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IASPM Monthly Online Research Seminars

Posted: February 4th, 2021 | Filed under: News | No Comments »

IASPM Research Seminar February


Wed, February 17, 2021
21:00 – 22:00 Kuala Lumpur time; 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM GMT; Midnight for Sydney; 08:00 in New York

ADIL Johan will present the February IASPM Online Research Seminar, which is hosted by the IASPM South East Asia (SEA) branch, on the subject of “Conceptualising an Intimately Connected Nusantara: The Rock Kapak Phenomenon of the 1980s and 1990s”.

Malay rock & roll circulated in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia as early as the 1960s and flourished from the 1970s onwards to the 1990s. Inter-regional music exchanges were frequent across national borders. The Singaporean band Sweet Charity’s hit song “Kamelia”, released in 1980, was a cover of Indonesian singer-songwriter Ebiet G. Ade’s song “Camelia 2”. In 1989, the Malaysian glam metal band, Search, achieved a feat rarely achieved by their counterparts by breaking into the Indonesian popular music market, selling over one million units of their album Fenomena. Following that, they became a popular culture phenomenon in Indonesia, successfully exporting the Malaysian brand of glam metal colloquially termed rock kapak (lit. “axe rock”) across the region. Their success set the stage for further inter-Nusantara collaboration, such as a feature-length film titled Isabella (1990), that starred the band members and was shot, produced and released in Indonesia. Through a historiographical exploration of rock in the region, I hope to reveal how analysing popular music in an intimately connected Malay world offers an epistemological means to conceptualize the ‘Nusantara’ as a maritime space of fluid identities, affinities and contestations. Listening to Malay rock kapak as a regional phenomenon also unearths the intercultural intimacies of Nusantara youth in an increasingly urbanised and globalised context, rooted to local expressions of sentimentality and narrations of the social anxieties experienced in a period of rapid economic development during the 1980s and 1990s.

Keywords: Rock Kapak; Glam Metal; Malay world; Nusantara; intercultural intimacies

ADIL Johan is a Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer at the Institute for Ethnic Studies, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. His research analyses aspects of popular music in the mass media that intersect with issues of interculturalism, cosmopolitanism, intimacy, affect and gender, focussing on the Malay world and Southeast Asia. His recent publications include: Cosmopolitan intimacies: Malay film music of the independence era (NUS Press, 2018); “Cosmopolitan intimacies in Malay performing arts and literature: An introduction” (Special Section Editor), Journal of Intercultural Studies 40(4) (2019); and “Malaysian popular music and social cohesion”, Kajian Malaysia 37(2) (2019). He is also co-editor for the volume, Made in Nusantara: Studies in popular music (Routledge, 2021). He recently collaborated with the Cultural Economy Development Agency (CENDANA) to produce Malaysia’s first Klang Valley Independent Music Ecosystem Map. He performs and records as a saxophonist for Azmyl Yunor Orkes Padu and Nadir.

IASPM Research Seminar March 2021


Organised by IASPM Norden, with speaker Thomas Hilder of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology
25th March 2021, 18:00 CET, IASPM Norden,


Transgressive Pedagogies in the Musicological Classroom

“The classroom remains the most radical space of possibility in the academy,” according to eminent feminist scholar bell hooks (1994: 12). How, thus, do we harness the potential of the classroom in our role as music educators, public intellectuals, and cultural advocates? In this presentation, I share stories of my own experiences of teaching at NTNU and my aspiration toward hooks’ notion of transgressive pedagogy (1994). What curricula and teaching materials connect with today’s students? How can the activities and pedagogical strategies we employ create transformative spaces? What are the practical and ethical challenges and potentials we encounter in the musicological classroom? My discussion addresses debates on decolonising academia, mental health pandemics, and the neoliberalisation of the university. Drawing on critical feminist, queer, and anti-racist pedagogies, I hope to pose pressing questions about what it means to be a music scholar in the 21st century.

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