Lifestyle World

10 of the Most Popular Indonesian Cultures That Went International

Irina Jusuf
Written by Irina Jusuf

1. Batik

Batik in Indonesia, has been established as a Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO Oral and non-material, on October 2, 2009. Since then, every October 2, Indonesia always commemorates National Batik Day. Initially, batik was first introduced to the world by former President Soeharto who was wearing a batik garment at the UN Conference.

Batik is both an art and a craft, which is becoming more popular and well known in the West as a wonderfully creative medium. The art of decorating cloth in this way, using wax and dye, has been practised for centuries. In Java, Indonesia, batik is part of an ancient tradition, and some of the finest batik cloth in the world is still made there. The word batik originates from the Javanese tik and means to dot.

To make a batik, selected areas of the cloth are blocked out by brushing or drawing hot wax over them, and the cloth is then dyed. The parts covered in wax resist the dye and remain the original colour. This process of waxing and dyeing can be repeated to create more elaborate and colourful designs. After the final dyeing the wax is removed and the cloth is ready for wearing or showing.

2. Wayang (Puppet)

The original performing arts of Indonesia that developed in Java and Bali have been known for hundreds of years. Existing Balitung inscriptions from the 4th century proves the existence of wayang at the time, with the note “Galigi Mawayang”. Currently, there are several types of Wayang that are growing in popularity throughout the region, such as Wayang Kulit, Wayang Golek, and Wayang Orang which includes a story. On November 7, 2003, UNESCO also recognized Wayang as a spoken art culture of Indonesia in the list of “Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”. Even now, you can still watch it on television or in art culture events. In fact, some programs on private television stations also often air a Wayang Orang show, interspersed with humor to make it more appealing, entertaining,  and less old fashioned.

3. Reog

This type of art is full of mystical and supernatural elements mashed together. Reog is a traditional performance coming from Ponorogo, East Java and generally shows the figures “Warok” and “gemblak”. A very popular Reog story is the tale of one man from the Majapahit Empire in the 15th century, named Ki Ageng lice who raised public support for a rebellion by using Reog.

4. Angklung

The angklung is a musical instrument originating from Indonesia made of two to four bamboo tubes attached to a bamboo frame. Originally, angklung was played to call Dewi Sri (the goddess of rice) to come down to Earth, so the plants could flourish. Until now, this traditional musical instrument from West Java is still frequently played and shaken in various traditional ceremonies and national activities. In fact, angklung is also listed in the UNESCO as one of the “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”, since November 2010.

5. Pendet Dance

This sacred nuanced dance has now evolved into a ”welcoming” dance, as a result of the creation of one artist from Bali named, I Wayan Rindi. During ancient times, this dance was performed as a ritual at the Hindu and Pura house of worships, but now, Pendet is performed as a tribute to the guests in the Indonesian cultural events.

6. Keris

Keris is an Indonesian traditional weapon which is believed to contain supernatural powers. This asymmetrical dagger was normally used by the royal family as an antique weapon. Keris itself has been used since the 9th century and is made of quality metal, even the oldest of the keris are made of metal from meteorites that fell on Earth. According to researchers, the keris contains metallic elements of titanium, a material that was new in the 20th century and was used as a coating material for space vehicles. The keris hilt is usually made of bones, horns, or wood. UNESCO declared keris as a part of the “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” on November 25, 2005.

7. Saman dance

The Saman Gayo dance is a tribal dance usually displayed to celebrate important events in custom ceremonies. The lyrics used in the Saman dance is a combination of Arabic and Gayo. In some literature states, the Saman dance of Aceh was established and developed by Sheikh Saman, a scholar who came from Gayo in Aceh Tenggara. The Saman dance is quite a unique performance, because it only shows the motion of applause and other movements. The names of the movement in the Saman dance are guncang, kirep, lingang, and surang-saring (all the movement names are taken from the Gayo language). The Saman of Gayo Lues dance and surrounding areas in Aceh Province were officially recognized and included in the list of cultural heritage (non-objects) that requires UNESCO protection in the annual grand session attended by more than 500 delegates from 69 countries, international NGOs, cultural experts and media in Bali on November 22 to 29, 2011.

8. Kecak dance

The Kecak dance commonly referred to as “Cak (smack)” or the Fire Dance, is performed with as many as 150 dancers for entertainment. The dance is an artistic and dramatic dance. The dance, Kecak (pronounced [ˈketʃaʔ], alternate spellings: Ketjak and Ketjack) is a form of Balinese dance and music drama that was developed in the 1930s in Bali, Indonesia. Since its creation, it has been performed primarily by men, with the very first women’s kecak group starting in 2006. The forms of “Sacred” in Kecak is usually shown in terms of a psychic trance that leaves the dancers immune so that they do not burn when dancing by the fire. Unlike other dances that use gamelan as a musical accompaniment, the Kecak dance performances only combines the art of sounds that come from the mouth or cries such as “cak cak cak cak”, so that’s why this dance is called Kecak.

9. Jali-jali Song

Some groups believe that the Jali-jali song was born, developed, and popularized by the Chinese people who lived in the area of Jakarta through their traditional music, gambang kromong. However, the matter was perceived differently by native Betawi people who thought the song was born out of the Betawi people. The name Jali-jali is a kind of herbaceous plant that is always there in the yard of the Betawi people. Since childhood, the Betawi people were already familiar with the plant Jali-jali. They often made the fruit into a toy rifle with bullets made from bamboo slats and rubber bands.

10. Rasa Sayange Song

Rasa Sayange is a folk song from Maluku that’s been sung for generations since ancient times, as an expression of love for the environment and socialization among people of Maluku. If you listen to this song, the lyrics sound like a poem or rhyme being shouted.  Unique Indonesia a must visit to explore all the rich culture. (By: Irina/various sources)

About the author

Irina Jusuf

Irina Jusuf