Forget Gaga; Indonesia wild for own raunchy shows
In this photo taken Friday, May 25, 2012, singers perform during a dangdut show at a pub in Jakarta, Indonesia. As U.S. pop star Lady Gaga canceled her sold out concert in Jakarta over security concerns after Muslim hardliners threatened to use violence against her, many started to question the extremists' double standard towards the raunchy dangdut shows performed almost every night by young Indonesian women who turn up everywhere from smokey bars and ritzy nightclubs to weddings and even circumcisions. Dangdut is the most popular music among lower class people in Indonesia. (AP Photo/Robin McDowell)
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Titin Karisma parades onto the stage wearing a rhinestone bustier and matching bottoms, with sequin fringe that jiggles wildly to the rhythm of the beating drums.
Preteen boys watch the singer wide-eyed as she straddles a speaker, whipping her long hair wildly. She licks the microphone and drops to the ground, repeatedly thrusting her pelvis toward a camera.
Lady Gaga's onstage antics are almost tame compared to this act, known as dangdut, the most popular genre of music in this predominantly Muslim nation of 240 million.
But while the pop star's show was effectively banned from Indonesia, tens of thousands of young women here put on performances like Karisma's every night. They shake and grind in smoky bars, ritzy nightclubs, at weddings, even circumcisions. In most cases the hosts say the sexier the better.
The apparent double standard highlights divisions between Indonesia's largely tolerant majority and a vocal minority of Islamic hard-liners. The conservatives hold outsized influence in government, and have successfully picked high-profile battles like the Lady Gaga show, but they haven't been able to stop dangdut, which has a long tradition here.
Karisma's stage shows have gotten nearly a million hits on YouTube. Julia Perez, an actress and wannabe politician, is dubbed the "sex bomb" for her racy act. Another performer, Dewi Persik, is known for her powerful back-and-forth hip thrusting "saw move" and public acknowledgments that she had surgery to become "a born-again virgin" to please her future husband.
The up-and-coming "Trio Macan," made of three Gaga look-alikes, with dyed hair and catlike poses, often simulate sex with male customers on stage.
Members of the Anti Apostasy Movement, Indonesian Mujaheeds Council and the notoriously thuggish Islamic Defender's Front, better known as FPI, are quick to say they go after provocative dangdut performances. From time to time their followers jump in vans and ransack dangdut bars and nightclubs in the capital, Jakarta, and its outskirts.
But they know this won't get them the kind of attention they crave, said Andrew Weintraub, a professor of music at the University of Pittsburgh and author of the book "Dangdut Stories."
"Lady Gaga is a big name," he said. "It's a big stage for conservative Muslim organizations to promote their own agenda. They'll get a lot of attention internationally — which is also what makes the state nervous."
All 52,000 tickets for the concert Lady Gaga planned to give June 3 sold out within days, but members of the FPI had vowed to meet her at the airport if she dared step off the plane. Others bought tickets to her show saying, if it went ahead, they'd wreak havoc from inside the packed stadium.