte Festival, Berlin (1985), The First New York Festival of the Arts (1988), Spoleto Festival, Melbourne, Vagarth World Poetry Festival, Bhopal (1989), World Poetry Festival, Kuala Lumpur (1992), and Tokyo Festival (1995).
Setiawan Djody (born 13 March 1949; Solo, Central Java, Indonesia) is an Indonesian businessman and guitarist. He was a Wharton School graduate in 1974 and got the S-2 Philosophy from the University of California. He is the Chairman of Setdco group in Indonesia. Setdco was being named after his own name. He is also a musician, being listed by Rolling Stone as one of Asia's top guitarists. The majority of its investments are in the areas of oil business, the media and agro-industry; including telecommunications. He is listed in the 150 Richest Indonesian by the Forbes magazine 2007. He is also active in the business of shipping and has several shipping companies.
              From this background, we can conclude that Iwan Fals and his group were part of the middle class who saturate with the New Order government. They joined with other middle-class alliance to overthrow the Suharto regime. We can conclude that the reform movement is not a lower class movement, but middle-class movement that wants to change an order.

Historical Context

Most of Iwan Fals albums were released in 1980s. A total of 16 albums were released in this period, the times when the New Order government chose the economic development as its main objective. Policies determined by the military-dominated administrative structure. With the support of many economic advisors who graduatde from several universities in the United States (US), the New Order government exploited a huge amount of natural resources in order to increase the economic growth. However, growth was not evenly distributed in Indonesia.
Since 1966, Indonesia entered the New Order. As the president, General Suharto has mixed military and civilian leadership and allowed some limited opposition but kept the mass “fluctuating” – or politically “neutral” and excluded the Marxists. These policies created stability and mediated the emergence of an educated urban middle class, but at the expense of some systematic repressions of all social forces as well as the imposition of a highly manipulated political structure.


During 1980s, a limited multiparty parliamentary system developed, but Golkar, a functional coalition of groups allied to the military and bureaucracy, dominated somewhat state-engineered elections and the whole country’s political agenda in what has been called a ‘hegemonic party system.’ The electoral campaigns, routinely but alluringly labeled ‘Festival of Democracy’, were ritualistic and orderly in its rhetoci, with large numbers of security police. Behind the scenes, the military remains the main arbiter of power.
The authorities, concerned with limiting the potential for disorder, considerably restricted the airing of opposing viewpoints and closely monitored the mass media, most of them practiced self-censorship or came under formal or informal government surveillances. The government at that time viewed the media largely as an unofficial ‘bulletin’ or ‘conveyor belt’ for government information, and most editors promoted close relationship with members of the ruling elite only to retain their jobs.
Although the New Order had great achievements in economy, the freedom of expression was not guaranteed. The government relied on a strong centralization of power in the hands of President Soeharto and his followers. Political freedom was suppressed by physical violence, detention and bans of certain publications or actions Political power of the New Order was an authoritarian bureaucratic character that marked the dominance of the role of the State in all areas and the suppression of political power.


[1] Ben Anderson wrote, “Over the past dozen years I have been accustomed to asking Indonesian youngsters who visit Cornell or come to study there this simple question: Who in Indonesia today do you admire and look up to? The common response is, first, bewilderment at the question, then a long scratching of the head, and finally a hesitant ... Iwan Fals. Isn't this rather terrifying? I don't mean that everyone can or should become a great man or woman. But I think that every man and woman can decide not to be a dwarf.” See: Anderson, B. (1999) Indonesian Nationalism Today and in The Future. In Indonesia, No 67 (Apr 1999), pp. 1 - 11. Cornell: Southeast Asia Program Publications.
[2] See Lockhart (1998) Dance of Life. Popular Music and Politics in Southeast Asia. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.
[3] See Time Magazine, edisi 29 April 2002
[4] Mogi Darusman's album was the first and the last one. He was banned and not allowed to sing in Indonesia. See Mulyadi, M. (2009). Industri Musik Indonesia: Sebuah Sejarah (Indonesia Music Industry. A History). Bekasi: Koperasi Ilmu Sosial.
[5] The song "Tante Soen" was banned by government in 1977. Because of this song, The Television of Republic Indonesia banned Bimbo in the screen for several years.
[6] Indonesian Record Museum (MURI) noted that Iwan Fals concert on June 23, 1990, at the Bung Karno Stadium, was the most widely attended concert audience. Muri estimated that concert was attended more than 150,000 people. This amount exceeds the capacity of the stadium that only 90,000 people.
[8] See Mandal, S.K. (2003) Creativity in protest: art workers and the recasting of politics and society in Indonesia and Malaysia. In Heryanto, A. and Mandal, S. K (2003) Challenging Authoritarianism in Southeast Asia. London: Routledge.
[9] Iwan Fals: “Saya bermimpi tak ada tentara.” (I have a dream that there are no soldiers). In Tempo 10/XXXIII, May 3th, 2004.
[10] The title of song is “Rindu Tebal” (The thick longing). In Sugali (1984).
[11] See Shiraishi, S. (1997). Young Heroes. The Indonesian Family in Politics. Cornell: Southeast Asian Studies Program.

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