Musical Nationalism in Indonesia - Book Review


Musical Nationalism in Indonesia

Author: Sharifah Faizah Syed Mohammed
Genre: Non Fiction - Historical/Cultural
Publisher: Springer
Date Published: April 6, 2021
ISBN-10: 9813369493
ISBN-13: 978-9813369498


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Book Review of :  Musical Nationalism in Indonesia


Musical Nationalism in Indonesia BY Sharifah Faizah Syed Mohammed – delves into the intricacies of lagu seriosa through an in-depth examination of the subtleties, nuances, growth, and significance of this music genre. The book comprehensively explores the music's diverse characteristics and profound relationship with Indonesia's cultural identity.   It contains photographs and music scores that are representative of the genre. Discover the origin and evolution of this unique musical style that had become a symbol of the country's patriotic fervor. If you're unfamiliar with lagu seriosa, think of it as Indonesia's own brand of opera music. Mohammed takes you on a journey that introduces and celebrates Indonesia's rich cultural heritage and artistic musical expression.

Throughout the twentieth century, musical nationalism took root and sought to showcase national folk and popular genres. It was a tool for nation-building - that's what nationalism in music is all about. It's the belief that music can foster a sense of national identity and promote unity among its people. The lagu seriosa movement exemplified the challenges of establishing a national identity in a nation that comprised over 13,000 islands with diverse languages and ethnicities while maintaining a delicate balance between the military, Muslims, and communists. The movement is a prime example of Musical Nationalism.

The book details the role of folk songs in shaping Indonesia's history during the 1950s and 1960s. In this book, the author delves into how these songs were utilized as a powerful tool for government propaganda and how they were adapted to fit state ideologies and agendas. Uncovering the essential role played by Radio Republik Indonesia in this genre's development and distribution, this book sheds light on a little-explored aspect of Indonesia's post-colonial period. The musicians functioned as gatekeepers, ensuring that their songs reinforced a collective Indonesian identity, monitored and devised to match the propagandistic needs of the government. The music created was a testament to the power of music to shape a nation.

The Guided Democracy era brought about a shift towards a more classical style of singing in Indonesian music—this movement aimed to foster a sense of patriotism by focusing on creating a nationalistic repertoire. During the Konfrontasi armed conflict of 1963 to 1966, this style of music reached its pinnacle. However, the rising popularity of popular music throughout the 1970s led to a decline in Lagu Seriosa's audience. Nonetheless, its contribution to Indonesian music is significant, having cultivated a dignified and nationalistic sound that will always have an impact.

Musical Nationalism in Indonesia offers a unique perspective on the role of music in shaping identity and nation-building. Unlike other works on the subject, Sharifah Faizah Syed Mohammed's book provides a rare voice and comprehensive analysis. Its engrossing narration and vivid presentation of Indonesia's heritage make it a must-read for scholars and anyone interested in exploring the uniting of diverse cultures and the rich fusion of history, politics, identity, arts, and cultural studies in Indonesia. Musical Nationalism in Indonesia is fully deserving of high recommendation. It opens the door to discovering the vibrancy of Indonesia's culture. 

Reviewed by: David H

About Sharifah Faizah Syed Mohammed


Sharifah Faizah Syed Mohammed is Associate Professor of Music at Universiti Teknologi MARA in Malaysia. She completed her Ph.D. at Monash University. She holds a Master of Arts in Performance Studies from City University, London, and The Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and a Bachelor of Arts in Music (Hons.) from Bath Spa University. Her research focuses on performance practice, performativity, the politics of song, music, identity and nationalism, specifically relating to the Malay and Indonesian Archipelago, and Southeast Asia more widely.


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