Women, the Recited Qur'an, and Islamic Music in Indonesia

Women, the Recited Qur'an, and Islamic Music in Indonesia

Women, the Recited Qur'an, and Islamic Music in Indonesia

Women, the Recited Qur'an, and Islamic Music in Indonesia


Women, the Recited Qur'an, and Islamic Music in Contemporary Indonesia takes readers to the heart of religious musical praxis in Indonesia, home to the largest Muslim population in the world. Anne K. Rasmussen explores a rich public soundscape, where women recite the divine texts of the Qur'an, and where an extraordinary diversity of Arab-influenced Islamic musical styles and genres, also performed by women, flourishes. Based on unique and revealing ethnographic research beginning at the end of Suharto's "New Order" and continuing into the era of "Reformation," the book considers the powerful role of music in the expression of religious nationalism. In particular, it focuses on musical style, women's roles, and the ideological and aesthetic issues raised by the Indonesian style of recitation.


The global implications
of a “PARTICULAR” ethnography

During a visit to Indonesia in October of 2004, I was trying to make the most of my last day in the country. After a week in the relative calm of East and Central Java, where I had toured with the Kiai Kanjeng ensemble, the return to Jakarta assaulted my senses. Although I had lived there for two years (1995–96 and 1999) and had returned for shorter visits on several occasions in 2003 and 2004, the intensity of the traffic seemed overwhelming after traveling around the Javanese provinces.

I was hoping to be on time for a gathering of alumnae and teachers from the women’s college, Institut Ilmu al-Qur’an (IIQ), who were commemorating the death of Ibrahim Hosen, the founder and former director of the institution. Part of the memorial gathering, I was told, would be the collective recitation of the entire Qur’an. Khatam al-Qur’an, as performed in this particular setting, entails the recitation of the entire Qur’an by thirty reciters all at once. Although I had heard khatam al-Qur’an before and had recorded it in 1999 at the home of Ibrahim Hosen, the wonderful cacophony of thirty voices, each one reciting one of the thirty parts (juz’) of the Qur’an in a fast melodic patter, was something worth witnessing again. I made my way to Ciputat in a taxi from Depok, where I had met with some singers that were part of an Islamic music festival.

As I approached the house on foot, I could hear that the khatam al-Qur’an had finished just as I arrived. I was disappointed, but I was also hungry, and I knew that there would be refreshments at the event as well as several old acquaintances . . .

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