Indonesian punk culture fights back against oppressive political structures and provides an outlet for the misfits of society. It’s a unifying, rebellious assemblage that takes inspiration from the early 70s and is often characterized by mohawks, leather and piercings. According to Jeremy Wallach, “the fundamental stylistic features of punk music and fashion are thought to be unchanged since the dawn of the movement.”  This culture is enduring and spreads like wildfire across a multitude of continents and civilisations.
Many will argue that the Sex Pistols and the Ramones were the true fathers of punk rock. While the Ramones lay down the foundation of the sound with loose lyrics and hard-hitting percussion, the Pistols attacked deeper political themes. These bands inspired millions of wannabe rockstars and hopeful musicians, who copied their style of dress, values and unruly behavior. But it’s not just about breaking the rules and causing chaos; many bands focus on poverty, environmental destruction, the immorality of the government and fighting constrictive political regimes. NTRL’s song “Gak Asik!” combines head-banging guitar riffs and percussion with lyrics that highlight the destructive nature of the government system, stating “corruption is not cool.” Although it may seem rough from an outsider’s perspective, the music is frank and progressive.
Karli states that “punk is like a gateway drug. A portal to countercultural ideas and radical politics.” There are 2 subsets of punk in Indonesia – the posers who dress up in punk gear and set out to break laws and cause havoc – the “street kids” – and the moral, ideological community more concerned with political freedom and activism. Authorities tend to class these communities together, assuming the worst of anyone clad in leather and piercings. In 2011, the Indonesian province of Aceh pronounced punk to be “the new social disease,” ostracizing the community. They illegally arrested and detained 64 punks at a concert before they were forced to attend a moral re-education camp.
But punk music isn’t just about causing fights, it’s about defending one’s beliefs and finding a place where there is none in mainstream society. Maria Pro sums up the archetypal punk as an “anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian, autonomous and independent son of a bitch.” This culture embraces the outsider; becomes a “place of refuge from families who don’t understand the aspirations of their youth, and from a society preoccupied with other issues.” [Pickles 2000].
John Harris suggests that people like punk because it is an expression of freedom, and is always far from the primary culture.  It’s a way for lost souls to define themselves and find a place in a community amongst a more complex, globalised, post-authoritarian reality.
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Handayani, E. (2016). Muslim punks in mohawks attacked: Punks in Indonesia are persecuted but still manage to maintain a culture which stands up for difference. Index on Censorship, 45(4), pp.39-43.
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