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Dennisoul

West Java, Indonesia...soul Scene?

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Just sent off 4 northern oldies 45s to West Java, Indonesia......to my knowledge av never heard of much going on soul wise in that area...anybody been to a doo there, or sent records there?

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I am in the process of moving to Jakarta, where I have spent around 5 months each year for the last 6 years.  I would be very suprised if these were ex-pats. There could be a handful of ex-soulies in Jakarta and possibly Bali (which of course, isn't in Java), but I've never met one and certainly I don't believe there are any nights arranged by ex-pats.  Of course there could be some Aussies, or Japanese, soulies that I am unaware of (some Japanese own Café Mondo in Kemang, that has hosted Mod nights).  Certainly the huge warehouse sounds like an urban myth, but the sort of urban myth that comes true in Jakarta.

Youth culture tends to consist of heavy metal and oi, enjoyed by motorcycle riding youths, who have a likeness for slightly goth clothing.  Then, especially in Jakarta, there is a slightly older group into hardcore and Singapore casual fashion.  But there is also a small but growing group (often called hipsters) who are more likely to ride Vespas and look towards UK street fashion.  In Jakarta they are most likely to support Liverpool, the Big Red being a major community.  My step-daughter belongs to this group and studies at Jakarta School or Art.  In Bandung there is a movement called Distro, which started as a local clothing style (sold everywhere in Indonesia), inspired by Man Utd casuals of the 1980s.

From this smaller sub-culture there are a faction involved in scooter rallies in all large cities and some smaller ones across Java (such as Cirebon)  and I think these have now spread to Medan in Sumatra.  The main rallies are on May Day and known as the Mod's Mayday.  The Jakarta Mods Mayday attracts well over 20,000 mods, maybe as many as 100,000.  But you have to keep this in context Greater Jakarta has a population of around 30m, Java of 150m and Indonesia 250m.

Over the years I have tracked these Mods and whilst they certainly look the part (or at least adopt skinhead clothing) their musical taste has consisted of ska and Slade.  However, I have noticed that the Mods favourite dj's (Fever Sound System) have started to play northern soul.  I keep meaning to take my step-daughter to see them, but in a city of 30m, they can often be a long way taxi ride from home.

This is England had a huge influence on the hipsters and my step-daughter was transfixed by the Northern Soul film.  I suspect the film really has kicked off a very underground scene either in Jakarta (the eastern suburbs such as Bekasi and Bogor are in West Java) or Bandung (which is the largest city in West Java), related to the film.  I have no doubt in my mind that Indonesia is going to become one of the most underground and interesting members of our family.  Cast all images of the Pattaya scene behind, this will be 100% young (mostly Muslim) Indonesians, it will be extremely wild, slightly menacing and hedonistic (maybe closest to the Torch).

This is a video by a local group that will give you a feel for the direction (if somewhat sanitised): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGW7WULeM6E.

Edited by Pip Smith
Addition and typos.

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Now moved to Jakarta and I can confirm that my hunch in September was correct.  The Northern Soul film has sparked great interest in northern soul amongst young and largely middle class urban Indonesians.  I say middle class, but there are often references to the working class credentials of the scene.  I am only partially aware of what's happening in Jakarta, but believe there is also something going on in Bali and would bet that Bandung and Surabaya are following suit.

Café Mondo in Kemang has now closed and moved to within walking distance of my home on Jalan Fatmawati.  Unfortunately events are spread through mobile social media in Bahasa, whilst I could just about understand Bahasa, my ability to use mobile social media is much more limited.  Even young middle class Indonesians will have limited English and be too embarrassed about this to reach out to the wider scene.  Add to this a degree of mistrust towards westerners, fostered through 400 years of rape and pillage by the Dutch East Indies Company and you have a very isolated scene, reliant on what can be gleaned from their smart phones.  And a mutual misunderstanding with their Australian neighbours, who Muslim Indonesians give a wide berth to, even the more internationally focused middle class.

My art school step-daughter would have me believe that the scene is composed entirely of her mates.  Certainly many will be Vespa riding hipsters, often attempting to grow beards (few Indonesians have sufficient facial hair for this to be easy) and wearing a mix of skinhead and hipster threads.  Yesterday she attended a Vespa rally (and seems to have became something of a VIP, as a Vespa riding female) and some attendees came to my local pub last night, but were distinctly hipster in appearance.

In my last post I mentioned Fever Sound System and here is a video of them performing at Café Mondo whilst still in Kemang:

I suspect that the video shows the real aficionados, rather than the newer fans.  Indeed, northern soul and ska are still somewhat interchangeable amongst these newer fans.  Fever Sound System have played a night in Singapore, but this is the extent of any affiliation to the wider scene that I am aware of:

Will it last, who knows?  But interest in 'English' (sorry but the name in Bahasa for all parts of the UK, is Inggris) youth culture is strong and ever growing.  Also as Indonesia becomes wealthier and the middle class continues to grow, I suspect so will interest in northern soul.  Will it make overtures to the wider scene?  I think this is unlikely to be strong, remember these are young Muslims with a distrust of the west and little in common with the few ex-pats living here (isolated in ex-pat communities and spending their leisure hours drinking alcohol in expensive bars and chasing Indonesian girls).  However, I can see them making connections with scenes in Malaysia and Japan.  Nevertheless, in a nation of 250 million people, Indonesians see little point in such international connections.  Indeed, there is a local musical genre called Dangdut, that is huge over here (my wife loves it), that has developed in complete isolation from the rest of the world, although has strong Indian and Arab influences.  So if northern soul does grow in Indonesia it will be a very Indonesian variant, but its currently similar to the Black Bee Soul Club.

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