No-Brain Dance and Cultural Resistance in Javanese Dance Music

No-Brain Dance and Cultural Resistance in Javanese Dance Music

a preliminary note


Koplo or Dangdut Koplo or just Dangdut modern style is dance music that born and develop in the grass-root. For Indonesian, Koplo is associated with Koplo pills. Psychotropic drugs are inexpensive (actually standard drugs) and are intoxicating if consumed in large quantities. Many people die from overuse. These pills usually are consumed while dancing and listening to tripping music. Funkot and Dangdut Remix are ​​tripping music that has spread in Jakarta’s suburb clubs and other small cities in the ’80s. The audience sways under the influence of drugs with a unique and wild style. The dance became known as Koplo dance. Koplo also means stupid, retard or no brain, words that are quite clear to describe Koplo regarding the music, the lyrics, and the dance. 

Koplo music itself was born in the early 2000s in several areas in East Java and the north coast of Java (Pantura). As a legacy of Classic Dangdut music, Koplo started from “Panggung Hajatan” (a small concert initiated by someone who has a ceremonial event, like a wedding or circumcision) that happens a lot in the area of suburban and rural. Pirated CD / VCD at that time, was a publication media that made Koplo known throughout Indonesia.

At first, Koplo was not received well by Dangdut music artist (In that time Dangdut is referring to Classic Dangdut), because the music was so cheap and did not follow the Classic Dangdut music rules. Moreover, many Koplo singers popularized erotic movements and vulgar appearance. One of the legendary artists is Inul Daratista popularize Goyang Ngebor (Drilling Dance), a kind of drilling dance movement using the buttock. Rhoma Irama, a Classic Dangdut legend, who at that time was the chairman of the Dangdut music association (PAMMI) called Inul’s phenomenon as moral decadence, and openly forbade using the Dangdut name in this type of music. At this point, Koplo became even more popular. New artists appeared with more vulgar dance, Uut Permatasari, Annisa Baha, Dewi Persik, Julia Perez and many others.

The public doesn’t think much about the difference between Classic Dangdut and Koplo, but there are indeed significant changes in Classic Dangdut music itself. Gradually the Classic Dangdut artists began to adopt Koplo elements in their music, and until now Koplo can still be named Dangdut Koplo or just simply Dangdut. Classic Dangdut is starting to lose its popularity. Musically speaking, Koplo itself is the most brilliant and brilliant evolution in Dangdut music. Koplo laid a strong local foundation in its music, and at the same time, also experimented with global music elements.

Koplo has hundreds of variants and not centralized in big cities. Koplo grows and spreads in many parts of Java suburban and rural, its development is very dependent and influenced by existing local culture. Koplo itself has a unique character, it is more like a spirit of grass-roots movement than a music industry. If it established well, there is enthusiasm to immediately respond or even destroy it. That is why Koplo will always create new variants.  


Koplo Variant in Java. Heavy Metal from East Java and The Queen of Pantura

Koplo developed from small cities in East Java, such as Sidoarjo, Mojokerto, Nganjuk, Kediri, Banyuwangi and many others, starting from OM (Dangdut group) who play Dangdut music with their style. Dangdut was re-translated by presenting local folk art elements as their music core, such as Jaranan (horse dance), before combined with Indonesian Pop music, Hip-hop or even Heavy Metal. This creation, of course, is more rough and fast, as the general character of the East Javanese people. Koplo in East Java can be called Jangdut or Jaranan Dangdut, although later there is a claim that Jangdut is not Koplo. The term Jangdut was popularized by OM Sagita. Until now, the biggest OMs and Dangdut label in Indonesia are located in East Java like Monata, New Palapa, Sera, Lagista, Sagita, Milady Record, and Samudra Record. Innovation, variant and artist/star also promoted by these groups/labels. Banyuwangi has a very different culture from the rest of East Java. Gandrung and the famous dance music in the 90s, Kendang Kempul is the strong folk art in this area. Koplo which grows in Banyuwangi is based on slow beat, but several rhythmic instruments, such as Kendang (percussion instrument) and kenong are played in rapid and complex ways. It’s easier to call this Koplo variant as Dangdut / Koplo Banyuwangian music.

Pantura is the term that refers to the north coastal area of Java that positioned between Central Java and West Java (Sundanese). Their culture is also a kind of mixture between the two. The majority of people work in agricultural areas or become laborers in factories (usually going to work in the factories around Jakarta or even abroad). These areas are very identical to Dangdut / Koplo. Bintang Pantura (Pantura Star) is one of the most famous Dangdut / Koplo contest shows on national television. In Indramayu area and surround, people never mention Koplo. The Koplo variant in these areas is called Organ Tarling or Tarling Dangdut, although then, there is also Tarling Koplo variant. Tarling or Classic Tarling is a folk art from the Indramayu region which is more like a traditional folk song. Tarling comes from the words gitar and suling (guitar and flute). This Tarling can be recognized from its musical scale. This scale that cannot be found in Java and Sunda, believed to be the legacy of ancient Malay or older Javanese culture. In 2010, the Dangdut Tarling variant experienced its peak, giving birth to famous artists such as Aan Rolani and The Queen of Pantura, Dewi Kirana. Song like “Mabok Bae” (Always Drunk) and “Mujaer Mundur” (Retreating Catfish) was very popular in that era. Dangdut Tarling has a slow rhythm but simplified several Kendang beats (which has thousands of complicated beat) to become kick patterns. We will sense a slow and fast rhythm at the same time. Not only Tarling, cities such as Cirebon, Tegal, Pekalongan in Pantura area also have different folk arts, and they started to build their version of Dangdut from their local heritage.

Variants of  Koplo continue to grow in other areas of Java, especially in smaller cities. In West Java, Koplo artists combined Dangdut with Jaipong (Sundanese traditional fast dance), which later became known as Jaipong Dangdut or Pongdut. In Banyumas, Dangdut was re-translated with Calung folk art as its core. In Yogyakarta itself, where I live, there are Campursari Dangdut (Campursari is a simplification of Gamelan orchestra), Congdut or Keroncong Dangdut (Keroncong is a Portuguese influenced Javanese folk music), Javanese Koplo and Gedruk Dangdut or Gedruk Koplo (Gedruk is sub-genre of Jaranan horse dance). These variants are more like the transformation between traditional folk art into contemporary art. It can be said, the existing folk art has never changed its essence, the change is only in its form, merely influenced by modernity and development of technology. It’s doesn’t mean that traditional folk art is disappeared too. To understand a Koplo variant in someplace, someone must also understand the existing folk art in that area. 





Koplo Music

It is quite difficult to study the diversity of Koplo music, but at least we can simplify several things. At first, Koplo used several types of syncopation or percussion breaks in Dangdut music. This syncopation was taken from the experimentation between Sundanese and East Javanese Kendang beat. Kendang itself is a musical instrument that is commonly found in traditional performance arts in Indonesia. Particularly in Java, Kendang categorized to the lead section (it’s still debatable, but it’s more like a conductor function in ensemble) instead of a common rhythm section. Sundanese Kendang has more pieces with different tuning, also with a lot of variety of beat/pattern. East Javanese Kendang is more minimal, played fast and loud without so much variation. This experimentation created a lot of syncopations/percussion breaks and rhythmic/melodic patterns. The “Bukak Sithik Joss” (Open a little bit please) syncopation is the older and most widely used at the moment. Not every syncopation has a name, but Koplo musicians can play the most of it in the ensemble, even without any rehearsal or note (music score). Koplo music uses dozens of different types of syncopation in one composition, where Koplo‘s musical structure base is recognized.

From this base, Koplo was further developed according to the folk arts/culture in their respective regions, such as Jaipong, Jaranan, Campursari, Gedruk, and others. Not stopping here, they also adopted various global elements such as Heavy Metal, Electro House, Hip Hop to K-Pop.

The Yamaha PSR keyboard is an important instrument in Koplo development (sometimes also using the Technics KN series keyboard or Korg series). In the most recording or concert, Yamaha PSR plays the foundation of rhythm and melody for the music. I don’t know in other countries, in Indonesia this Yamaha PSR is more focused on Dangdut and Koplo music, someone can even play the entire Dangdut / Koplo music composition with just a keyboard. Yamaha PSR can be purchased with big data of Dangdut MIDI sequences and Dangdut sampling in it, including sampling from traditional music instruments such as Kendang, Suling, Angklung and even Gamelan. They also do the sampling by themselves using DAW like Cubase or FLStudio. The sample results are embedded into the keyboard or other controller such as Alesis Samplepad Pro. Solo session or when DJing with keyboard only, called Ortung or Organ Tunggal or solo keyboard in English, it is a contrast to the conventional DJs that use Turntable, CDJ, XDJ, Traktor DJ or Ableton Live for live performance.

Dystopian Celebration on the Stage

Koplo lyrics tell or connected to a real condition in suburban and rural communities; urbanization, broken heart due to class differences, supernatural ritual, death because of cheap liquor, to the ballad of migrant workers. The lyrics do not talk about resistance or a strong political statement. The lyrics are a very simple/honest expression, including the use of parables, which can refer to the complex life of marginal society and its problem. Parables are the thing that common in Javanese life, to express some problems directly is not a polite thing. Through parables, they can put the critic or protest. If they are entering a complex situation, for example, there is no other way out, they prefer to make some jokes regarding their surroundings or even themselves. Of course, these parables system or even jokes have a long history, it’s not so hard for most of the Javanese people to understand the context behind parables or jokes. Public narratives, such as Javanese literary works or even Javanese history, did use a wide variety of parables.

The song “Kimcil Kepolen” (She so Extra) tells the story of a broken heart because the girl’s mother prefers the men who have at least a Kawasaki Ninja motorbike as their ride. Class differences in Indonesia are still very high. The income between unskilled workers and executives is very far away. One girl told her excitement because she was liked by the owner of fishpond (a rich man in this case) in the song called “Juragan Empang”. Poverty is a real problem both in cities and villages. Many girls dream of marrying a rich person or else, they would go to work abroad, such as in Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia or Malaysia as migrant workers. Sometimes, not as a factory worker or domestic servant, but also a sex worker. Among them, many are still underage. 

Supernatural ritual is used to achieve someone’s goal. In the song “Jaran Goyang” (Dancing Horse. The name of supernatural spell for love), someone chooses to go to a shaman and spell Jaran Goyang, so the girl falls in love with him. Supernatural rituals are commonly used by Javanese people, not only for love but also about “pesugihan” (ritual for prosperity) to “tolak bala” (ritual for safety). Belief in supernatural things is certainly driven by a difficult situation in life. Domestic abuse problems to the death caused by oplosan (Liquor experimentation with hazardous materials) are the real phenomenon that also captured by the lyrics.

Most of the lyrics tell about life sufferings, either directly or through parables. Contradictory to the lyrics, Dangdut / Koplo songs accompanied by happy, wild and loud music. Dangdut / Koplo audience generally dance with a certain excitement, sometimes they dance until getting trance as if all the suffering and sadness was merely a joke, which deserves to be celebrated. The stage and costume were also designed just like in a TV show

Dangdut celebration is a narrative game of the people in the grass-root that also considered as the second citizen. They face injustice or unequal treatment from the state to the lack of state protection from the power of multinational corporations. Maybe is not coincident that Dangdut/Koplo fastly grow in the conflict areas or where poverty, low education, and other problems happen


Cultural Resistance in Java 

The Dutch Colonial formed a divided society, relations between the cities were limited, communities were divided into classes, city/area/kingdom that potentially becoming a threat is pitted against another city/area/kingdom. Perhaps this was the strategy to gain social and political control. After centuries, the regions, cities, and classes develop each other in their unique way. Until now, Javanese ethnicity has a vast diversity between its areas, that has cultural differences in behaviors, norms, arts, rituals or language dialects.

But of course, there is something in common for Javanese. In general, Javanese people have a more adaptive and fluid attitude towards changes or difficult situations. History is even written in myth or prophecy. The concept of time is not linear. Expressions are expressed in parables and various symbolic actions. Sometimes, common things could become a critical political statement. Symbolic expressions tend to be used when they are defeated, oppressed or culturally marginalized. Art or folk art has been chosen as a medium of expression, especially performance art because it can involve a wider audience.

This attitude has become part of cultural identity, passed down from time to time, from folk art to other folk art, because only through art, they can maintain their identity and dignity. Jaranan or horse dance is an ancient performance art that is still developing until today, involves trance, acrobatic movements, showing off kebal (immune to any kind of weapons) and magic. Jaranan was born and developed in conquered areas, far from the Kingdom of Mataram (Javanese regime in16th-18th centuries) surveillance. Jaranan it’s a symbolic art that refers to the idea that the conquered areas still have power or dignity. 

Koplo is a cultural resistance in the contemporary map. Like the previous local folk arts, they built on the same spirit of resistance. Koplo is a dystopia, a world built through disappointment, celebrated in various stage; television, hajatan stage, YouTube, Spotify, social media, street musician or even in public transportation.



NO-BRAIN DANCE – DANCE SERIES is a public video art project that collaborates Y-DRA music and people dance. In some Indonesian local dance music, music is not separated from the dance. In these series, Y-DRA collaborated with dancers, art performer, local music audience, non-artist, children, youtubers, tiktok people, thug, etc. As the music based on embodiment (embodiment music) so the dance is non-choreograph movement, it’s more spontaneous and let the body move by itself. There’re also social and historical context within the movement, but it’s just the art of no-thinking. No-BRAIN DANCE

The video series will be updated frequently


Here are the published videos:

Y-DRA VS FEBRI IRAWAN. Sayyidah Sound Sistim [No-Brain Dance – DANCE #15]

Y-DRA VS FREDY LARASATI. Duel Jempol [No-Brain Dance – DANCE #14]

Y-DRA VS ERIS SETIYAWAN. No Brain Dance [No-Brain Dance – DANCE #13]

Y-DRA VS ARI ERSANDI. Kombatan Aspal Gronjal [No-Brain Dance – DANCE #12]

Y-DRA VS RAKA IBRAHIM. Duel Jempol [No-Brain Dance – DANCE #11]

Y-DRA VS DEUGALIH. Patrol Pesisir [No-Brain Dance – DANCE #10]

Y-DRA VS VASSIA VALKANIOTI. Sayyidah Sound Sistim [No-Brain Dance – DANCE #09]

Y-DRA VS ERIX NDABLEX. No-Brain Dance [No-Brain Dance – DANCE #08]

Y-DRA VS OPX aka RAPX. Milisi Miskin Kota [No-Brain Dance – DANCE #07]

Y-DRA VS ZAY SAPUTRA. Sayyidah Sound Sistim [No-Brain Dance – DANCE #06]

Y-DRA VS ALISA SOELAEMAN. Sayyidah Sound Sistim [No-Brain Dance – DANCE #05]

Y-DRA VS BERGERAK. Pencak Siang Bolong [No-Brain Dance – DANCE #04]

Y-DRA VS THE SISTERS COMPANY. Goyang Tobong [No-Brain Dance – DANCE #03]

Y-DRA VS ARI DWIANTO. Order/Disorder [No-Brain Dance – DANCE #02]

Y-DRA VS AYU PERMATA SARI. No-Brain Dance [No-Brain Dance – DANCE #01]

Y-DRA VS KIKI PEA. Kombatan Aspal Gronjal [No-Brain Dance – DANCE #00]

Y-DRA VS CANTHING, GANESH & ASA. Milisi Miskin Kota [No-Brain Dance – DANCE #OPENING] 



Inspired by Dangdut Koplo, Dance Music that developed in Java. Koplo or Dangdut Koplo or just Dangdut modern style is dance music that born and develop in the grass-root. For Indonesian, Koplo is associated with Koplo pills. Psychotropic drugs are inexpensive (actually standard drugs) and are intoxicating if consumed in large quantities. Many people die from overuse. Koplo also means stupid, retard or no brain, words that are quite clear to describe Koplo regarding the music, the lyrics, and the dance.

Koplo is a cultural resistance in the contemporary map. Like the previous local folk arts, they built on the same spirit of resistance. Koplo is a dystopia, a world built through disappointment, celebrated in various stage; television, hajatan stage, YouTube, Spotify, social media, street musician or even in public transportation.

The album tried to represent Koplo spirit, methodes and resistance in global today’s context


  • RELEASE DATE /17 April 2019

Production Notes

Produced by Yennu Ariendra, Trauma Irama Record, Wok The Rock
Written by Yennu Ariendra
Mixed and Mastered by Yennu Ariendra
Song titles by Yennu Ariendra and Wok The Rock
Cover designed by Wok The Rock
Illustration from Angst II by Suvi Wahyudianto
  1. Sayyidah Sound Sistim
  2. Kombatan Aspal Gronjal
  3. Order/Disorder
  4. Goyang Tobong
  5. Koplotronika
  6. No-Brain Dance
  7. Ada Tiada
  8. Trance Korslet
  9. Milisi Miskin Kota
  10. Patrol Pesisir
  11. Duel Jempol
  12. Pencak Siang Bolong
  13. Sampur Kulon Girang



Yennu Ariendra – Far Away Songs (2018)

  1. Departure. Cross the Sea
  2. Shadow Bird. The Messenger
  3. The Visitor
  4. The Disappearance
  5. Sleep
  6. Faraway Home
  7. The Courage
  8. The Unseen
  9. Letter to the Sky

All compositions created by Yennu Ariendra

Performed, recorded, mixed & mastered by Yennu Ariendra at Rumah Kasidi Studio

Additional Musician:

Danish Wisnu Nugroho, drum on compositions number 1, 4, 8 and 9

Richardus Ardita, electric bass on compositions number 1, 4, 6, 8 and 9


All music compositions also part of Papermoon Puppet Theater’s “Letter to the Sky” © 2018 performance score.


Produced by Yennu Ariendra, Yopie Irawan and Traumairama Record © 2018

Distributed by Traumairama Record © 2018

Cover design by Yennu Ariendra



Spotify = https://spoti.fi/2JbzX5i

Amazon = https://amzn.to/2R3BNrz

Deezer = https://bit.ly/2OzWlLt

iTunes = https://apple.co/2R8gzZN

Apple Music = https://apple.co/2q1OHe4

Napster = https://bit.ly/2PJGaI2

Tidal = https://bit.ly/2NTcuXc








RAJA KIRIK tried to capture the theatrical Javanese folk dance called “Jaranan Buto”. The dance portrays a bunch of giant horsemen riding giant horses. It was developed in 1963 on Banyuwangi the eastern part of Java island. This dance incorporates trance and magic trick lead by a shaman with a typical Java syncretic ritual related to the ancient Java animism, Hinduism and Islam. The amok, the war, the giant, the anger, that takes part in Jaranan Buto has a strong connection with the history of Banyuwangi. 

Until the 18th century, Banyuwangi was known as “The Kingdom of Blambangan”, an area with a long history of war. Blambangan considered the last Hindu Kingdom in Java before it was conquered by Mataram Kingdom (1587–1755) with support from VOC (the Dutch trading company). After the war, Mataram wrote the famous literature “Serat Damar Wulan” that included a fictional giant villain as the king of Blambangan. Later, the defeated people of Blambangan rendered this giant character into a hero. Along with this narration, “Jaranan Buto” came up as the antithesis of “Serat Damar Wulan”.

“Jaranan Buto” developed from the intention of protest, the way to renegotiate the injustice circumstances or the way that defeated people maintain their dignity and cultural identity. The urge to create a new work out of it is not as simple as conserving tradition or uplifting Indonesia’s exotic culture to the eye of the world. “Jaranan Buto” itself reflected the struggling faced by a lot of people in the world. Somehow, we could see it as a resemble of the war of narrative happened nowadays, where one narrative fighting over another growing fear, hate, and even a sense of togetherness between societies.



Release Date : June 8, 2018

Yennu Ariendra : Electronic, J Moong Santoso Pribadi : DIY/Hand Made Instrument

Produced by Image Of The Giant Project, Recorded in Rumah Mo’ong. Mixing & Mastering by Yennu Ariendra

Cover drawing taken from “Letter of Damarwulan” (World Digital Library_MSS.Jav.89), cover design by Wok The Rock

Released by Yes No Wave Music


01. O Sing (The Nay Sayer)

02. Alas Tyang Pinggir (The Outcast Forest)

03. Buto Abang (Red Giant)

04. Raja Kirik (Dog King)

05. Bang Bang Wetan (Dawn)

06. Jaran Jaran Ucul (Running Horses)

All music and artworks using Creative Common License



Complete videos are hosted here


Raja Kirik from Banyuwangi (Raja Kirik dari Banyuwangi)

Gunawan Maryanto

I want to start writing with a short story because I’m an author – not a musician nor music critics.

Saya ingin mengawali tulisan ini dengan sebuah cerita singkat sebab saya seorang pencerita—bukan pemusik bukan pula pengamat musik.

There was Jaka Umbaran. Obviously, it’s not a real name. Jaka means unmarried young man, while Umbaran means wandering around at will. Jaka Umbaran is a nickname for a young man who still wanted more experience. In his odissey he met Kebo Marcuet, the ruler of Blambangan. The unbeatable knight with two horns on his head who went on a rampage to collect from Majapahit the promised reward for his merit. Nobody in Majapahit could defeat him. Kebo Marcuet is also a nicknames, a humiliating one. Kebo is buffalo, to describe him who went on a rampage like a stupid buffalo. While Marcuet means dissappointed. The threathened Queen Kencana Wungu of Majapahit then held a contest: whoever could defeat Kebo Marcuet will become her husband and the regent of Blambangan. So Jaka Umbaran took the opportunity to challenge Kebo Marcuet. They fight for days until in one hoodoo days Kebo Marcuet got slain. His body was drowned in Brantas river. Jaka Umbaran win eventhough his face and body was damaged. Later, he became the Regent of Blambangan, known as Menak Jingga – The Red Faced King. As happened to Kebo Marcuet, Menak Jingga also feel dissappointed because Kencana Wungu broke one of her promise. She didn’t want to be married by Menak Jingga whose body now ugly and defective like a dog. Menak Jingga went on a rampage. And the story recur: Kencana Wungu held the same contest once again.

Adalah Jaka Umbaran. Jelas ini bukan nama asli. Jaka berarti pemuda lajang sedang Umbaran adalah berkelana sekehendak hati. Jaka Umbaran adalah sebutan untuk seorang pemuda yang masih mentah dan kepingin matang dengan cara mengembara menantang kehidupan. Dalam pengembaraannya ia berjumpa dengan Kebo Marcuet, penguasa Blambangan, seorang pendekar pilih tanding dengan dua tanduk di kepalanya yang tengah mengamuk untuk mendapatkan hadiah yang dijanjikan karena jasa-jasanya bagi Majapahit. Tak seorang pun di Majapahit yang sanggup mengalahkannya. Kebo Marcuet juga hanya nama paraban, jejuluk untuk merendahkannya. Kebo adalah kerbau untuk menggambarkan dirinya yang mengamuk bagai kerbau dungu, sedangkan Marcuet berarti kecewa. Merasa dirinya terancam Sang Ratu Kencana Wungu mengadakan sayembara: barang siapa bisa mengalahkan Kebo Marcuet maka ia akan menjadi suaminya dan Adipati Blambangan. Jaka Umbaran pun menantang Kebo Marcuet. Berhari-hari mereka bertarung hingga di sebuah hari yang naas Kebo Marcuet tewas. Tubuhnya tenggelam di Kali Brantas. Jaka Umbaran menang meski wajah dan tubuhnya hancur lebur. Jaka Umbaran lantas menjadi Adipati Blambangan dengan gelar Menak Jingga—Raja berwajah merah. Tapi sebagaimana Kebo Marcuet, Menak Jingga juga meradang kecewa sebab Kencana Wungu mengingkari janjinya. Ia tak mau diperistri Menak Jingga yang wajah dan tubuhnya telah berubah menjadi cacat tak ubahnya seekor anjing. Menak Jingga mengamuk dan tak seorang pun di Majapahit sanggup menghadapinya. Dan cerita berulang: Kencana Wungu membuka kembali sayembara yang sama.

This story comes from my childhood memory when I was regularly watching Ketoprak performance (Javanese traditional theater play). Eventhough he’s a villain character, I was secretly admiring Menak Jingga. He’s my childhood hero, someone who fight for his pride and his rights eventhough at the end of the story he was tragically defeated. Later I realize that the story was made up by Mataram to destroy the image of Blambangan people – the place we know as Banyuwangi nowaday. Blambangan were Kebo Mercuet and Menak Jingga. Blambangan was a greedy dog who never feel enough. Blambangan is a bunch of wizardry people having no fear. What truly happened was the opposite. Blambangan is an area that always been contested. Majapahit competed with Bali to occupy the peninsula. Mataram and VOC also insisted to own it. But Blambangan survived from time to time. Eventhough later it was destroyed as well as Menak Jingga.

Cerita di atas saya ambil dari ingatan yang lamat-lamat dari masa kecil saat saya masih rajin menonton pertunjukan ketoprak. Meski merupakan tokoh antagonis diam-diam saya mengagumi Menak Jingga. Ia adalah pahlawan kecil saya, seseorang yang berusaha menegakkan dirinya dan menagih sesuatu yang telah dijanjikan meski pada akhir cerita mesti kalah dengan tragis. Belakangan saya tahu bahwa cerita tersebut adalah sebuah cerita rekaan Mataram untuk menghancurkan imaji orang-orang Blambangan—Banyuwangi sekarang. Blambangan adalah Kebo Marcuet dan Menak Jingga, si pungguk yang merindukan bulan. Blambangan adalah anjing rakus dan tak pernah berpuas diri. Blambangan adalah sekumpulan orang sakti yang tak punya rasa takut. Padahal yang berlangsung adalah sebaliknya. Blambangan adalah wilayah yang selalu diperebutkan. Wilayah yang berkali-kali hendak ditaklukkan. Majapahit bersaing dengan Bali untuk menguasai tanah semenanjung itu. Mataram dan VOC juga berkeras menginginkannya. Tapi Blambangan dari waktu ke waktu terus bertahan. Meski harus hancur lebur sebagaimana Menak Jingga.

Currently, as a musician Yennu Ariendra doing much works that related to his hometown, Banyuwangi. I don’t know exactly since when he started to explore history and tradition of Banyuwangi. The encounter of Garasi Theater and Banyuwangi (including me) happened since the process of Waktu Batu in 2002 when we visited Kemiren Village. As far as I know, as fellow resident artist of Garasi Theater, Yennu started to explore Banyuwangi intensely since the process of Yang Fana adalah Waktu. Kita Abadi (2015). In that time, he started to research the history of violence based on his family story. He also tried to trace it through the Gandrung songs and Kendang Kempul. His findings was getting more deep and intense in the process of  Teater-Musik Menara Ingatan which he initiated in the year 2016-2017.

Sebagai seorang musisi belakangan Yennu Ariendra mengolah banyak hal dari tanah kelahirannya itu. Saya tak tahu sejak kapan persisnya ia mulai mengulik sejarah dan tradisi Banyuwangi. Pertemuan Teater Garasi—juga saya—dengan Banyuwangi sendiri terjadi sejak proses Waktu Batu di tahun 2002 saat kami berkunjung dan tinggal sementara waktu di Kemiren. Ada banyak hal yang tinggal dalam diri saya paska pertemuan dengan Gandrung Temu, salah seorang maestro Gandrung Banyuwangi. Sejauh pengetahuan saya sebagai sesama seniman mukim Teater Garasi Yennu mulai mengulik jauh tradisi Banyuwangi semenjak proses Yang Fana adalah Waktu. Kita Abadi. (2015) Waktu itu ia menggali sejarah kekerasan berdasar cerita keluarganya. Ia juga melacaknya melalui lagu-lagu gandrung dan kendang kempul. Temuan-temuan itu kemudian diolahnya lebih jauh dan lebih tajam lagi dalam proses Teater-Musik Menara Ingatan yang diinisiasinya di tahun 2016-2017.

In Menara Ingatan, Yennu borrowed the structure of Gandrung performance to talk about the history of violence in Banyuwangi, since Majapahit until today. It seems like, Yennu doesn’t want to stop there. Yennu is coming back this time with Mo’ong, exploring more about Banyuwangi and make an album called Raja Kirik. Different from Menara Ingatan that still carrying burden to introduce Banyuwangi and its long history, Raja Kirik only stands on Jaranan Buto performance and Menak Jingga character. The compositions of Menara Ingatan explained a long history which shorten in the dramatics structure of Gandrung Banyuwangi, while Raja Kirik is a monologue without Menak Jingga in the sense of Jaranan Buto.  

Dalam Menara Ingatan Yennu meminjam struktur pertunjukan gandrung untuk membicarakan sejarah kekerasan di Banyuwangi dari jaman Majapahit hingga hari ini. Dan tampaknya Yennu tak mau berhenti di sana. Dengan menggandeng Mo’ong Yennu kembali menilik Banyuwangi dan menggarap album musik Raja Kirik. Berbeda dengan Menara Ingatan yang tampak masih memiliki beban untuk mengenalkan Banyuwangi dan sejarah panjangnya, Raja Kirik hanya berpijak pada pertunjukan Jaranan Buto dan sosok Menak Jingga. Komposisi-komposisi musik yang dihasilkan dalam Menara Ingatan memapar sebuah perjalanan yang panjang yang dimampatkan dalam struktur dramatika Gandrung Banyuwangi, sedangkan Raja Kirik adalah monolog tanpa kata Menak Jingga dalam balutan Jaranan Buto.

Jaranan Buto is a variant of kuda lumping (horse troopers dance) which exist in many places in Java. What makes it different, the head of horses in Jaranan Buto is the head of giant (Buto). Kuda Lumping in Central Java and East Java still hold out the form of horse with addition of boar in some places. The image of Buto only appear in Barongan part, which is not exist in the main plot. While the whole Jaranan Buto dancers as well as the buto horses they ride, also wearing costume and makeup like buto. In a glance, you could say Jaranan Buto is a mix of Barong Bali, Jaranan Senterewe, and Reog Ponorogo with bigger moves, more power and more anger. (For me) it is not really clear when the dancer started to get trance, because the music already played hard and fast from the beginning, also the moves of the dancer already ferocious since they stepped in to the arena.

Jaranan Buto adalah varian tari kuda lumping yang tumbuh di banyak tempat di Jawa. Tapi yang berbeda—dan tidak ditemui di daerah lain—kepala kuda lumping di Jaranan Buto adalah kepala raksasa. Kuda lumping di Jawa tengah dan Jawa Timur tetap bertahan dalam bentuk yang ditirunya yakni kuda, dengan tambahan celeng di beberapa tempat. Imaji Buto hanya muncul dalam barongan atau caplokan saja, bukan pada kuda lumping yang jadi piranti pertunjukan utama. Seluruh penari Jaranan Buto sebagaimana buto yang ditungganginya juga berpakaian dan berwajah layaknya raksasa. Sekilas Jaranan Buto adalah gabungan dari Barong Bali, Jaranan Senterewe dan Reog Ponorogo dengan gerak yang lebih besar, bertenaga dan marah. (Bagi saya) tak terlalu jelas kapan seorang penari masih sadar atau trance karena sejak awal musik telah ditabuh dengan keras dan cepat, juga gerak para penari yang sudah berangasan bahkan sejak masuk arena.

Developed since 1963, created by Setro Asnawi, a Jaranan Senterewe artist, Jaranan Buto still has it’s place in the community until this day. Different from Kuda Lumping which story usually rooted from the story of Panji, Jaranan Buto step on the story of Menak Jingga. At first it was developed in Cemetuk Village, a small village habited by Mataram Java people that already live alongside Osing people, the indigenous people of Banyuwangi

Berkembang sejak tahun 1963-an, diciptakan oleh Setro Asnawi, seorang pendatang dari Trenggalek, Jaranan Buto hingga hari ini masih mendapatkan tempat di masyarakatnya. Berbeda dengan kuda lumping pada umumnya yang berakar pada cerita panji, Jaranan Buto berpijak pada kisah Menak Jinggo. Jaranan Buto semula berkembang di dusun Cemetuk, sebuah dusun yang banyak dihuni oleh orang Jawa Mataram yang sudah hidup berdampingan dengan masyrakat Osing, penduduk asli Banyuwangi. Bisa dikatakan Jaranan Buto adalah perpaduan Jatilan Mataram dengan tradisi Osing Banyuwangi.


Album: Raja Kirik

Album Musik Raja Kirik

Raja Kirik is a part of project Image of The Giant (War on Narrative). Continuing the major topics in Menara Ingatan about history of violence, Yennu Ariendra is doing a collaboration with J Mo’ong Santoso Pribadi, exploring Jaranan Buto and The story of Menak Jingga as the source. Besides, they also observing Gedruk Merapi (Klaten) and Jathilan from Bantul, Yogyakarta, and Purworejo.

Album Musik Raja Kirik adalah bagian dari proyek seni yang lebih luas yakni Image of the Giant (War on Narrative). Masih melanjutkan tema besar Menara Ingatan yakni sejarah kekerasan, Yennu Ariendra berkolaborasi dengan J “Mo’ong” Santoso Pribadi, mengolah Jaranan Buto dan kisah Menak Jinggo sebagai sumber penciptaan. Selain itu mereka juga mempelajari Gedruk Merapi (Klaten) dan Jatilan dari Bantul. Jogja dan Purworejo.

This album consisted of 6 compositions:  O Sing (The Nay Sayer), Alas Tyang Pinggir (The Outcast Forest), Buto Abang (Red Giant), Raja Kirik (Dog King), Bang Bang Wetan (Dawn), Jaran-Jaran Ucul (Running Horses). Eventhough starting from the same theme and tradition with Menara Ingatan, the music is quiet different. Mo’ong with his DIY instrument, also with different musical tradition from Yennu, makes Raja Kirik one step further than Menara Ingatan, or at least appear as a different version. Especially, Raja Kirik doesn’t use any lyrics, so it’s more free to enjoyed as music or sound. Without the need to highlight the history of violence in Banyuwangi with words, I immersed myself into the scene of violence – without the need to understand the history and tradition of Banyuwangi.

Album musik ini terdiri dari 6 komposisi yakni:  O Sing (The Nay Sayer), Alas Tyang Pinggir (The Outcast Forest), Buto Abang (Red Giant), Raja Kirik (Dog King), Bang Bang Wetan (Dawn), Jaran-Jaran Ucul (Running Horses). Meskipun berangkat dari tema dan tradisi yang sama dengan Menara Ingatan warna musik dalam Raja Kirik cukup berbeda. Kehadiran Mo’ong dengan alat-alat musik buatan sendiri, juga tradisi musik yang berbeda dengan Yennu, membuat Raja Kirik seperti melangkah lebih maju dari Menara Ingatan, atau setidaknya versi yang berbeda. Terlebih lagi Raja Kirik tak menggunakan lirik sehingga lebih bebas dinikmati sebagai musik atau bunyi. Tanpa harus menggarisbawahi sejarah kekerasan di Banyuwangi melalui syair, saya dibawa dalam suasana dan warna kekerasan yang tajam—tanpa harus mengerti sejarah dan tradisi Banyuwangi.

Open with O Sing, with title coming from play words of Osing, we will brought to the world of horse trooper dance (jaranan), army, and war. Sounds of metals dominating like a greeting for the troops that viciously enter the arena. If in the Jaranan there is  sabet (whip), where the dancers entering and dance energetically to introduce the basic character, that is what O Sing mean to be. The aggresivity of these Butos reveal in the next composition, Alas Tiyang Pinggir. I immediately imagine Alas Purwo, where the Blambangan army withstand from Mas Rangsang attack (later known as Sultan Agung). The next compositions bring us further to the universe of Jaranan Buto and Menak Jingga: dissappoinment, anger, and also loneliness. But don’t wish for monotonic jaranan rhytm to be appear in every composition. In the part that supposed to be the peak, where Jaranan Buto supposed to be in trance, rampage, and eat everything, Yennu and Mo’ong choose to go further to the Menak Jingga’s matter.

Dibuka dengan O Sing, judul yang dimainkan dari kata Osing, kita akan dibawa masuk perlahan ke dunia jaranan, dunia keprajuritan dan perang. Bunyi-bunyi besi mendominasi seperti mengantar para prajurit memasuki arena dengan gagah. Jika di dalam struktur pertunjukan jaranan ada sabet, di mana para penari masuk dan menari rampak yang berfungsi sebagai pengenalan karakter dasar, O Sing sepertinya dimaksudkan demikian pula. Keberingasan para buto itu baru muncul di komposisi selanjutnya, yakni Alas Tyang Pinggir. Saya segera membayangkan Alas Purwo, di mana para prajurit Blambangan bertahan dari serangan Mas Rangsang (kemudian dikenal dengan nama Sultan Agung saat naik tahta). Komposisi-komposisi berikutnya semakin membawa kita jauh memasuki jagad Buto dan Menak Jinggo: kekecewaan, kemarahan dan juga kesepiannya. Tapi jangan berharap tabuhan jaranan yang monoton dan ritmis ada di setiap komposisi. Di bagian yang semestinya menjadi puncak, di saat jaranan buto semestinya ndadi, mengamuk dan memakan segalanya, Yennu dan Mo’ong justru masuk jauh ke dalam sumber perkara Menak Jinggo.

Well, I don’t want to end my writing with a summary that could shallow the interpretation of Raja Kirik. For me, Raja Kirik could be anyone today. They who are eliminated, marginalized, and denied.

Baiklah, saya tak ingin menutup tulisan singkat ini dengan simpulan yang justru membuat tafsir atas Raja Kirik tercekik. Bagi saya Raja Kirik bisa menjadi siapa saja hari ini: mereka yang tersingkirkan, terpinggirkan dan selalu diingkari.

Yogyakarta, May 2018

Yogyakarta, Mei 2018


Writer is director, actor, and author. Resident artist of Garasi Theater/Garasi Performance Institute

Penulis adalah Sutradara, aktor dan penulis. Seniman Mukim Teater Garasi/Garasi Performance Institute





Music, video art, video installation and performance


Image of the Giant would be a new interpretation and an effort to give new position for some folk arts (traditional forms) that still actively practice in all over Java ethnic in Indonesia. In a broader sense, the project will be presenting as a portrait of resistance, in the middle of complex contestation of political identity, to the issue of displacement and disappearance.


At first, the project inspired by Indonesian folk dance “Jaranan Buto”, portrays a riding giants troop (in which the puppet horses has a giant head) that also incorporates trances and magic tricks. “Jaranan Buto” is folk art from Banyuwangi, East Java. In one assumption, this kind of art is an art of protesting.

Banyuwangi until the 18th century called “The Kingdom of Blambangan”, is the area that has a long history of war. “Blambangan” Kingdom considered the last Hindu Kingdom in Java before it conquered by Mataram Kingdom (1587–1755) with the support from VOC (Dutch company). Blambangan was destroyed and took millions of lives. The area later changed its name to Banyuwangi and still leaves a spirit of resistance up to now. As the winner, Mataram Kingdom became the only empire that rules Java and VOC brought new people to cut down the forest and build very large coffee and cocoa plantations on the bloody land of Banyuwangi. In other parts of Indonesia, this also happened, with an almost similar pattern, even today, from plantations to mining. The world has not changed.

After the war “Mataram” Kingdom wrote the famous literature “Serat Damar Wulan” that mentions the king of Blambangan is a giant villain called “Menak Jingga”. Maybe this literature tends to glorified Mataram’s victory. Later, the defeated people of Blambangan render this giant figure king as a hero, not a villain, which is inspired people to create “Jaranan Buto”.

This project not only just represented the dark history that happened in the past and its connection with today’s context but also focused on how the people in the grassroots survive from regime oppression. How they strengthen each other’s kinship, strengthen their local identity, building counter-narratives to create a complex defense system. Among them, also gave birth to symbolic resistance in art which is more arrogant and full of confident. They can build power among themselves, although this is almost a war that can not be won. There are many enemies and interests at different levels, both local and global, a complexity that became the background of various land or natural resource conflicts in Indonesia from the past or present.

This project is divided into several fragments, as a milestone in a long research regarding cultural resistance in Javanese folk art, from Jaranan art to Dangdut Koplo.

IMAGE OF THE GIANT in Biennale Jogja XV 2019

IMAGE OF THE GIANT Exhibition in Biennale Jogja XV 2019, 20 October – 30 November 2019

Size : Variable Dimensions

Medium : Video and Installation

Year : 2019


This project started from the experimentation of two composer with very opposite media, a contemporary digital music composer and traditional composer. We also working with “Jaranan” troupe in several places in Java, to make a performance, documentation and also to get “Jaranan” oral history and its social context. This experimentation later continued in “RAJA KIRIK” music project

The output of this project is to make music compositions, visual exhibition, performance and video art.


Yennu Ariendra: Initiator, director, music composer, performer, videographer
J Mo’ong S Pribadi: Music composer, workshop facilitator, performer
Asa Rahmana: Project officer, writer


MAS KUMAMBANG – a Short Performance (2017)

Mas Kumambang (Short Performance)
Live @ Gedung Societet, TBY, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
2017 – 12 – 01 . 20.00 WIBTeam :

Paksi Raras Alit (Performer/Singer), Sekar Sari (performer), Raphael Donny (Motion Director), Dhanank Pambayun (Digital Illustrator), Yennu Ariendra (Music Composer), Banjar Triandaru (Lighting Designer)

Read more “MAS KUMAMBANG – a Short Performance (2017)”



”Unbearable Sun” (2017) Short Movie, A videographic imprint of a ritual performed by an anti-hero fictional character.

Fragments of dreams, memories and patterns’ negatives intertwine, showing a ‘way through’; exploring the (re-)experience of the personal as epic, within a context of no time no space reality.

Premiered at Hellas Berlin Filmbox – January 2018

Director, Script Writer and Performer : Vassia Valkanioti

Video Editor and Music Composer : Yennu Ariendra

Director of Photography and Costum : Asa Rahmana

Camera and Technical Consultant : Antonius Hari Ispratowo

Production Assistant : Andi Meinl