Mythologizing Melayu: Discourse, Practice, and the Stakes of Authenticity
This chapter provides a critical overview of dangdut's stated historical origins in Melayu (Malay) music of north Sumatra (Melayu Deli) and urban ensemble music of the twentieth century (including orkes gambus, orkes harmonium, and orkes Melayu). The chapter focuses on debates about the history of dangdut that propose a linear development from Melayu music of north Sumatra to its present-day form. In contrast, Chapter 2 argues that orkes Melayu was pieced together in different music “scenes” from a variety of sources and through a variety of media. It is argued that “Melayu” must be understood conceptually in terms of historical and cultural change, involving a high level of interaction among people of diverse and mixed ethnicities, especially in urban centers. In the city of Medan, for example, composer Lily Suheiry and singers Rubiah and Ema Gangga played modern music for diverse audiences throughout the Melayu region. In Jakarta, star singers including Said Effendi and Hasnah Tahar drew from diverse musical sources throughout the Melayu region, the Middle East, and India.
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