For a style of music that prides itself on its youthful exuberance, punk rock has actually been around for a long time. Its original protagonists in the UK and America certainly gained a degree of notoriety for their anti-establishment antics. One its most vocal spokespeople, John Lydon, lead vocalist with the Sex Pistols, was the spiky-haired face glaring from all the British tabloids back in the 1970s. His band released singles that were deliberately provocative, including one ditty named ‘God Save the Queen' which poked fun at the UK's obsession with its monarchy. This reached the top of the charts in the same week as the Silver Jubilee (25 years) celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II.
The levels of hysteria that greeted the original wave of punk rock all those years ago seem rather quaint by today's standards. But there were certain aspects of the music and the lifestyles of its devotees that struck a chord, not only with subsequent generations, but with rock music fans right across the planet.
Many of the aspects of punk – driving guitars, heartfelt singing, thunderous rhythms – are appreciated by young rock fans 40 years after it was so denigrated in Britain and America. John Lydon and the other remaining Sex Pistols may well be heading inexorably toward their 60th birthdays, but punk rock is still being played by eager teenage bands somewhere in the world as we speak. And Indonesia is no exception.
The Far East cottoned onto punk much later than their Western counterparts. It didn't really reach Indonesia to any extent until the 1990s. There was a first wave of punk appreciation here that lasted for the first part of that decade. Bands begin to spring up with names such as Submission and Antiseptic, who were inspired by those incendiary records by the Sex Pistols, as well as other exponents of the artform, such as the Scottish band known as The Exploited. The latter proved to be so inspirational because their debut album was entitled ‘Punk's Not Dead', itself a clarion call to fans of the music to keep on going for the next 40 years!
A second wave of Indonesian punk rock got going around about 1996. This gained its inspiration from a punk ‘fanzine', or magazine for fans, originating in the USA. This went under the fetching title ‘Profane Existence'. At the same time, Indonesian youngsters latched onto a British anarchist punk band called Crass. Crass records were open challenges to the political status quo in the UK. This wave of punk appreciation coincided with a seachange in Indonesian public opinion that was opposed to the Suharto regime (which fell in 1998). Those Scottish punks The Exploited actually visited Indonesia on one famous occasion, playing their rabble-rousing music in Jakarta in 2006.
Certain members of the older generation still find it rather intimidating when young rock fans choose to wear outlandish clothes and dye their hair every colour under the Pacific sun. But most of the punk fans are content to listen to their favourite bands in relatively small, private venues, expending all their energies on jumping up and down on the spot (a ‘dance' craze imported from the original British punk scene, where it was known as ‘pogoing'). Thousands of these punk bands are springing up all over Indonesia. As one member of Indonesian band Cryptical Death said: “You can find punks all over the country. They're in Sumatra, Jakarta, Bali … everywhere. It's simply an expression of freedom. That's why people love it'.