On the road with Marjinal
Published: Aug 30, 2012

Ian Wilson

Marjinal performs to a huge crowd at the Hellprint music festival in Bandung.
Ian Wilson

Marjinal and Taring Babi (‘Pigs tusk’) are a punk band and punk arts collective based in Srengsengsawah on the outskirts of Jakarta. Formed in 1997, for the past 15 years they have created a uniquely Indonesian brand of punk, combining music, art and activism. Building a large and enthusiastic following and networks of like-minded punks, Marjinal have stayed committed to the punk ethic of ‘Do It Yourself’, avoiding the traps and temptations of commercialism and encouraging others to create and distribute their own music and art through free ukulele, silk-screening and woodcut workshops.

In recent times, and particularly since the much publicised arrests and forced ‘re-education’ of 65 punks in Banda Aceh in December 2011 Marjinal have made frequent appearances in the Indonesian print media and television, even playing shows at Islamic boarding schools, or pesantren, in an attempt to counter some of the prevailing negative stereotypes about punks.

The Banda Aceh incident was just one case of many throughout the past 18 months in which local governments have targeted punks. Since February 2011 there have been repeated ‘anti-punk’ raids in at least 40 cities and towns spread throughout the country, including Jakarta, with hundreds if not thousands of punks detained and subject to various forms of humiliation and ‘re-education’. The rationale given by local politicians has been that punks are a criminal nuisance, an eyesore or are ‘in conflict with Indonesian cultures and values’. In April 2012, Marjinal members along with a number of other Jakarta punks and myself met with officials from the National Department of Social Affairs to lobby against this criminalisation of punk identity. While showing some sympathy, officials said that their ‘hands were tied’ when it came to altering local government policy.

Despite official harassment, or perhaps due to it, punk continues to grow in popularity in Indonesia, in particular amongst poor urban youth. Often identified in the West with a more commercial style, in Indonesia the sub-genre of ‘street punk’ is the preserve of street kids, buskers and poor kampung youth. In what is often a harsh and unforgiving world, Marjinal’s music, art and ideas are a source of inspiration for many of these street punks, and their open communal house in Srengsengsawah is a hive of activity, as well as a place of solidarity and support. On any given day punks from throughout Indonesia can be found there, along with visitors from Japan, Malaysia, Australia, Europe and the US.

Frequently touring throughout Indonesia, Ian Wilson joined Marjinal and Taring Babi on a recent road trip from Jakarta to Sukabumi, Bandung and Yogyakarta.

Ian Wilson (iwilson@murdoch.edu.au) is a Research Fellow at the Asia Research Centre and lecturer in Social Sciences and Humanities at Murdoch University, Western Australia. Marjinal can be contacted at dosakoe@gmail.com or via their website: http://kaum-marjinal.com/


Inside Indonesia 109: Jul-Sep 2012