The History and Development of Lagu Seriosa in the Context of Musical Nationalism in Indonesia

2017-04-19T04:30:14Z (GMT) by Sharifah Faizah Syed Mohammed
<i>Lagu seriosa</i> was the most important nationalistic song genre in Indonesia in the 1950s and 1960s, and it became the main attraction of the annual national singing competition, the <i>Bintang Radio</i> (Radio Star). Little academic work has been done to investigate how it developed and why this genre that emulated the European art song, rose to such prominence in Indonesia. The aim of this study is twofold; to distinguish the role of the genre that led to its growth as a nationalistic song in Indonesia, and to investigate the use of folk songs in the music to promote nationalism. Twenty-seven interviews were conducted among the practitioners who played the key role in the development of <i>lagu seriosa</i> from the 1950s. As a genre that promoted national Indonesian identity, it lost its popularity as the rise of popular music infiltrated Indonesia in the 1970s. This thesis will cover the entire period from its rise to the fall of <i>lagu seriosa</i> as the definitive nationalist song in Indonesia. The five case studies of selected songs reflected continuity and change in musical style and over time. <br>    The research extends the theory of art as collective action by Howard Saul Becker (1974) where collective action is not only crucial but was treated as a conventional method of composition for the survival of the art world. I propose the term “variants to the conventions” for the collaborative process of the art song. I argue that the success of <i>lagu seriosa</i> was fostered by a group of musicians who functioned as the gatekeepers, referred in this thesis as the “reference group,” a term coined by Karen Cerulo (1984) to describe the consciousness with which artists identify with the experts in their craft. By promoting role models, the reference group cultivated, monitored and devised various mechanisms so that songs conformed to propaganda needs of the Indonesian government. The result is that the classical style of singing propagated by <i>lagu seriosa</i> accommodated the cultivation of patriotic or propaganda songs during the Guided Democracy period (1959- 1965), particularly at the height of the <i>Konfrontasi</i> (1963-1966) period.