Fortnightlyish review: Iranian pop, Tunisian hip-hop and one very silly Trade Minister

This 4th of July was about much more than America, but I do like some of the songs highlighted by PopMatters in their 4 July list (of course) of American punk protest songs.


News: Atonal Australian Politics, It’s a Dance Off and Jazz in Kyrgystan

The incredibly divisive price/tax on carbon (dioxide) came into effect in Australia on July 1.  Over the last 12 or so months the opposition Liberal party has been running a pretty successful scare campaign against the measure, which once enjoyed bi-partisan and broad public support.  The governing Labor party was in turn hoping to turn that negativity upon itself by highlighting its absurdity when the world didn’t end with the policy’s commencement.  This is all by way of explanation for why the Australian public was subjected to the horrific spectacle of Trade Minister Craig Emerson singing Skyhooks this week.  What Emerson (and presumably Labor-party strategists) failed to consider was the fact that the public would not be impressed  by a an attempt to discredit cynical political stunts with a cynical (and poorly executed) political stunt.

In other news, Malaysia and Indonesia are squaring off over ownership of the Tor-tor folk dance, with two people arrested outside Malaysia’s embassy in Jakarta.  The Jakarta Globe reports that the dispute has been escalated to Foreign Minister-level talks.

The Washington Times has an article on the flourishing jazz scene in Kyrgystan.  All ‘western’ music was banned under Soviet Rule in Kyrgystan, but for reasons left unexplained, jazz was particularly reviled.

Opinion: Simone Felice, Excentrik and Sociopolitical analysis via mp3

The Australian‘s Denis Atkins loves Simone Felice.  I’m not a huge fan of the production – ‘uplifting’ piano and handclapping is rarely a good thing – but otherwise reckon ‘New York Times’ is a great song.  I guess it’s about how it’s better to stay anonymous and out of the cynical big city and its newspapers.

Rebel Frequencies has an excellent piece on Palestinian-American musician Excentrik.  I highly recommend checking out the article and the track below.

Dusted has a review of the compilation Rangarang: Pre-revolutionary Iranian Pop.  Perhaps Googoosha (refer previous post) took some inspiration from Iran’s Googoosh, who is a million times better, by the way.  The reviewer praises the music but is critical of the motives of the label.

I don’t think the Dusted reviewer would like this article from The Atlantic which does the old get-to-know-the-real-country X-through-its-underground-music routine with Tunisia and hip-hop.


We’re about to go on Naadam holidays here in Mongolia, so expect it to be quiet (well, quieter than usual) around here for a bit.


Indo Punks Unite!

Soundtrack for this post: ‘Kuta Rock City‘ by Superman is Dead and ‘Negara Dunia Ke 3‘ by Marjinal.

In December 2011 authorities in Indonesia’s Aceh province halted a charity concert called ‘Aceh for the Punk’.  Police apprehended dozens of suspected punks and detained them for just under a fortnight.  They were held, without charge, for ‘re-education purposes’.  Re-education included being forced to bathe and have their mohawks shaved off, and being subjected to religious lectures and mandatory prayers and marching.  There were also reports of beatings.

These events are not isolated.  They are part of an ongoing anti-punk campaign by Aceh’s semi-autonomous government.  Aceh enjoys significant political independence from Jakarta thanks to a 2005 peace agreement between the Indonesian government and the separatist group that spearheaded the decades-long Aceh insurgency, the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

Formerly a Sultanate, Aceh has long been known for its independent mindedness.  This rebellious nature is matched by a deep religious conservatism (in fact the latter motivated the former).  Even before the 2005 treaty Jakarta had made a number of concessions to Aceh, allowing it to institute local Islamic bylaws.  Today the province has shariah courts, shariah police and local shariah laws that can contradict national laws.

Punks around the world reacted with outrage to news of the crackdown in Aceh.  A YouTube search for ‘Aceh punks embassy’ brings up footage of demonstrations across Indonesia and at Indonesian embassies or consulates in Turkey, the UK and United States.  A Seattle-based punk label instituted a heart-warming mix-tape initiative.

Punk by its very definition is about the rejection of authority and conservative modes of life.  As in many other countries, it has been used in Indonesia to express opposition to prevailing political and societal forces.  Punk and other underground genres like metal became important in Indonesia in the 1990s after then President Soeharto and his New Order regime co-opted dangdut music, Indonesian pop music created and promoted as a deliberate response to the influx of western music from the mid 1960s.

Punk likely has additional currency among Indonesian youth precisely because it provokes extreme reactions such as those in Aceh last month.  It seems punk still has the power to shock in Indonesia, a power it has long since lost in the west.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find any Acehnese punk music, so the songs accompanying this post are by bands from Bali and Jakarta.

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