Friday, March 6, 2009

Local TV

Els Bogaerts, a colleague of mine from my years as a postdoc at Leiden, is currently visiting Yogya, and together we attended the shooting of a TVRI Yogyakarta show dealing with current city issues at the invitation of the famed cross-dressing dancer Didik Nini Thowok.

The format was essentially a talk show with local government officials, interspersed with a small number of dance and vocal numbers accompanied by a 'kombinasi' band of Western rock and gamelan (saron and bonang). The show is shot live on the first Friday of the month in front of a live studio audience seated mostly around tables with red and white checked tablecloths. The studio was decked in much vegetation, giving the atmosphere of a beer garden.

This week the talk concerned the upcoming election - and among other things the voting form was explained in intricate detail. Most of the audience was made up of middle aged men - mainly TNI and Polisi types.

I found the excursion tedious on the whole, but it was interesting to see a world-class dancer like Mas Didik essentially volunteering his services (his 'honor' was only Rp 150.000) on a regular basis to local TV. He explained that tv made him famous and this was a way of repaying this debt. It also no doubt was useful for maintaining good relations with the local government. Mas Didik quickly put together a semi-improvised popular dance hybridizing jaipongan style moves with Western ballroom. The whole rehearsal for his number lasted about 10 minutes.

The other dancers - 3 young women and a man - received Rp 50.000 each. One explained that this barely covered transport and makeup costs, but that she enjoyed it as a way to cari pengalaman and socialise with her friends. The same dancer also performs at the Ramayana ballet at Prambanan and for weddings (where the 'honor' if not the 'honour' is much higher.) Their dance had them portray farmers on bicycles- rather trite, but well-executed.

The band was pretty good - but not that much better than many garage bands.

There are now so many tv stations available in Yogya (as well as cheap dvds, the internet etc) that it is hard to imagine who watches such a programme. One way to draw viewers is to include a star like Mas Didik - but they also had a call-in contest for Rp500,000 to gain a few hundred more viewers. (The winner had to say correctly when the pemilu would fall.)

Local tv indeed.

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