(5) Pop of Southeast Asia
Music of the People, by the People, for the People
Sanghun Lee, ASEAN-Korea Blog Reporter
Some kind of music, you have to be a tourist to encounter. But some, you just have to step outside the door to meet. Endless and ceaseless opportunity of music — that is what is so dinstinctive about pop music.
But, as we now know, in one part of the world dwells music that holds the spirit of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Confucianism, and even Shamanism. Music that encompasses Chinese, Indian, and European cultures. Music of Southeast Asia.
At this point, you have to wonder, “Who would still listen to those great-grandfather music?” And yes, you already guessed it. They all listen to pop instead. Is the unique cultural trait of each indigenous ancient music dead then? Well, let’s see some examples to find out.
Cambodian pop music has two major branches: ramvong and ramkbach. Ramvong is a form of dance music, renowned for its slow and peaceful rhythm, and ramkbach is music that closely resembles Thai folk music. The music of kantrum, deriving from Thailand, was provincial at first, but has also recently gained popularity in Cambodia.
▲ Ramkbach in Cambodia
“Pop Indonesia” is heavily influenced by Western pop culture and also resembles music from Bollywood and Hollywood soundtracks, but has the unique streak of Indonesian spirit that illustrates Indonesian life. Bands like Koes Plus, influenced by music of The Beatles, brought the golden age of pop in the 1960s. Several “Lady Rockers” such as Nicky Astria, Inka Christie, and Anggun also struck Indonesia in the 1980s; some have also become international rock singers.
Recently, there has been a surge in the music style of J-pop and K-pop. Such bands as J-Rocks, Geisha, Daisha, and SM*SH Boyband are bringing a new trend in pop Indonesia.
There are also music that has distinct Indonesian roots. Dangdut, which was originally dance music that conveyed moralistic lyrics, has pride in its immense popularity, although some female singers are featuring a lewd color in their songs.
▲ Female singer performing the dangdut
Malaysian pop developed from the asli, or pure, music in which the Bangsawan troupes flourished in the 1920s. The Bangsawan troupes are opera heavily influenced by the Wayang Pasir, originally a form of Persian opera in India. This form of opera soon evolved into the modern pop of Malaysia. As Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Brunei share the Malay language to an extent, there is much exchange in the pop music of the four countries.
▲ Siti Nurhaliza, pop singer famous in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Brunei
Philippine pop music, mostly written in Philippine languages, is often called OPM(Original Pilipno Music). OPM originally included only Philippine pop and ballad, but has come to include any type of music produced in the Philippines.
OPM, mostly sung in Tagalog and English, has developed centering around Manila. Music of other groups such as Visayan, Bikil, and Kapampangan has not been recognized as OPM. Nonetheless, there is a recent increase of popularity for non-Tagalog music, and Philippine music industry continues on its path for development.
▲ “Ika”, a Kapampangan version of the Tagalog song “Ikaw”
In Thailand, Western-style music became popular in the 1930s. Jazz was the dominant form of music that took hold of the nation and soon developed into the pleng Thai skorn, which incorporated Thai and Western tunes. Later, this form of music evolved into the romantic luk grung music.
An early form of rock called wong shadow also emerged in the 1960s and developed into the string pop. Protest rocks called phleng pheua chiwit (songs for life) was also a popular form of rock that held political messages in Thai language. Today, Thai pop encompasses a variety of music, although string pop seems to be the dominant form of pop.
▲ Thai string pop
Although the traditional elements of music are not so obvious in the pop of each country, we can surmise that the differences must come from something at least. And we can say, if hesitantly, that even in our young and seemingly “European” pop culture, tradition still breathes. This is what makes culture a culture, and culture everlasting.
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