Vinyl Soul: Music, Noise, and Silence in a Time of Mass Murder

Colloquium | April 2 | 5:10 p.m. | 125 Morrison Hall | Canceled

 Department of Music

In the early morning hours of October 1, 1965, a group of low-ranking military officers kidnapped and killed six generals who were allegedly plotting a coup against then-president Sukarno. The army, under major general Suharto, responded by blaming the murder of the generals on the PKI (Partai Komunis Indonesia), which was at the time the third largest Communist party in the world. In the ensuing six months, under Suharto’s leadership, the army murdered some 500,000 to a million people, and imprisoned about 100,000 more, for their alleged ties to the PKI. The event laid the groundwork for the 32-year military dictatorship of Suharto and the annihilation of the Left in Indonesia.

This presentation examines competing articulations of popular music and violence in relation to Indonesia’s mass killings. The presentation is guided by three questions. First, how did popular music articulate with the regime of Indonesia’s first president Sukarno, who referred to rock ‘n’ roll, chacha, and other forms of popular music as noise (“ngak-ngik-ngok”)? Secondly, how did popular music participate in Indonesia’s “amnesia” and silencing of the killings during the ensuing 32 years of the New Order? Finally, how is popular music of the period and its aftermath being recreated by contemporary musicians in order to radically alter Indonesia’s collective memory? As Indonesians themselves have begun to reassess this pivotal moment in their modern history, this research adds the missing yet critical dimension of sound to the mix.


Andrew N. Weintraub (PhD, UC Berkeley, 1997) is Professor of Music at the University of Pittsburgh, where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in ethnomusicology and popular music and directs the University Gamelan program. He is the author of Power Plays (2004) and Dangdut Stories (2010), editor of Islam and Popular Culture in Indonesia and Malaysia (2011), and co-editor of Music and Cultural Rights (2008), and Vamping the Stage (2017). Weintraub is the founder and lead singer of the Dangdut Cowboys, a Pittsburgh-based band that plays Indonesian popular music.