During Suharto’s New Order regime, museums, monuments, history books, films, and other media were part of a massive government campaign against those who had been killed or imprisoned in the bloody aftermath of the September 30th Movement (G30S). After the fall of Suharto in 1998, numerous counter-narratives about the tragic events of 1965-66 appeared in literature, theater, and new media, especially shorts and documentary films.
My research adds the missing yet critical dimension of music to the collective memory of 1965-66. Music was not only a privileged site for self-expression and community formation in the New Order’s jails, but it has become central to political strategies of national reconciliation today. The memories of state-supported violence ring out more loudly than ever in the music of Dialita, a women’s chorus of former political prisoners, family members, and supporters that uses music to educate the younger generation. Working with contemporary musicians, Dialita has created new arrangements of songs that memorialize 1965-66 in public concerts, movies, television broadcasts, and sound recordings.
This paper addresses the following questions: How are ex-political prisoners, families, and supporters using music to “straighten out the history” (meluruskan sejarah) of 1965? How is music of 1965 and its aftermath being re-created by contemporary musicians in order to radically alter Indonesia’s collective memory?What are the local conditions of re-writing these stories about the past through music and sound? I will discuss several musical strategies being undertaken by Indonesians today toward cultural reconciliation (rekonsiliasi kultural) through music.