Maybe God is a hipster and loves hipsters
HAVE YOU HEARD THAT members of the veteran indie bands Rumah Sakit, Pure Saturday (PS) and The Upstairs have decided to become Salafi Muslims? How weird is that?
They didn’t just choose to turn religious like Rhoma Irama, Gito Rollies, Opick and other mainstream artists; they chose to embrace Salafism — a branch of Sunni Islam that considers music, even the majority of Islamic music or nasyid, to be
haram (un-Islamic). I wonder why. Is it because they are part of indie culture? Is it because they were once hipsters?
Ok, I don’t know them and I’m not writing this to judge anyone. I do not know of their personal struggle, nor do I know about their individual taste in music. I don’t know if they have ever considered themselves to be hipsters either.
I do know for sure that these bands never signed a contract with Ahmad Dhani’s Republik Cinta Management. It’s true they are mainstream now and you may argue that “real” hipsters don’t listen to them anymore, but there is little doubt they were among the best acts to have been birthed by the local independent music scene.
So there is probably a difference here. I mean, consider Rhoma, the king of dangdut. He’s an icon of the country’s lowbrow, plebeian music genre and, when he turned religious, he became the regular polygamous
ustad we’re all familiar with. Sakti from Sheila on 7 joined Jemaat Tabligh, the Islamic equivalent of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He quit the band but, like Rhoma, he did not quit music. He just stopped writing songs about heartbreak.
In the mainstream music scene it has become the norm for artists to turn religious. Melly Goeslaw is donning a hijab? Good for her. Rossa wore a headscarf and took it off again? That’s fine.
But when a member of a prominent indie band, whose music has become part of your life, suddenly turns into a religious puritan, you can’t help but feel a pang of cognitive dissonance. It just seems counterintuitive and out of character.
The worst part, for some music fans, myself included, is due to the fact that music is often an alternative to religion. So when musicians decide to renounce music, you can’t help but feel a little betrayed.
Well, maybe I’m being dramatic but is this phenomenon unique to the Indonesian indie scene? Bob Dylan turned religious and wrote “Not Dark Yet”. Ahmad Dhani went through that religion phase and wrote “Kuldesak”, also a decent song.
But when an Indonesian indie musician turns to religion, fans receive a sleekly designed invitation to a pengajian (religious assembly) on why they need to abandon music altogether and embrace the fatalism of strict Islamic monotheism (Semakbelukar is an exception, but that’s another story).
I’m not saying that this is wrong per se; people have the right to believe in anything they want. But when I heard that several local indie musicians had joined an Islamic group called The Strangers al- Ghuroba that has all the hallmarks of the Salafi movement, I couldn’t help but compare their choice in Islamic school of thought with their choice of music genre.
In 2014, I wrote a blog post on how the Salafis are the real hipsters or hipster
kaffah for distancing themselves from mainstream Muslims. They are glad to be labeled as strangers or al-ghurobaa, as prophesied by the Prophet. In the secular world, with their crazy outfits, hairstyles and baby names, who is more weird or strange than the hipster? That blog post was meant to be a joke, but I didn’t know that these indie musicians, once labeled as hipsters, could actually join a group named Al- Ghuroba.
Again, I don’t intend to judge anyone. It is likely that they are sincere in their quest for spiritual comfort, but I think the brand of Islam they selected befits their personal history as former anti-mainstream, indie musicians. Who knows? Maybe in the Salafi world, God is a hipster and loves hipsters.