CSEAS Lecture Series. "From Street Singer to President: Music, Politics, and Islam in Indonesia"
In 2012, celebrated musician, Muslim orator, and film star Rhoma Irama announced his candidacy for president of Indonesia. Backed by the National Awakening Party (Partai Kebangkitan Bangsa, PKB), and with strong support from Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Rhoma Irama’s bid for the presidency provides an interesting case study of politics, Islam, and celebrity in Indonesia. Beloved by some and reviled by others, Rhoma Irama has long been involved in national politics, first as an outspoken member of the United Development Party (Partai Persatuan Pembangunan, PPP), and then, switching allegiance, as a member of the Functional Work Group (Golongan Karya, or Golkar) in 1988. In this presentation, I examine the discourse surrounding Rhoma Irama’s campaign for the presidency as a way of understanding the relationship between politics and Islam in Indonesia. Rhoma Irama’s campaign speeches, interviews, songs, and musical performance style raise questions about the nature of morality, plurality, and democracy in Indonesia.