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Indonesia’s Provocative Hip-hop MC

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Download Indonesia has the world’s second highest number of Facebook users in the world after the United States. 

In Indonesia, almost 80 percent of internet users engage in a social activity such as managing a social-network profile, writing a blog, or using Twitter.

Panji Pragiwaksono is a popular hip-hop artist who has harnessed this national obsession with social media to promote anti-corruption and anti-terrorist movements.

Rebecca Henschke met him in the studios of his weekly national television show called ‘Provocative proactive’.

“Hi can I speak to Curtis. Hey man I heard you are coming to Indonesia...yeah Bali is in Indonesia! Bali is an island in Indonesia not the other way around! No we don’t have civil war. No we have chemical weapons, where did you hear this? The news!!”

“I like the idea of challenging ideas and making people realize that what people believe isn’t always true. You have to always question yourself, question the news that you hear and everything else because a lot of people swallow what they hear, what they see on TV without ever processing so I like the idea of provoking."

Q. Because you went to university under the Soeharto era so there was a lack of freedom of expression and then that regime fell. What kind of dramatic changes have you witnessed in terms of what you can be provocative and talk about?

"I see and I feel that Indonesian people are really learning the true meaning of ‘freedom’ because before that for 32 years we couldn’t say anything, we couldn’t express our minds. Even if we did we would be vanished. Some big dudes in all black suits would pick you up and no would see you again.”

Q. Did you feel that at university, that pressure?

"Yes I was in the middle of everything and after that there was a rush of freedom and I don’t think we were ready for that kind of freedom. So we see students rushing on to the streets, demonstrations, but using violence so I think we are still learning about freedom. What I want to show is that we can use this freedom in another way; we don’t need to be demanding in a violent way we can use our minds and our mouths to ‘fight’.” 

So when Indonesia was rocked by terrorist attacks by local Islamic militants - first on the island of Bali in 2002 killing more than 200 people and then several deadly bombs in the capital Jakarta, Panji turned to hip-hop to fight back.

“This has to come up on to YouTube so one-way or another that means the world is listening! People around the world you have heard of the Jakarta bombing we know you are scared but we are here to tell you that the people of Indonesia are not afraid! We refuse not bow down to terrorism, the majority of Indonesians are peaceful just like your country."
“I refuse to believe that all Muslims in Indonesia are terrorists. There is a huge proportion of Indonesian Muslims who are people who believe in peace, who really love diversity and pluralism and I need to tell them we can’t be silent on this subject.”

This track ‘We are not afraid’ became the anthem for ‘Indonesia Unite’, a movement of young tech-savvy Indonesians.

In the wake of the last major Jakarta bombings in 2009 they flooded the social networking site Twitter and Facebook with short messages and decorated their usernames with red and white, the colors of the Indonesian flag.

As a result 'Indonesia Unite' became the number one topic worldwide on Twitter following the bomb blasts and remained in the top ten for weeks grabbing the attention of international mainstream media and turning into a wider people’s movement.

Facebook has exploded in Indonesia despite the fact that only an eighth of the country’s more than 200 million people have access to the Internet.  It has the second highest number of Facebook users in the world.

“Even before Facebook existed Indonesians really loved to socialize; we really love hanging out, meeting people and talking! Socializing is big in Indonesia. So when social media arrives whatever it is Facebook or Frienders before or, Twitter and Google - Indonesians are like ‘Ok this is another coffee shop to hang out at!” it’s because we just love to socialize.”

And it’s not just socializing that Indonesians are doing on Facebook but increasingly political activism.

Indonesia is often ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world by international watchdogs.

When two of the heads of the anti-corruption commission were framed by the police force a million Facebook supporters joined a campaign to support them and forced the President to step in.

Panji uses social media, rap and his television program to get young people to take action on corruption in partnership with the anti-corruption commission.

“I think I need to make the young people understand and want to know about politics and for that they need to really understand the problem at the heart of corruption. Because corruption is very complex and I want young people to understand all about it.”

Q. Does that include young people’s roles themselves in corruption?

"Yeah I mean it’s funny how young people, high school students or college students say they are against corruption but on the street they still pay off cops 50 thousand when they are about to get a ticket. So it’s kind of funny so I am telling them stop saying that you’re against corruption if you still feed cops with your money. It’s something that’s small but it’s something that needs to be said.”

It’s a few hours before Panji’s political talk-show ‘Provocative proactive’ is going to air in front of a live audience on Indonesia’s top news station.

On the stage a team of actors that Panji met via Twitter are running though the skits for tonight’s show that’s about street children. They deal with the issue in a humorous way.

Panji wanted to do this show after his own child quizzed him on why there were children begging on the streets of Jakarta.

“It’s too late to change Indonesia today but I what I am going to do is work very hard to change Indonesia in the future. I may not see it but I think my children will feel it.”

Panji Pragiwaksono an Indonesia hip-hop artist who has harnessed this national obsession with social media to promote anti-corruption and anti-terrorist movements speaking with Rebecca Henschke.

Last Updated ( Monday, 22 August 2011 09:45 )  

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