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DISLOCATING SOUNDS: The Deterritorialization of Indonesian Indie Pop



Anthropologists often read the localization or hybridization of cultural forms as a kind of default mode of resistance against the forces of global capitalism, a means through which marginalized ethnic groups maintain regional distinctiveness in the face of an emergent transnational order. But then what are we to make of musical acts like Mocca and The Upstairs, Indonesian “indie” groups who consciously delocalize their music, who go out of their way, in fact, to avoid any references to who they are or where they come from? In this essay, I argue that Indonesian “indie pop,” a self-consciously antimainstream genre drawing from a diverse range of international influences, constitutes a set of strategic practices of aesthetic deterritorialization for middle-class Indonesian youth. Such bands, I demonstrate, assemble sounds from a variety of international genres, creating linkages with international youth cultures in other places and times, while distancing themselves from those expressions associated with colonial and nationalist conceptions of ethnicity, working-class and rural sensibilities, and the hegemonic categorical schema of the international music industry. They are part of a new wave of Indonesian musicians stepping onto the global stage “on their own terms” and insisting on being taken seriously as international, not just Indonesian, artists, and in the process, they have made indie music into a powerful tool of reflexive place making, a means of redefining the very meaning of locality vis-à-vis the international youth cultural movements they witness from afar.