Dangdut 101: A Guide to the Local Tunes

As is the case with most countries, Indonesia also has its product when it comes to music. It even has its unique music genre which is Dangdut. It’s a music genre that many people like to sing along to, from the elders or even the youngsters! So, to help you understand some of the basics of dangdut, here are some quick Dangdut facts to help you.

What is Dangdut?

Dangdut is a unique music genre in Indonesia that takes its form as the more ‘danceable’ local music. The music began its development during the 1940s and gradually engulfs listeners nationally until its peak in the 1990s. While people can say that it is a form of Malay music, it has many of its signature traits. One of them is from the usage of an instrument called tabla, which is a percussion instrument that makes the unique dangdut tune.

Many people would find their tunes to be groovy and particularly light for singing and dancing along with friends. The usual theme of dangdut songs is focused on things such as love, heartbreak, and also everyday concerns and worries. The genre blends almost seamlessly Malay, Indian, Arabic, and even Western musical elements that make Dangdut what it is. Dangdut ultimately stands the test of time in Indonesia because of the universality of its themes. This makes it often to be said as ‘the music of the people’.

Notable Artists & Songs

1. Rhoma Irama

Rhoma Irama

By far, Rhoma Irama is a name that you would not miss when you are a true fan of Dangdut. People see him as the king of dangdut and have held onto the title as dangdut goes on in Indonesia. He was famous for producing tunes with his Soneta Group which is almost as famous as his solo name. Rhoma Irama is famous for changing his guitar when performing at different times but prefers to only use three brands. These guitar brands are Fender, Rickenbacker, and Steinberger. His most famous song is by far Begadang, which features lyrics for listeners to be careful when doing activities at night.

2. Iis Dahlia

Iis Dahlia

Another familiar name in Dangdut, Iis Dahlia is one of the Dangdut artists with the most expensive cost when performing. She is quite well-known to the Indonesian public for her lavish and luxurious way of performing and having public appearance. Some of her most famous songs include classics such as Tamu Tak Diundang, Payung Hitam, Cinta Bukanlah Kapal, and Saroja. She is also quite active in having roles in Indonesian soap operas or Sinetron in which she stars in dozens. Sinetron titles she starred in include Gara-gara, Seroja, The Lajang, 3 Orang Perempuan, PadaMu Aku Bersimpuh, and Mata Hati.

3. Inul Daratista

Inul Daratista

A famous and controversial name in the Dangdut scene, Inul Daratista combined the fun of Dangdut with her expressive dance. One of her more well-known songs by far is Goyang Inul. She was involved in a debate with Rhoma Irama when she introduced her explicit Goyang Ngebor to the Indonesian public. Rhoma Irama who was leaning toward Islamic conservatism called to ban Inul’s performances across Indonesian television to preserve traditional values. Regardless of that dispute, Inul went on to become a star and is one of the most popular celebrities in Indonesia. She even has her Karaoke chain called Inul Vizta opened in several big cities in Indonesia.

4. Caca Handika

Caca Handika

One of the frequent collaborators to Rhoma Irama, Caca Handika is not just well-known in the dangdut music entertainment scene. Some of his most famous songs are Undangan Palsu, Mandi Kembang, and Bakar Kemenyan which were successful hits in Indonesia. He is also well-known in many TV shows such as Yuk Keep Smile until 2014 and Kampung Dangdut in 2006. Kampung Dangdut is a soap opera musical which features Handika as a brother to Rhoma Irama’s character. Aside from that, he’s a designer of Batik motifs and a vocal coach in the Dangdut talent show D’Academy Celebrity.

Read also : A Guide to Get an Indonesian Driver’s License (SIM) for Foreigners

Modern Takes of Dangdut

1. Project Pop

Project Pop

From their song titled Dangdut is The Music Of My Country, this band recalls the significance of Dangdut nationally. Even though they’re not an exclusive Dangdut producing band, Project Pop manages to take the essence back into the spotlight. Their song evokes and celebrates the ‘danciness’ and the fun in Dangdut as part of the Indonesian cultural expression. Their overall comedic take when producing songs also helped to revive the lightheartedness of the genre for youngsters to consume. The song became a famous hit in 2003, arguably coinciding with many new appearing Dangdut singers.

2. Ayu Ting Ting

Ayu Ting Ting

A relatively new name in the Dangdut scene, Ayu Ting Ting managed to take the market quickly after proving her expertise in the genre. Her two songs that were hit are Geol Ajep Ajep and Alamat Palsu which gave her national recognition. Alamat Palsu was at one time one of the most played songs that you can listen to in Indonesia.

Who listens to Dangdut?

When you think of the market for Dangdut, it’s mostly dedicated to Indonesian elders. The genre is sung on many occasions in the rural areas of Indonesia, thus becoming famous there. Nowadays, more and more young Indonesians listen to them because of their easy message and ‘danceability’. Some people might even see Dangdut as a guilty pleasure because of its often erotic themes and laidback lyrics. But overall, many Indonesians still enjoy it from time to time, you can especially see Dangdut performed in Indonesian live television.

There you have it, a crash course to essential things you need to know about Dangdut. Try to give it a listen! It is a ‘danceable’ genre when you let the tunes and lyrics flow through your ears. It’s also a great song for icebreaking with a lot of people, and often with co-workers. So what are you waiting for? Look it up on YouTube or even Spotify and start your dancing, or more specifically, your goyang!

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