First of all, I do sympathy for the cancellation of Lady Gaga’s concert in Indonesia. Many Indonesian little monsters would respond in disappointment for not being able to see their idol perform in Jakarta. I am not one of the fans of Lady Gaga, but after I am following up what she did after the cancellation, I would say, I am disappointed. My disappointment is not for the cancellation for her concert, but it is more on the way she responded to the cancellation. On her stage in Singapore, May 28, 2012, Lady Gaga wrote and said, “I love Indo” with written words on a piece of a letter to the audience in Singapore. Some people might look at this action as a good one from Lady Gaga and some would say that what she did was just a matter of showing how nice Lady Gaga is. Now, here is my personal response to this matter.
The major concern here would be where the music and the video should be distributed. The word “where” here means the country or the nation. In this matter, the country and the nation is Indonesia. We need to look at this problem by asking, “Why does Indonesia reject Lady Gaga’s concert?” Many newspapers which I have read mentioning that this cancellation happened due to the hard-liners of Islamic Defenders Front in Indonesia in which their Islamic and religious teachings argue the police to ban her concert. Islamic people would consider that her songs show satanic rituals or dark things that would influence the youth. This is what some online newspapers inform. However, to me, this is not the case. Public only debates about religion, moral, and some other spiritual things. Controversies between Lady Gaga’s fans and religious parties would seem to lead this matter into cornering the Islamic Defenders Front as one of Islamic organizations in Indonesia. For people who live in the society where freedom is largely encouraged and supported, her concert would be “fine”. What matters to me is that Indonesia has its own uniqueness. It is still a developing country in which many of its citizens are living in poor condition. Numbers of people who are rich in this country are not so many. In fact, those people who bought Lady Gaga’s concert were not from Indonesia, but they were from other countries. 12.000 ticket buyers are not from Indonesia. (Click this link). My question is, “Did Lady Gaga know and recognize what and how Indonesia as a nation before making her videos? Did Lady Gaga know what Islam is?” I am sure that she did not. As a consequence of this, some people would view Indonesian Muslims as “backward” and “weird”. Nonetheless, this is not normal because those people who would dare to say this is because they use the mindset of someone who lived outside Islāmic or religious communities. Sadly, Indonesian Muslims become the victims of this. When the world know that the buyers of the ticket are largely not from Indonesia, they would reconsider before saying those words.
As a nation, Indonesia is a place where people are mostly muslims. Now, when we look at this matter, what Lady Gaga produced in her videos are largely contradicting with the principles of Islam. Surprisingly, it is not only contradicting with Islam but also with Christian. If only she made “fine” videos, Lady Gaga’s concert would be accepted to perform in Indonesia. Even though I understand with the meanings of the lyrics that we are “Born This Way”, somehow, different words would be interpreted differently by different cultures. Perhaps, I could not speak for all Muslims in Indonesia, but from what I understood about Indonesia, Indonesian people, especially those who are living in “poor” condition are not ready to welcome Lady Gaga. When I was still a little boy, I usually viewed artists from Hollywood and from overseas as people who are “woow!” They are cool and fantastic. This “woow” is actually built upon what I saw, not from what I understood through their songs. Well, unfortunately, speaking about a nation, we speak about the values of life in that nation. The concept of “freedom” where Lady Gaga’s songs are highly valued are not the same as in Indonesia. It is contextually different. The reality that is happening in Indonesia is that the concept of “freedom” is only when we could speak and argue about something. Indonesian seem do not believe in “absolute freedom”, or “you could do anything you want”. Life, in fact, does not provide “freedom” for individuals. Needing visa to enter the United States, for example, is the absolute fact that freedom does not exist. We have to pay our foods is the absolute fact that life does not support freedom for every individuals.
Many teenagers in big cities would probably agree that they like and enjoy the concept of freedom that Lady Gaga mentioned. These teenagers live in big cities where everything is available around them. However, please also bear in mind that Indonesia does not only consist of big cities but also smaller cities. In smaller cities where modesty and religion are largely performed, the visual image of Lady Gaga would be, “She is so sexy”, for the teenagers. I would say so because the numbers of teenagers who understand English are not so many. What they understand is what they see. They see Lady Gaga’s videos. They do not even understand the “context” of the songs. If what they see is what they believe, then, there are some doubtness arouse among Muslim parents in Indonesia about her songs. These parents would talk to Islamic organizations to voice their nervousness about the videos of Lady Gaga. Even without the existence of Lady Gaga’s videos, there have been many crimes happening in Indonesia. It seems to me that Indonesian people would like to handle this matter as well. They would think that the videos of Lady Gaga and her songs would add more violence to this country. The intention of Lady Gaga would be good in the frame of Western perspectives, but the way this intention is presented has been misinterpreted in Eastern perspectives. Why? It happens because Lady Gaga’s songs break the concept of cultural codes for different nations. Therefore, the point here is that the music and video should be made in line with the culture of the nation in which the music would be consumed. Since Lady Gaga’s musics and videos are made “within” the cultural mainstream of the United States where “freedom” is widely exposed, then, somehow, it might not work well in other countries, especially in “developing” countries, since those countries may have different ways of understanding the meaning of “freedom”. The United States is an advanced country where everything has been well-organized, while Indonesia is still emerging in various aspects. Therefore, I would view this as a scene where Indonesian are not “ready” with the concept of “freedom” that Lady Gaga has loudly acclaimed in her songs. Indonesia needs a longer process to come into the same concept of “freedom” in this matter. Indonesia needs to stabilize its domestic problems, then, “freedom” can happen. Of course, the “freedom” here is not the same as what Lady Gaga has informed. If most poor people are living in such bad conditions in Indonesia, how could such “freedom” can exist in Indonesia? Freedom, in a sense, is not free. You could have “freedom” when you have money. When you do not have money, will you be a slave to get your freedom? I don’t think so.
Now, let us look at Lady Gaga’s songs through Indonesian cultures. Every arts are created through the means of creativity that is strongly empowered by the heart, desire, mind, and experiences. Actually, there are many international artists who had performed in Indonesia, but why is not Lady Gaga? I would say, this is because of how her personalities is presented in the mass media worldwide. Some artists may produce works that are widely acceptable in the world, no matter how different and how diverse the listeners and the consumers are. For instance, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and Celine Dion. These singers are well-known in the world, not only from their songs but also from their personalities in their daily life. Public would imitate spontaneously what celebrities do in their life, especially from what they say in the mass media. The three divas above would always be “divas” both because of their talent in singing and their personalities. Their beauty speaks through their songs. When public would like to “know better” Lady Gaga, public would try to understand her through how media present her. Here, we could understand that “Different interpretations may occur in different readers and viewers”. Somehow, it is not about the award that the singer has achieved, but it is more about how close the singer with her fans through her habits. Songs may not work well if the singers show different things from their songs in their life. If the songs are about love, then, public would like to see if the singers are loveable people or not. Look Adelle with her song, Rolling In The Deep, for example. She is personally cool because the ways media present her is cool, too. If music could unite people altogether in the world, there should be no problem with “specific” people when they listen to the music of Lady Gaga. If there is a problem when people listen to the songs, there might be something wrong with the songs or videos. I myself would say that almost all Celine Dion’s songs speak to me. Her songs always encourage people to find and keep the beauty of love and peacefulness. In her life, Celine Dion is also a good and loving mother. Her songs seem framing her to be a good woman. Young girls would like to see her as the very best idol. When I listened to Lady Gaga songs, for some parts, I understand with the theme of “liberation” in her songs because I have learnt Western thought; however, since I was raised in the very traditional culture of Indonesia, I would think that Lady Gaga’s songs seem to invite teenagers into “liberation” actions where there will be more violent and brutal actions in getting what they want. The sense of “wilderness” in teenagers’ mind is still strong, until they have to learn to negotiate with their surroundings, especially the society. The society could not support freedom of every individuals if the individual could not work hand in hand with other people in the society. This is what all teenagers need to know. The sense of leadership could not be built through “freedom” per se, but through “mutual understanding and respect” of the differences that people may have in the society. I believe that in my “freedom”, there is freedom of other people, too. The multi-diversity that Indonesia has, especially with the five big religions and various cultures across the archipelago, has made this country developed into what people in the world perceive, “Country of Religions”. My question here, “What is the point of saying Indonesia is a country of religions? Is it a sort of judgmental opinion toward this country?” However, please also remember that when we speak about a country or a nation, we speak about every single individuals living and staying in that country. When we talk about individuals, the discussion would even be broader than it is.
The dispute about Lady Gaga’s concert should be a good time for people in the world to know and recognize Indonesia. This country is, indeed, unique. There are still many things that Indonesian government and civilians need to work together to handle their domestic problems outside Lady Gaga’s concert. Lady Gaga has nothing to do with these problems. However, Lady Gaga could still do her concert, if only, she could work together with the people and audience where the concert would be performed. Living in the society forced every individuals to be cooperative. If Lady Gaga would say “yes” for her concert in Indonesia and dared to “face the challenge” from what the Islamic Organizations in Indonesia wanted by having her concert in such a modest way, Lady Gaga would emerge as “Creative Lady”, not just the “Mother Monsters”. People who do not understand the context of this word “monsters” would respond negatively. Public would respond something different from this. If she is really an artist, she should have great flexibilities in performing her songs in different cultures. If she could do this, then, she could say that music unites “us” all. Music does unite us, but music is also a part of cultural arts, right? Music is a sense of personal taste. It is not about a nation. If music unites us all, music should be well-accepted in different cultures, too. See: Kenny G.
My hope for Lady Gaga is that she should be flexible in performing her songs, especially in her videos, if she would like to perform in different nations and different cultures. Many international artists understood this. For instance, I have watched Celine Dion did her concert by using a very beautiful outfit in Let’s Talk About Love. If Lady Gaga could do what I hope, this will teach the youth to respect individual differences in the society as well. Working together side by side with other people is very crucial than only speaking out loud about ourselves without respecting different things that other people may have. Unfortunately, Lady Gaga did not do this. Lady Gaga would seem to fight back. In turn, if all teenagers would do this, I predict that there will be chaos. The meaning of the word “patient in facing problems” would be lost. Everyone will fight and war cannot be avoided. She should have given great examples for her fans if she would like to do. Then, what I could see from this phenomenon is that Lady Gaga, through her personal actions in mass media, supports the actions of rebellion and violence. “Nakedness” is something that is avoided in Indonesia, especially by people living and walking in the street, because such thing is considered as the action of crazy people in Indonesia. If you are showing yourself in almost “naked” outfit, you would be considered crazy. So, what is the different between almost naked on the stage with almost naked on the street? Once again, I just hope that through this case, Lady Gaga could improve her professionalism as an artist. The good thing is that Indonesian people love Lady Gaga, personally, more than any other fans in the world. Indonesian people want to see Lady Gaga improve more, especially for her videos. The code is, “Dress well, don’t be almost naked. They do not understand completely what you said, because they only enjoy your sexy appearances on stage”. If Lady Gaga still performs this way, which means showing her nakedness, then, what the “specific people” assume about her is true. She is a rebel. For Lady Gaga, “Enjoy your unique tour worldwide, Lady Gaga! Hope to see you wearing many international traditional outfits so that you could become the most creative artist on earth, not just an artist that shows nakedness! We are born naked, but we know why we invent so many beautiful clothes and outfit, right? You are beautiful in the way who you are. Don’t let people look you down by consuming you as the object of sexual exploitation. There had been thousands of sexual victims before you, so let us fight for this. Protect your next generation. Don’t let them frozen in the dark and kill themselves. We need generation that can restore peace, tolerance, and love in the world, not rebels” Your ex-little monster in light. ^_^
“We know that we all are born “this way”. In life, we individually always have different ways and options to run our life. Be the leader in your life is important. Just don’t blame anyone if you have ever thought your life miserable. ” – Syayid
(Don’t call me extremist after reading this post. I am a scholar who concerns on empowering youth for global leadership. There is no such thing as the hard-liners group in Indonesia. We name them and they exist. Just name them as people who concern about moral, then, you will understand “why”)
The video of when Lady Gaga mentioned Indonesia in her concert in Singapore:
- Lady Gaga sends love to Indonesian fans – Palm Beach Post (pbpulse.com)
- Lady Gaga cancels Indonesia show after threat from Muslim extremists (guardian.co.uk)
- Gaga Cancels Sold-Out Concert Amid Threats (foxnews.com)
- Lady Gaga Indonesia concert cancelled – BBC News (bbc.co.uk)
- Lady Gaga ‘devastated’ over cancelled shows in Indonesia (arts.nationalpost.com)