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Thousands attend dangdut concert held by official in Central Java, despite revoked event permit

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The COVID-19 pandemic is evidently not a strong enough deterrent for some dangdut enthusiasts, as a concert held in Tegal, Central Java and organized by one of the city’s officials saw thousands turned up just last night.  

The official is Wasmad Edi Susilo, Deputy Chairman of Tegal City Council (DPRD), who was behind the concert held in South Tegal Field. According to a report from Kompas, most of the audience members didn’t observe any physical distancing and appeared maskless, though there were several who reportedly had their masks on and watched the concert from a distance. 

An audience member told the outlet that the dangdutan (local term for dangdut performance) was held from earlier in the afternoon.

South Tegal sub-precinct chief Joeharno said Wasmad had previously applied for a permit to hold a wedding and khitanan (circumcision party) event for his children since Sept. 1, which initially included a simple dangdut performance on a much smaller scale to entertain his guests. He also reportedly agreed to implement COVID-19 health protocols during the event.

However, that small dangdut show turned out to be a full-on concert with a big stage, which prompted authorities to immediately revoke the permit in hopes that Wasmad would not carry on with the event.

“Because the event was already prepared, therefore [Wasmad] stated that he will not involve the military and police for securing the event and he will be responsible for any risks that occur,” Joeharno said.

Though Joeharno said that the concert was technically illegal since it was held without any permit, no authorities went to stop the event, citing a limited number of police officers at the sub-precinct.

“We didn’t dare to forcefully stop the event considering our sub-precinct didn’t have significant enough members. Secondly, it would be unpleasant for us to go on stage to stop the concert by force,” Joeharno continued.

“We actually hoped that [Wasmad] had been wise enough to cancel the concert, but turns out he didn’t do it, and the event still carried on.”

Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo told local media yesterday that he had spoken with Wasmad regarding the event, saying that he’d found out about the concert from netizens who mentioned him on Twitter.

At the time of writing, Wasmad himself has yet to publish any statement regarding the concert, though Tegal Mayor Dedy Yon Supriyono has apologized to Ganjar. 

“I told him that [a situation like this] needs sensitivity from the leaders. If the event can be limited [to only a handful of invitees], we wouldn’t forbid it. Let’s adapt. But if it ended up like [last night], illegal and ignored [by authorities], it’s irresponsible. The mayor apologized to me earlier,” Ganjar said in Semarang today.

In late March, Tegal officially enforced a citywide lockdown, arguably the most drastic measure against COVID-19 in Indonesia at that time, as the central government had been rejecting the idea of shutting down all public activity at the time. As of today, Tegal has recorded at least 183 COVID-19 cases including 18 deaths. 

Dangdut is an onomatopoeia that describes the distinctive sound of the tabla drum, which is an essential component of any dangdut beat. Created in the 1960s, during the reign of the country’s founding father Sukarno (when western pop music like that of The Beatles was largely banned from the country), dangdut is a uniquely Indonesian music genre but draws extensively from Arabic, Malay and Indian (especially Bollywood) influences.

Also Read Dangdut king Rhoma Irama under scrutiny over singing at circumcision party amid pandemic

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