Sun, 21 May 2000

Guesswhat: Alwi Sihab

As dangdut music filled the air in one of the rooms of the grand Shangri-La Hotel in Beijing, Minister of Foreign Affairs Alwi Sihab climbed onto the stage and danced joyfully to the tune.

He was joined by other Indonesian and Chinese officials, who cavorted and moved their hands in the specific style of the music to the song Ini Rindu (Missing You).

"I have enjoyed dangdut since I was a kid. Anyway, it is halal (allowed), isn't it," Sihab told reporters offstage.

On May 9 the Indonesian embassy in China held a reception to celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

A troupe of entertainers from Indonesia, including singers Rani and Angel Pfaff, entertained the audience with Indonesian traditional dances and songs. Butet, a traditional song from Sumatra, and Bengawan Solo from Central Java, were sung in Mandarin.

An Indonesian student said Butet was quite popular in Beijing.

"There is a cassette containing this song in Mandarin. I've heard it before on the radio," she said.

It remains to be seen if dangdut can become as popular in Beijing as Mandarin action flicks are in Indonesia. (sim)