Musicians rally in Surabaya against draconian music law

Tribune News – February 10, 2019
Surabaya rally against draft music law – February 10, 2019 (Tribune)
Surabaya rally against draft music law – February 10, 2019 (Tribune)

Pipit Maulidiya, Surabaya – Scores of musicians in the East Java provincial capital of Surabaya visited the grave of national hero WR Supratman where they gathered in a circle beside the grave and sent a prayer to heaven.

Following the joint prayer, the musicians, who said they came from a number of different communities, held an action in which they read out poems in front of the grave of the creator of the Indonesia’s national anthem Indonesia Raya, WR Supratman.

The action, which continued for around 30 minutes, was organised to oppose the Draft Law on Music (RUU Permusikan) which has become a national issue and is currently being deliberated by the House of Representatives (DPR).

“Art is not the business of those in power”, “Reject the RUU Permusikan” and “How can ideas possibly be jailed” read the protest banners at the action.

Action coordinator Ndimas Narko Utomo said that the demonstration was organised by an alliance of musicians in Surabaya who are concerned about the draft law.

“There are friends from Red Pen Discourse, Surabaya Resists, the Cokro Youth and several other groups which are concerned about the RUU Permusikan. If necessary we will descend en masse on the DPRD Jatim [East Java Regional House of Representatives] next Thursday”, said Utomo following Sunday’s action.

Utomo said that their visit to the grave of national hero WR Supratman was part of the fight against the draft law. According to Utomo, WR Supratman was a national figure who used music as a tool of struggle to unite the people of Indonesia.

“We are using the energy of WR Supratman to reject the RUU, because the RUU is aimed at curbing and oppressing creativity”, he asserted.

One of the points in the draft law which they oppose is the prohibition on songs with themes about social issues on the grounds that music should not be allowed to be provocative.

“Here the government could end up manipulating this, perhaps a new government that’s against criticism, what will our country become? When our musical colleagues are silenced, what will happen to our colleagues in dance, theater, literature and our friends in the creative world who will also be restricted. So our position is too oppose the RUU”, he explained.

Utomo said that following the joint prayer action at Supratman’s grave, at 3pm they will hold a discussion on the draft law at the Mhah Cokro Restaurant. Later during the discussion, there are three points they want to raise.

First, that they reject the draft law in its entirety because from the beginning of the deliberations there has been no comprehensive academic study on the law and it threatens the existence of the national arts ecosystem.

Second, a total revision of problematic Article 19 and changing the name of the draft law, which is full of technical and applicative nuances, so it does not regulate the creative process in music.

And finally, stopping the ratification of the draft law which has been proposed by the DPR.


Under the proposed Draft Law on Music, musicians would be prevented from “bringing negative influences from foreign cultures and/or degrading human dignity” in Indonesia. As well as cracking down on blasphemous and “pornographic” content, it imposes onerous new requirements on musicians, such as carrying out competency tests to gain certification. It could also see musicians being jailed or fined for violating the law.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Belasan musisi Surabaya tolak RUU Permusikan”.]