It’s not too difficult to see the influence that Korean pop music has had here. K-pop clone SMASH, for example, saw its first single shoot to the top of the music charts.
But K-pop’s influence has raised questions about the originality and creativity of the local music industry. Today, music producer Dino Raturandang, who put together the nine-member girl band Cherry Belle, talks about where the Indonesian music industry is headed, and explains how ‘I-pop’ does more than just mimic music and dance moves from South Korea.
First of all, tell us about what you do.
I promote and produce music. I’ve been doing it since ’99, and along the way I’ve bounced from one major label to another. Apart from that, I’ve also put together some well-known local bands such as SHE, Andra and the Backbone and recently Cherry Belle, who just launched their first album in August.
Tell us about the local music industry and where it’s headed.
The way I see it, there are always new trends that sweep through our music industry. A few years back the Malayan music genre was totally dominating the nation’s charts. There were lots of local bands that adopted mellow Malayan melodies and tunes. But now, the era of K-pop has taken over the industry. It’s not hard to see why K-pop can influence songs and turn them into hits. For example, all the K-pop-influenced musical acts offer the audience attractive elements like catchy songs, dynamic dance moves and cute boys and girls in the bands. How can you not like them?
What triggered K-pop’s overwhelming influence on our music industry?
The Indonesian boy band SMASH could be called the X-factor that contributed to the rise of K-pop here. When SMASH appeared in front of an audience for the first time, I remember how people mocked them for copying Korean boy bands. But ironically, in Indonesia, bad publicity can actually be good publicity. The more people mocked them, the more SMASH turned into a controversy, which helped boost their popularity. Now SMASH is a sensation and has even made it onto television. The media — television, especially — can really help because people are curious. Television is visual and it sells anything that can catch people’s eyes, and K-pop wannabe boy bands have everything a TV show needs.
Do you think this trend will continue?
I think it will, because the entertainment industry will always have room for entertainers with attractive stage acts in addition to catchy and good songs.
How are these kinds of bands received outside of big cities like Jakarta? Do people in smaller towns have the same musical tastes?
So far it’s been good. The response from people outside Jakarta has been very positive. Most Indonesian musicians offer universal musical tastes that suit pretty much everyone, regardless of where they live. I do realize that our market is not limited to Jakarta.
One of the bands you promote, Cherry Belle, seems very much like a Korean girl band. Did K-pop fever play a part in putting the band together?
Yes, it did, you can easily tell that. I’ve always been a fan of Korean girl bands. I admire their stage acts. I came to realize that the dance choreography is the biggest detail in becoming a hit. That thought led me to create a musical group like a Korean girl band. I wanted to create something that will last a long time in the industry. And I figured in order to have some impressive choreography, I would need more people in the band, so that’s why there are nine girls in Cherry Belle. These nine girls are the chosen ones. They managed to pass a super-tough audition to get into the band.
How do you respond to criticism that all your bands do is mimic K-pop groups?
Well, K-pop itself is actually a result of an evolution from Japanese pop. However, K-pop captures a wider audience with its beats, lyrics and costumes. While J-pop remains the original, it only suits Japanese music fans. These days, I think artists have gotten to the point where instead of creating new music, we build on an existing musical genre. Then the genre starts to evolve. Indonesian musicians being influenced by K-pop are just another evolution of the genre. I suggest we call ours Indo-pop or I-pop. We don’t copy K-pop acts. We repackage them to suit Indonesian fans.
What can Indonesia’s music industry learn from Korea?
I think music labels and producers here need to learn the way Korean music labels and producers work, especially their devotion to developing the music industry. In Korea, musicians are never overnight sensations. They’re trained for years and years. They practice singing and dancing constantly to improve, which adds to their dedication to their music careers. That’s what a true entertainer is supposed to do. But here in Indonesia, labels and producers are geared only toward making fast money. They don’t bother with the quality of an artist. And things such as copyright regulations are still somewhat blurred here.
Dino Raturandang was talking to Irvan Tisnabudi.