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Aceh: A Mecca for Musicians

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Download Aceh is the furthest west part of Indonesia and because of the region’s strong Muslim roots it’s called “the Veranda of Mecca”.

More recently though the capital Banda Aceh has become another Mecca of sorts...for local musicians.

When correspondent Julia Simon went to Aceh last month she found Banda Aceh brimming with young talent, and she sent this audio postcard...


If anyone’s a celebrity in Banda Aceh, it’s this guy.

“Salam Alaikum saya Rafly, lahir di Aceh.”

That’s Rafly. Born and raised here, Rafly has been called “the voice of Aceh”.

He learned Acehnese traditional music from his parents and says it was only natural that he learned in the home.

“Acehnese people play music anywhere, anywhere.”

Rafly says Acehnese are different than the others. When they sing, he says, they have soul from inside.

“Aceh berbeda, Ada ruhh ada energy dari dalam.”

In Banda Aceh I also met 28-year old Acehnese singer Ronny. He’s not famous like Rafly, but he’s quite a talent: he too sings and plays his guitar with soul.

But Aceh isn’t just distinguished by its soulful singing– it’s distinguished by its laws.

Aceh is the only part of Indonesia under Sharia law. That means lots of rules including no boys and girls hanging out in private and no immodest dress.

To enforce those rules is the local policing group, the Wilayatul Hisbah.

Samsuddin is the head of the group. He says music is a part of life here.

“I don’t play music but I love to listen to it. If coffee is a part of a part of our culture here, music is much more. We have an arts council in Aceh: and we have to support them.”

And another thing supporting the growth of local Acehnese music is the growing number of coffee shops.

30 –year-old Andri Gapi says in the past...

“There were a lot of Bands in Aceh but they just play at the events like the music festival. Unlike today we just go to the coffee shop on the Saturday night or every week they have music there.”

When I met Andri, he was at a coffee shop, practicing for a gig in another coffee shop.

Andri’s in a band called Left4Right. Here he’s playing his favorite song “Till there was you”.

Andri explains Left for Right only plays the Beatles, and there’s a reason.

“The reason we play the Beatles we see many bands in Banda Aceh  play Indonesian music and Acehnese music why can’t the Acehnese boys like us playing something else, something more famous like the Beatles."

"It’s like controversial most of the people really accept their culture, a lot of people don’t want to accept western music they don’t even want to accept Indonesian music - just Acehnese. Sometimes I feel so awkward being on the stage playing Beatles songs, it’s a stronghold belief of culture.”

Samduddin of the Wilayatul Hisbah is one of those Acehnese who says that he prefers local music over Western music.

“We in Aceh like the music more if it’s Islamic, We don’t like Grammy music.”

But Andri’s bandmate Agi, says he doesn’t care what other people think of Left4Right’s music. He just loves to play.

“As long as I can play music, I love it. I don’t care what people say why you play Beatles. It’s old, dorky. It’s from the 60s. It’s 2011 now. I don’t care. As long as I can play music and have fun. That’s all.”

And with all the applause at a recent Left4Right concert, it seems a lot of other young Acehnese like the Beatles and just want to have fun, too.



1) Verrandah of Mecca: Serambi Mekkah

 2) Audio postcard: kartu pos audio 

3) immodest: tidak sopan atau tidak atau tidak layak

4) gig: pekerjaan yang berhubungan dengan musik

5) applause: tepuk tangan

6) awkward: kaku, canggung

7) bandmate: teman satu band

8) dorky: norak

9) stronghold: tempat dimana dapat pendukung terkuat

10) brimming: dipenuhi


1) What are the names of the young musicians in this story and which part of Indonesia are they from?

2) Where to these young people peform?

3) Why does the band Left for Right only play Beatles songs?

4) How did the audience respond to their peformance?

5) What makes Aceh different compared to other parts of Indonesia?

সর্বশেষ আপডেট ( বুধবার, 16 মার্চ 2011 18:28 )  

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