Musik Lenso as the Antithesis of Western “ngak-ngik-ngok” Music: Popular Music as a Method of Decolonization

Zikri Rahman (Malaysia)

2024, Irama Nusantara Foundation – Indonesia


In observing how multiple historical movements between Malaysia (then Malaya) and Indonesia unfolded; during the Bandung Conference (1955) to Konfrontasi (1963 – 1966) and the Cold War period, the region definitely served as a cultural battleground. Within such interactions, I am interested in delving deeper into how Irama Lenso (“local music”), a form of social dance from eastern Indonesia formed as a derivative and distinct attempt to invent a popular music genre during Soekarno’s era. Here, it fulfils as an anti-thesis of the Western-based influence music and is positioned as “true to [Indonesian] identity”. Such inventions (or rather invented tradition to borrow Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger’s arguments) of music genre set out as an interesting yet subtle process of decolonizing intervention to the form of “ngak-ngik-ngok” music, as quipped by Soekarno, which would be significant comparative research to its possible transpiration in the Malaysian context. 
Through the fellowship program, I intend to explore the Irama Nusantara’s archival resources in the form of: 

1. Identifying relevant archival resources, production and recordings of the musical genre and its derivatives, particularly the Irama Lenso. 
2. Highlighting records on multiple actors; artists and networks; production companies, cultural entities, that are involved in the process of production and dissemination of such music genres, 
3. Understanding the socialization process that informs the cultural production of such music genres. 
4. Possibly, looking at the transnational aspect of such invention and dissemination of music genre to Malaysia’s context, vice versa. 

Hopefully, during the fellowship, I can trace the ‘constant tension’; of maintaining ‘cultural purity’ and ‘cultural intervention’ during the decolonization process and how it provides the experimentation space for another socio-cultural production, in this example, a music genre to either thrive or fail.