Music for the masses winning Indonesian voter's hearts - GulfToday

Music for the masses winning Indonesian voter's hearts

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Singer Rhoma Irama (L) and his band 'Soneta' performing during a political campaign.

From Indonesia's hip-swivelling juggernaut dangdut to thumping rock bands and Islam-infused tunes, music could be the clincher for winning hearts -- and votes -- as the world's third-biggest democracy heads to the polls next week.

Political platforms aside, candidates know it is entertainment that draws the crowds to campaign rallies in music-mad Indonesia.

Just ask millennial voter Muhammad Ariel, who went to a concert where popular rock band Radja performed in support of president Joko Widodo, better known as Jokowi.

Screaming "where are Jokowi's fans", Radja's energetic show and thumbs-up for Indonesia's heavy-metal music loving leader resonates with young voters like Ariel, who make up almost one third of the electorate.

More than 190 million people are set to cast a ballot for thousands of candidates, from the president down to local legislators, in the Southeast Asian nation's biggest-ever election on April 17.

'Part of the lifestyle'

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Supporters dance and enjoy the performance.

Jokowi's rival Prabowo Subianto is banking on capturing the attention of conservative voters in the world's biggest Muslim majority nation with concerts featuring Islam-inspired gambus music.

The retired general's musical arsenal also includes Rhoma Irama, a geriatric-looking version of Elvis Presley who is famed as the King of Dangdut.

The hugely popular style -- which runs the gamut from religion-inspired lyrics to a raunchier version involving sensual dance moves similar to twerking -- takes its cue from Hindustani and Arabic music.

Dangdut is infused with a hypnotic percussion beat backed by a multi-instrument band.

Every Indonesian knows it, there are television channels dedicated to it, and dangdut is performed everywhere from the smallest villages to bustling Jakarta -- and the beat ramps up during election time.

"I've never seen him before and I know that when he sings, he'll be singing about religion," the 44-year-old said of Irama's Islam-inspired tunes.

For fan Jhon Kenedi, the King of Dangdut might have taken the country's top job if he had a decided to throw his hat in the ring against Jokowi and Subianto.

"I'd choose him if he ran" for president, the 46-year-old taxi driver told AFP.

Agence France-Presse