'Dangdut' singer Inul is too hot for many Indonesia?
Bambang Nurbianto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Over the past few weeks, up-and-coming female dangdut singer Inul Daratista has sparked controversy for the way she gyrates on the dance floor on TV.
Her latest two-hour show broadcast by a private television station on Thursday was protested by the Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI) on Friday, saying the way she dances was not fit for public viewing.
"It is none our business if it happens in a private place like a karaoke hall, but we are concerned about her appearance on television as many people can watch her," MUI chairman Amidhan told The Jakarta Post on Friday.
Apart from the controversy, Inul has emerged as a phenomenon. Hers is the classic story of a nobody in the pop world who rises to stardom.
Born on Jan. 21, 1979, the singer from the small village of Gempol, Pasuruan in East Java, began to test the waters a few years ago when VCDs of her performances were taken by an amateur cameraman, who then circulated them in a number of Asian countries, before they were released in Indonesia.
Following the foreign circulation of the VCDs, Inul's popularity skyrocketed beyond her expectations.
"Up to now, I can't believe that people consider me a phenomenon because of my dancing," said Inul, who started her career first as a rock singer in the 1980s.
Inul was paid Rp 3,500 (US 40 cent) per show when she turned to dangdut. She moved from one village to the next to perform.
In more recent times she claimed that her income had ballooned to Rp 700 million ($78,500) per month, until tax officials knocked on her door. Her manager quickly rectified the figure.
Amid boisterous cheers from her fans, religious leaders have slammed her, calling her performances "immoral".
Religious leaders in East Java have also advised the singer to change the way she dances. Yogyakarta administration has banned her from performing in the province.
"A report of a man raping a girl after watching Inul dance is evidence that the way she dances is not fit for public viewing," Amidhan said.
But not everyone looks at Inul in a bad light. A number of private television stations consider her a gold mine that attracts both advertisements and viewers.
President Megawati Soekarnoputri's husband, Taufik Kiemas, recently asked her to pose with him for a photo after the shooting of his program at a television studio.
The photograph of Taufik and Inul could be seen on detik.com internet newsportal, and further fueled controversy about her.
The National Awakening Party (PKB) has reportedly asked her to be a lead campaigner for the party in the run-up to 2004 elections.
East Java, where Inul comes from, is one of PKB strongholds.
Budi Susanto, a researcher of cultural issues from the Yogyakarta based-Realino Studies Institution (LSR), said that because Inul was such a phenomenon, she was prone to public controversy.
He said Inul could not be accused of immorality.
"Don't link a music performance to religion as the people who watch the show don't think about religion when watching her perform," Budi told the Post by phone from Yogyakarta.
"A figure like Inul always attracts many people, therefore I am not surprised that a party wants to recruit her."
Controversy is likely to continue to surround Inul because the MUI has categorized her dancing as haram, although Amidhan said his organization would not issue an edict on Inul.
"We issued an edict on pornography on July 22 last year. Based on our observation, Inul's dancing could be categorized as pornography, but it is up to the people to form their own opinion about the controversy," said Amidhan.