Love and Affair in Indonesian Music Popular

Love and Affair in Indonesian Music Popular

by: Citra Aryandari
The Trend Theme on Pop Music

Infidelities are the new theme that suddenly burst in the world of Indonesian popular music ahead of the mid-2000s. Sheila on7 for example, a pop music group from Jogjakarta, instantly became famous and get a well-established place in the recording industry, because of the ”Selingkuh” (cheating) theme song. More than a hundred thousand CDs and cassettes sold, many times in a week this group traveled to major cities in Indonesia, and almost every one memorized their songs by rote, especially teenagers.

Hey Sephia …
Malam ini ku takkan datang (Tonight I will not come)
Mencoba tuk berpaling sayang (Trying to turn the love away)
Dari cintamu (from your love)
Hey Sephia …
Malam ini ku takkan pulang (I will not be home tonight)
Tak usah kau mencari aku (You do not need to look for me)
Demi cintamu (for your love)

Hadapilah ini (Face it)
Kisah kita tak akan abadi (Our story will not eternal)
* Selamat tidur kekasih gelapku (Good night my Secret lover)
Semoga cepat kau lupakan aku (Hopely you forget me soon)
Kekasih sejatimu tak akan pernah sanggup untuk melupakanmu (Your true lover will never be able to forget you)
Selamat tinggal kasih tak terungkap (Good bye the unrevealed love)
Semoga kau lupakan aku cepat (Hopely you forget me soon)
Kekasih sejatimu tak akan pernah sanggup untuk meninggalkanmu (Your true lover will never be able to leave you)

Jangan pernah panggil namaku (Do notevercallmy name)

Saat kita bertemu lagi (Whenwe meetagain)

Di lain hari (On the other days)
Hadapilah ini (Face it)
Kisah kita tak akan abadi (Our story will not eternal)


(Back to *)
Poem with this kind of theme is eventually followed by other songwriters from the other group. Many of them are also gaining popularity. Ungu Band, for example, with their single “Kekasih Gelapku” (Secret Lover) and Kangen Band as the new group even outspokenly give the title of “Selingkuh” (cheating) on their song. Those songs become famous quickly. This is an interesting phenomenon of the popular music industry development in Indonesia related to the propensity of poetry that emerged at a time.

Is that a song lyric is very influential on the popularity of a musical group? If poetry becomes a significant determinant, is it can be used to show a tendency of value that is being rolled in the community? Is there a metaphysical relation between the work of art and the society behavior at the same time? Or does the song popularity depend on the media publicity that publishes them continuously?
Poetry as an Experience and Observation

Poetry in popular songs is very easy to be understood. Unlike the poems in modern literature that requires particular approaches in interpreting them, poetry in popular song is not interested as a lyric literature. Poetry in popular songs is not interested as an independent work; it will be associated with the song arrangement that accompanies it. Music has its own areas outside of literature. However, in this context, poem with its own power in the popular music is an interesting case to be studied.

The theme presented in “Sephia” by Sheila on7 provides its own color if it is associated with the previous trend. The themes of love in the past tend to talk about the glorification of the girls loved, such as “Mahadewi” (The Great Goddess) by Padi, “Kangen” (Long for Someone) by Dewa, and others. Sheila on7 suddenly presents Sephia interceding romance with a woman who is not his adoration. If we read the poem of Sephia contains an expectation of a man who has a willing to terminate his romance affair with his secret lover. He thought that it will be better to terminate this kind of relation immediately because actually there is more meaningful and sacred love. Sephia is the name of the secret lover who is actually more loved by another lover.

E.S. Dallas, a British literary critic, introduces three poems clustering are rather different from other figures. Dallas divides poems into; drama poem, story poem, and song poem (Rene Wellek and Austin Warren, 1990; 301). He thought that drama is done by the second person, with the present tense verb; epic (story) is done by the third person with the past tense verb; while lyric is done by the singular first person with the future verb. This description implies that lyric poetry describes the story about the poet straightaway. Furthermore, according Sapardi, poetry is a Unicom, unique observations of a poet (Sapardi Djoko Damono, 1983; 67). Poetry, besides others, requires the ability to offer or write down the experience, thought, or insight in a certain way (Sapardi Djoko Damono, 1983, 68).

Based on the explanation above, it is clear that the poem tends to imply a personal experience, but can also be a unique observation of a poet. So, we can say that the tendency of cheating themes (the deviation of love) builds an assumption that at this time many song lyricists do “an affair” or they look at the phenomenon of “infidelity” occurring in the surrounding reality.

At the same time, the news on TV analyzes some cases about politician caught having an affair with the artist. Coverage infotainment—news is more focused on the reality of the artist’s life—also explores the same subject matter and it causes the tempest of their household. It is a fact that is revealed in television news. A fact could also have been politicized or changed, considering television is news and entertainment media organizations as well. But the news about the unfolding of politicians affair also constructed by the media-print. Moreover, there is significant evidence, which is the spread of pornographic video of a prominent politician with a dangdut artist.

Raymond William saw popular culture as meaning that implies “many people enjoy”, “kind of lowly work”, ”work that is done to please people”, “culture is made ​​by people to please themselves” (John Storey, 2003; 10). But if you look at the correlation themes in the Sephia with the facts of reality during its period, then it becomes very meaningful if we try to understand the values ​​emerging among consumers of Indonesian pop music. Their consumers are mostly young people. Do they feel the presence of denial on the values ​​of romance? Meaning of loyalty becomes very biased. Does it arise because there was no trust between them? Do it also relate to the political situation in Indonesia at that time.

Sheila on7 band appeared after the fall of the New Order regime (Rezim Orde Baru) in 1998. The fall of this regime was preceded by the violent events that took place in several major cities in Indonesia. Some young leaders and students were kidnapped, even the shooting by officers at Trisakti campus that eventually killed students. The economic crisis at that time is also caused brute force with such as store robbery, arson, and the most tragic is the killing and raping of the Chinese (Tionghoa).

Indonesian society at that time is faced with a situation according to sociologists called “chaos,” a condition in which the values ​​of social life can no longer adhered to and trusted. All values ​​experiencing haziness. This condition is certainly cause a crisis of trust to the state and possibly also to the other.
The Falling of Generation

Transformation seems not just stop, after era of poor believing characterized by widespread of the “infidelity” songs in Indonesia, now Indonesia began a new epidemic that is spread by the pop industry. The themes of infidelity that initially, before the 90s, is still considered taboo, is increasingly becoming a common discourse, and now, this entire time interval even been turned into an obsolete theme. Indonesia has considerably changed his face. The polite and shy Indonesian on the past, that is earnest familiar with the great values of attitude and etiquette, is almost extinct. In existence, they are already dead, turned off, or were still asleep, replaced with a new face Indonesian modern, which no longer hesitate to talk about the themes of prostitution and free sex that is far from the teachings of manners and etiquette.

Changing in the character of Indonesian society is marked by the rise of dangdut song titled “One Night Stand” (Cinta Satu Malam) in the early 2010s. Then the popularity of a pop song titled “I Want to Make Love” (Sedang Ingin Bercinta) led by one of the pioneers of Indonesian pop music, Ahmad Dhani, and immediately followed by a band/or other musicians who also flocked the same theme, like the Hijau Daun band or Via Vallen (dangdut singer) with unmatchable single “It is not One Night Stand” (Bukan Cinta Satu Malam) both presented two different songs with the same title, which also appeared in the same years. Recently (2014) also appeared another hit song, no less indecent. The song titled “My Bird” (Burung Saya) sung in the dangdut genre and often sung by a sexy singer (Biduan/Biduanita) wearing a sexy dress complete with erotic wobble, modern dangdut/dandut koplo performance typically. [1] When observed at a glance, the poem/lyric of the song will just appear as if usual farce song that tells about a pet bird loose from its owner cage and never to be returned. However, if the song is sung with a touch of dangdut singer who is also complete with erotic dress, whether “bird” meaning in the song still means “bird as an animal”, or will tend to be “another bird?”

Production of prostitution and free sex-themed music massively runs synergistic with the great consumption quantity. In fact, the music is accepted by all levels of Indonesian society. Even worse, the music can be said to have consumed indiscriminately without any age limit. Just imagine, when the song “One Night Stand” (Cinta Satu Malam) which tells about the relationships of men and women like husband and wife is sung by small children under the age of ten years who has not even been able to do everything themselves. The bad thing is that such things have actually happened in Indonesia. Kindergarten to elementary school students no longer memorize kid or nationality songs, but has been replaced with the song “One Night Stand” (Cinta Satu Malam) and the other indecent theme songs.



Although our love just for a while (Walau cinta kita sementara)

I feel happy (Aku merasa bahagia)

When you kissed tenderly on my forehead (Kala kau kecup mesra di keningku)

I feel like in heaven (Ku rasa bagai di surga)
Your touch makes me deceived (Sentuhanmu membuatku terlena)

I had been lulled into intimate (Aku telah terbuai mesra)

All I taste is warm beauty of love (Yang ku rasa hangat indahnya cinta)

The burning desire (Hasratku semakin membara)
Oh beautiful night stand (Cinta satu malam oh indahnya)

Oh one night stand makes me float (Cinta satu malam buatku melayang)

Although just one night, it will always be remembered forever (Walau satu malam akan selalu ku kenang selama-lamanya)

Although just one night, it will always be remembered in my life (Walau satu malam akan selalu ku kenang dalam hidupku)


When in Indonesia, currently in full swing campaign banning underage consumption of cigarettes, it should also be encouraged efforts to prevent adult music for underage consumers, because, in my opinion, if you want to realize, these songs are even more have an adverse effect that is much more powerful than cigarette consumption. But, it seems Indonesians are still indifferent in this matter. Instead of trying to be muted or even stopped, these kinds of songs even more widely produced and consumed continuously, like avid.

The wide and fast distribution of this kind of music can not be separated from its relationship with the power of Indonesian music industry. Because the popularity of the music was also encouraged by the presence of a Indonesian public figure or idol stars. As an example let’s look at the song “One Night Stand” (Cinta Satu Malam), which not only spread among the people of Indonesia in the dangdut version, but also spread in the other arrangement, wrapped in different genres, with different artists, with the aim of annexing greater consumption and more diverse communities. The song “One Night Stand” (Cinta Satu Malam) appeared in jazz and orchestra version, sung by pop singer Afgan with Magenta orchestra. Here also appears in the rock version, arranged and performed by J-Rock band. They are all big stars in Indonesia in the arena of their respective markets.

Reviewing more about the distribution of music in Indonesia is indirectly related to the history of music distribution in America, beginning with the emergence of the movement is recognized as the moment of the birth of pop culture.
A Comparison: 1. Flower Generation

At about the 60’s, most of the young Americans losing lives reference because of the stress of socio-politic-economical situation. They are alienated as required to get high marks in university, get a steady job after graduation, and sent to Vietnam for the war. They also feel frustrated by the symptoms of racial discrimination, the cold war and the nuclear threat. The youths, who are still in the stage of self, tends explosive, rebellious and critically fight against this quasi-stability system. Their resistances appear in the form of free sex, drugs, cannabis, as well as leaving home and college. They do counter-culture of parents cultural domination. Then, they are famous as the Flower Generation that fights with softness like a flower.

This period was the golden age of rock and roll music. The most influential figure was Jim Morrison. He is both a personnel and songwriter of The Doors group. Jim’s lyrics are very sharp and sometimes vulgar. But this is precisely the strength of The Doors, as well as stage performances of Jim. Jim Morrison was always drunk in the action stage. Their performances also always lead to unrest among the audience.

Jim’s stage performance is imitated by many youths in his period, even up to in Indonesia. Cut-bray or baggy pan, with a bandana on his head, and leotards hippie style refer to the style of the followers of the Flower Generation formed in Flower Children. Flower Generation is not just rolling the music and style of dress, but also affects to the lifestyle of every youth who live in 60-70s decade.

This isa historicalscene of pop culture inceptionin America. The peakof thecounter-culture is threedays of music performancein theWoodstockFestivalin NewYork on1969;thisevent wasvisited by morethan500,000spectatorsinmid August. The last timethe festivalwas heldin 1999andwas subsequently bannedforcontinueduntil today,riot is thecause of it.


A Comparison: 2. MTV Generation

Flower Generation has passed so long ago but its existence is still traceable today. Pop music as one part of the pop culture products continue to grow in the spirit of Flower Children, added by the great strength of advanced capitalism century. Moreover, the emergence of reformation era opens the wide chance to the greater cultural industries. The mass media become a part of the capitalism power rolling the waves of consumerism. TV is one of the media to reproduce the culture industry. Pop music is a part of the culture industry that is now supported by television. The presence of pop music can not be separated with music clips and soap operas. This is a fact that the Flower Generation increasingly strong in globalization.

With the advent of MTV (Music Television) the generation of pop music has been contained and exploited by capitalism. Popular music groups are now a become part of the global culture industry. Their spirits of resistance have turned into supporters in the commercial interests of the capitalists. They are constructed by the media to be a fad, and then used for rolling and promoting lifestyle that will benefit capitalism. Pop music is published through the movie-clips, soap operas, to attract the consumer. They certainly would buy a CD, cassette, go to salon to imitate the hair style, buy shoes and clothes as in the film, all of which are manufactured by a particular company. This phenomenon indicates that the determinant of the mass culture today is the dominant groups. Pop culture from the perspective of the Neo-Gramscian inclined as the scope of the ideological struggle between the dominant class and its subordination culture. Now, Pop culture is built by the ruling class to win hegemony, while shaping the opposition (John Storey, 2003; 19-20).



Poem contained in a pop song becomes one of the significant parts in determining the popularity of the group. The further effect relate to the commercially profit relate to the complexity of capitalism. Pop music popularity becomes new part of pop culture industry. It is associated with other forms of pop culture, including the media, then constructed for commercial purposes. The emergence of Pop music along with pop culture as a counter-culture has now been changed to follow pop culture that supports consumerism.

The power of pop culture to roll lifestyle can provide commercial advantages and it is now constructed by ruler to win hegemony. Antonio Gramsci in his concept of hegemony explains that hegemony refers to the way in which the dominant group in a society get support from subordinated groups through the “leadership” process of intellectual and moral (John Storey, 2003; 18-19).

In addition, it also needs to be known, refers to the opinion of Ralf von Appen, in which the acceptance of music in a society corresponded with interest, as well as the tendency of receiver society/consumer of music (Ralf von Appen, 2007; 13),[2] then, the music industry is not the only background of a such magnitude consumption of this kind of music. Rather, how the pattern of Indonesian society as a music consumer/recipient object also has a great share of the music form acceptance. In short, the spread of the free sex and prostituion theme songs may become a fact which indicates that the pattern of Indonesian people life also tend to do the free sexual or prostitutional activity.






Andini Wijendaru, “Spasialisasi, Hegemoni, dan Budaya Pop”, dalam Jurnal Penelitian Ilmu Komunikasi Thesis, Volume III/1, Jakarta: Departemen Ilmu Komunikasi Fakultas Ilmu Sosial dan Ilmu Politik, Universitas Indonesia, 2004.

Jean Baudrillard, Masyarakat Konsumsi, Jogjakarta: Kreasi Wacana, 2006.

John Storey, Teori Budaya dan Budaya Pop, Jogjakarta: Qalam, 2003.

Rene Wellek & Austin Warren, Teori Kesusasteraan, Jakarta: Gramedia, 1990.

Sapardi Djoko Damono, Kesusasteraan Indonesia Modern Beberapa Catatan, Jakarta: Gramedia, 1983.

von Appen, R, “On the Aesthetics of Popular Music”, dalam Music Therapy Today, Volume, VIII (1) 5-25. Diterbitkan melalui: 2007.



















About the Author

Citra Aryandari was born in Yogyakarta on 25th July 1979. She received her Ph.D in Performance Arts and Visual Arts Studies, School of Graduate Studies, Gadjah Mada University (2012). She had attended Mythology class on the School of Divinity, History, and Philosophy at Aberdeen University, UK (2010). She is a lecture at the Department of Ethnomusicology, Indonesian Institute of Arts Yogyakarta. Her research interest include Performance Studies, Cultural Studies, Urban Culture and Society, Hindhuism Mythology, and Anthropology Visual. She is author of a number of articles, documentary films and book such as Waljinah: Melihat Perempuan dalam Jejak Walangkekek (2008); Musik Determinan Spiritual dalam Mekare-kare (2009); Fight for God (2010); Gringsing: Jalinan Estetika-Mitos Ritus Perang Pandan (2011); Dewa dalam Tenunan Ritus Sambah (2012); Kuasa Indra: Mite dan Demitefikasi dalam Seni (2013); Kembalinya “Laki-Laki” dalam Panggung Pertunjukan Bali (2013); Wheres Lakshmi?: Indian Culture Overseas at Depavali Rite on South East Asia (2013); Bamboo: The Melody Surrounding Jogja (2014); Dancing Together, Writing Forever (2014); Fatamorgana Tionghoa: Dari Kuliner, Seni hingga Politik (2014)

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[1]It is called by “Koplo” because of the character of pounding rhythm and usually enjoyed with an erotic wobble and drunkenness.

[2]Ralf von Appen on his written “On the Aesthetic of Popular Music” (2007), dividing the three aspects relate to the acceptance process of music, which is separated into three forms: 1) Based on the aspects of contemplation or mere appearance, means that a process of admission music going away without the need for an understanding, interpretation, or the definition of the music itself, the meaning / significance is not a major issue, but just consider the sheer sensuality of the object or situation. 2) Based on correspondence or atmospheric appearance, means the acceptance of music that corresponds to the interest or attention of the recipient, corresponding to the existence of a moment, or a feeling, to correspond with the characters themselves, how they see themselves, respectively, or as what they want to see. 3) Based on the imagination or artistic appearance, means that how an admissions process based on the formal structure of the music—how music is delivered.