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Dance of Life

Dance of Life: Popular Music and Politics in Southeast Asia

Craig A. Lockard
Copyright Date: 1998
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  • Book Info
    Dance of Life
    Book Description:

    The rock era is over, according to one pop music expert. Another laments that rock music is "metamorphosed into the musical wallpaper of ten thousand lifts, hotel foyers, shopping centers, airport lounges, and television advertisements that await us in the 1990s." Whatever its current role and significance in Anglo-American society, popular music has been and remains a tremendous social and cultural force in many parts of the world. This book explores the connections between popular music genres and politics in Southeast Asia, with particular emphasis on Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6211-4
    Subjects: Music, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xxii)

    This book explores the connection between popular music and politics in Southeast Asia over the past five decades, with particular emphasis on Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia/Singapore. An examination of Southeast Asia constitutes part of a larger analysis of the relationship between popular music and politics throughout what is often rather imprecisely termed the “Third World.” In another study I address the subject matter in non-Asian contexts such as Jamaica, Trinidad, Chile, Brazil, Nigeria, and South Africa.² Considerable attention is devoted in both works to the relationship between popular music and politics generally (including the expression of political protest...

  4. 1 Popular Culture and Music in the Modern World
    (pp. 1-53)

    The literature on popular musics has grown enormously in recent years. This is true for North America and Europe, of course, but also for Africa, the Caribbean, parts of Latin America, and China. Perhaps now we are finally beginning to have enough information to assess the broad role of popular music in various Southeast Asian nations, including its role in politics. But first we need a broader perspective as background. This chapter examines various aspects of popular culture and popular music generally, with particular attention to Asia and the Pacific, in order to provide a larger context for the comparative...

  5. 2 Indonesia: Many Fields, Many Songs
    (pp. 54-113)

    Popular music has become in recent decades a central feature of culture and daily life in Indonesia. Two experts describe the situation in the 1980s:

    Today, at any hour, anywhere, we can hear music, played from just one source, or from many sources, as in villages … or in shopping centers, or cassette shops…. Music can be heard in so many forms … in the mountains, fishing villages … prisons…. Pop music in particular, lives 24 hours a day…. Pop star posters are displayed in the cities and in the villages, in the rooms of teenagers and of others not...

  6. 3 Philippines: Pinoy, Protest, and People Power
    (pp. 114-161)

    Few societies have been as drenched in music as the Philippines. Pop star Freddie Aguilar describes the ubiquity of singing in his country:

    It’s a part of everyday life. Street vendors sing a song about the excellence of their goods; in the country the people you pass washing in a stream will be singing; a cook in his kitchen, a laundrywoman, they’re always singing…. Even when things are bad, instead of becoming depressed and quiet, they sing to forget their problems.²

    Visitors will note the prevalence of T-shirts with messages like “Where There Is Music There Can’t Be Misery” and...

  7. 4 Thailand: Songs for Life, Songs for Struggle
    (pp. 162-206)

    The rise of politicized popular musics in Thailand is closely tied to the political turbulence of the early and mid-1970s. But the larger context has been a traditionally conservative political and social system that has long failed to deal adequately with socioeconomic, ethnic minority, and regional equity issues. This chapter examines several streams of music that began to address some of these issues. Beginning in the 1960s the country-style luktoong represented the sentiments of impoverished rural folk in, and urban migrants from, the northeastern region. In the 1970s the folkish “songs for life” appeared to articulate the anti-Establishment views of...

  8. 5 Malaysia and Singapore: Pluralism and Popular Music
    (pp. 207-261)

    Highly politicized or politically engaged music certainly did not emerge in all Southeast Asian societies. Malaysia and Singapore offer some interesting contrasts to the other case studies both in the nature of the popular culture and in the more clearly ethnic-based socioeconomic framework. Hence national unity and identity—as well as communal relationships—have been overriding concerns. Hegemonic or diversionary influences are strong. The following analysis explores how popular music has nonetheless addressed (sometimes obliquely) many aspects of sociopolitical change, even though the general framework of Malaysian and Singaporean society discourages militant expression, at least in the mass-mediated music. Some...

  9. 6 Conclusions
    (pp. 262-272)

    Music of sociopolitical commentary, criticism, and protest has played an important role in the popular culture of many Third World societies over the past several decades, and Southeast Asia is no exception. This was part of the broader process by which the mass media expanded in reach and complexity over the past half century. Most Southeast Asians had access to radios by the 1950s, if not earlier; by the 1990s, videocassette recorders and televisions were common possessions in the cities. The recording industry, a marginal influence before the 1950s, developed greatly during the 1960s and 1970s, with a proliferation of...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 273-314)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 315-374)
  12. Index
    (pp. 375-390)