On Protest Song

Gunung Kendeng tak akan kulepas, tempat kita hidup bersama.

Selamanya harus kita jaga, Jawa Tengah yang jaya

Kita pasti menang.”

(“I will not release Kendeng Mountain, where we live together.

We have to keep forever, Central Java is prosperous

We will win.”)

It is not difficult to understand the array of protest song “Kendeng Lestari (Sustainable Kendeng)” composed and performed by the Rembang mothers when they refusing ocupation of a cement factory that threatened their farms, even though the tune was made as the usual protest song: simple, yet stout.

What is hard to understand is why these simple tones and stanzas are not able to thrill the common sense of policy makers — and the general public at large — that there is unrighteousness happening around us.

This kind of protest music in rejecting arbitrariness is not only in the Kendeng karst mountains, each conflicting region gives birth to combatant musicians, each of whom becomes a funnel of resistance.

This solidarity music voiced the pain of the fate of the people of Kulon Progo, Urut Sewu, Jati Gede, Papua, Lumajang, and anyone who was wronged by injustice.

Regardless of its function as an entertainment, or high-class art, it cannot be denied that throughout the history of human civilization music has another important role in life: resistance tool.

Music is a powerful medium to inspire the listeners to be more sensitive to interpret the other sides of the world. In the context of the song of protest, these various forms of solidarity must strike our silent humanity when other human beings are oppressed.

Who can deny the effectiveness of the simple tone and words “Halo-Halo Bandung (Hello Bandung)” or “Maju Tak Gentar (Forward Undaunted)” in burning the spirit of Indonesian human struggle against the arbitrariness of colonial invaders. Or the compact clattering of young people’s feet stopped the 32-year-old New Order accompanied by the “Darah Juang (Fighting Blood)” mass choir.

If we traced throughout the seven periode of leadership in Indonesia there was always music accompanying various social movements.

Trying to answer the question of why this solidarity kick is not able to thrill our heads to empathize with those who are oppressed, lest we are too soundly lulled by commercial-based music that is always exist in our daily lives. Even if you think about the tone and the word in the commercial music, it is three-quarter money with protest song: both are created with a simple and easy to digest form.

The state as the highest entity authorized to maintain the quality of music and culture is too busy with various forms of high jargon that are discussed while talking about cultural and musical arts. Likewise, music academics who study in music colleges throughout the archipelago, they are busy talking about the high value of art and culture but are reluctant to look at those who are struggling with life and dignity at the grass roots there.


In one of his poems, classical poet Dante Alighieri said that the deepest niche of hell would be inhabited by those who chose to be silent and neutral when the world was hit by a social crisis.

Those who are deprived of their rights to life in various conflict areas in Indonesia do not need to sing commercial music, perhaps they also do not care and understand what is a great art and music with high aesthetics. Or even about kitsch music. They only understand one thing: their right to life is taken away, and they sing to devote their complaints to the state and other citizens.

Agree on the reflections made by Dante. In order to avoid the deepest niche in hell, it would be wise if the seventh president as a representative of state entities, and we as citizens take our time to for a moment leave the supremacy of art, music, and national culture, also forget the harmonious tone and words full of love in commercial music. Then listen to the singing of solidarity sung by the mothers in the Kendeng karst and other areas of conflict in the archipelago.

This is a social crisis. If we keep silent with the cradle of aesthetic music and commercial music, if we lack the empathy, are we ready to face the deepest niche of hell?

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