Dangdut without shaking it is like vegetables without salt

Recently Chad and I went with a bunch of friends to check out a dangdut bar I’d noticed on my way to work. While there’s a lot of Western-style pop and rock going on here, dangdut is a more local kind of pop — songs with a sinuous beat and wailing vocals, drawing on Indian, Arabic and Malay music.

Most foreigners I know here find dangdut interesting and exotic, but most Indonesians I know don’t like it; it’s considered kind of a low-class, mass entertainment. I sometimes reflect that when I talk about dangdut in excited tones, I must sound something like an Indonesian coming to the US and professing a love for the Oak Ridge Boys or possum stew.

Anyway, we saw three different singers, who were all pretty decent. That was a relief; since it’s a nasally vocal style, bad dangdut singing is like an electric drill pointed straight at your eardrum.

I liked the place. The atmosphere was low-key, the beer was not too pricey, and it’s close to our neighborhood — which counts for a lot in Jakarta — so I think we’ll go back.

For those who haven’t heard dangdut, here’s a video from Inul Daratista, perhaps the most famous/notorious dangdut singer of the decade. Inul’s hip-grinding dance style, known as “drilling,” caused quite a storm of outrage a few years ago. It even led to serious consideration of a bill banning “pornographic actions,” which could have been interpreted to include things like wearing miniskirts or kissing in public. Luckily that idea seems to have run out of steam.

Here’s my translation of the lyrics. If I’ve made any mistakes — as Inul might say, Ma’afkanlah (Forgive me)!

Goyang Inul (Inul Shakes)

Members of the audience,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Everybody – don’t be surprised
If Inul is shaking it
Kinda hot, a little sexy.
Forgive me!

There are those who say dangdut without shaking it
Is like vegetables without salt –
Not very tasty, not very appetizing.
So Inul shakes it
To make everyone happy
For those who don’t approve
Of seeing Inul dance …
Don’t be angry.
Forgive me!

Members of the audience,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Everybody here,
Let’s shake it!

A thousand and one problems
Can be forgotten in a moment
Just watch Inul dance
And be entertained, darling!

But don’t forget to pray
For all of us to be healthy and prosperous.


Author: Trish Anderton

I am a nonprofit communicator, Red Sox fan and amateur streetfoodologist. Once upon a time I worked for the Jakarta Globe & Jakarta Post.

5 thoughts on “Dangdut without shaking it is like vegetables without salt”

  1. Simply Awesome.Dangdut is the music of my country (which, coincidentally is the title of a song by the hilarious Indonesian comedy group, Project Pop, check it out on youtube). Its diverse influences of Chinese, Arabic, Indian and Malay reflects and summarizes the cultural history of this country like no other type of music does.Campilicious!PS: I might also add that “sayur” in the lyrics refers more to cooked vegetable soup that you see on dining tables as opposed to just raw vegetable. Sayur Lodeh, Sayur Asem, Sayur Bening etc .. which will indeed be unimaginably plain without garam!

  2. Ya, those last two lines have always puzzled me a bit. I can’t decide whether she’s: a) just mentioning prayer to tweak the religious right even more, or b) asserting her right to her faith, no matter what they think of her dance style. Perhaps it’s both.

  3. Well, I’m a little offended about the dance…but for other reasons, mainly because I don’t think I could ever get my hips to do that. Hmmm.

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