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.