The Kelantan underground

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MARCH 19 — The erratic nature of my broadband Internet connection means that Irarely venture into the world of YouTube. It’s not because I don’t want to, but because I would just get frustrated waiting for the videos to slowly and painfully load.

I’m pretty sure a lot of people have been enjoying this phenomenon already. One of the highlights of the week for me is the discovery on YouTube of this phenomenon I’m calling “dikir dangdut” – videos of scantily-clad Malay girls singing cheesy Euro-disco inflected dangdut songs with Kelantanese accents. Some of the songs even have the word “dikir” in their titles, and vaguely sound like “dikir barat”, so I guess it wouldn’t be too wrong to call them “dikir dangdut.”

For those of you who haven’t seen these “dikir dangdut” videos, I’m sure you’ve heard or read about the Indonesian dangdut VCD phenomenon, sometimes just videos of “live” performances in a “fun fair”, recorded with a shaky handycam but selling thousands of copies on VCD, with so many cult stars, the most famous of whom is Inul Daratista. So just imagine that, but with a Kelantanese accent, and with stars with names like Rosalinda, Kajol and the deliciously-named Erna Permata Biru and Zaidi Buluh Perindu.

Like their Indonesian counterparts, the videos are clearly shot with a cheap camcorder, and are most probably edited using the cheapest editing software possible. Some of the songs are hilariously bad, the dancing stiff, and the singers not particularly good or even good-looking, but you’d still have to admit that some of the lyrics have the sort of inspired everyday-people truisms that only comes with folk music.

Lines like preferably wanting a virgin and young girl for a wife in “Rasa Nak Bini” (roughly translates as “Feel Like Getting A Wife”) as opposed to an older woman (“Kalau hok mudo baru selera, hok tua wat sakik kepala”), are hilariously offensive, but still reflects what most Malay men want.

I’ve been to night markets in Kelantan before, and I’ve noticed that they have a completely independent music scene there. There are CDs and VCDs of “dikir barat” singers everywhere, most of whom I’m sure people outside Kelantan have never even heard of.

And yet, as my Kelantanese friends tell me, these CDs and VCDs sell in the thousands, even now as CD sales for even the biggest mainstream stars are at its lowest point. I’m pretty sure that some of them even outsell Datuk Siti Nurhaliza, and all that with just selling CDs at night markets and shops in Kelantan, and I can’t even imagine how many of these “dikir dangdut” CDs and VCDs have been sold so far.

In the generous spirit of sharing, of course I shared the links of videos I found funniest on my personal Facebook page and my band’s Facebook page as well, jokingly referring to them as originating from “negeri Serambi Mekah” (something that the state of Kelantan proudly calls itself, as there are even huge billboards proclaiming this in the state).

What’s really funny was how quite a few people tried to distance Kelantan from the saucy videos by saying that the videos were made by Southern Thailand people, or that they were shot in Southern Thailand. Some even said I shouldn’t be using the “serambi Mekah” association because these videos are not Islamic and therefore it’s plainly inappropriate to do so.

Maybe I just have an inappropriate sense of humour, but don’t you think it’s refreshing that there are pop videos of scantily-clad Kelantanese girls, clearly shot in Kelantan (Zaidi Buluh Perindu’s video for “Rasa Nak Bini” even has the Kelantan flag proudly flying in the background, and I think I know the park where it was shot), being openly sold there and probably selling very well too?

Don’t you think it’s refreshing to see proof that there’s more to Kelantan than the cliché of “membangun bersama PAS”?

Of course the holier than thou people will look at all this with shame and righteous indignation, citing shame on the Malay race and the Muslim faith along the way.

To these people let me just say this — sinning doesn’t necessarily make you an infidel. It doesn’t even imply a lack of faith. And like I’ve always said before, who are we to play judge and God in this lifetime, especially in non-criminal and private matters.

To Rosalinda and all the “dikir dangdut” gang out there, you go girl!

* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.


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