Hellhouse & Indonesia’s Hip Hop Movement

Here’s something I wrote for my blog Creatives in Java

D.P.M.B from Jogja, source supplied

Since its emergence in the South Bronx in the 1970s, hip-hop culture has spread across the world. Although hip hop culture is increasingly being commercially appropriated by the music industry, for the artists involved with Indonesia’s Hellhouse Community, the elements and origins of hip hop remain central to their passion for the art form.

The Hellhouse community of artists is one of several major hip hop communities connected to the growing hip hop scene in Indonesia. Comprised of DJs, rappers, beatmakers, breakdancers, producers and graffiti writers, Hellhouse also have a studio based in Jogja where they produce music and run events from.

Alex Sinaga, also known as beat-maker, producer and rapper from D.P.M.B, described Hellhouse as beginning simply as a group of friends “who were equally were into hip hop, which continued to grow to become a large community”. Sharing a “love particularly for old school hip hop”, which the artists often reference through their music, the community continued to grow.

In the Indonesian context however, artists also incorporate traditional music and messages into their lyrics and beats. For Alex and his friends, “it’s always been important to incorporate local culture in the music, including in beats, because it makes the work accessible and relevant to young Indonesians and also helps bring it to life”.

While the stories shared through performance reflect some of the frustrations of youth dealing with economic uncertainty, the pressures of traditional social and religious expectations, the Hellhouse community continue to challenge perceptions that hip hop is associated with thuggery, or about copying an “American culture fad”. Various community leaders from a range of social and religious backgrounds provided endorsement for the group’s activities and the recent opening of the Hellhouse store in Jalan Wijilan in the vicinity of the Kraton Palace in Jogjakarta.

The Hellhouse community exist because of a hop, and a dedication to creating positive movements through music. As Sinaga elaborated however, “Hellhouse is not here to teach about hip hop culture to other friends, but about the process of sharing the love of the art, and of learning and growing together”.

While the crew Hellhouse may have “formed naturally from a shared love of the same music”, from the outside, it appears Hellhouse has become a platform for the hop movement in Indonesia. Sinaga shrugged at this proposition however, suggesting instead that the hip hop communities of Indonesia exist as “a larger family”. The notion of Hellhouse being a “platform” is not really accurate because “basically we don’t care so much about the entity of Hellhouse per se. That is just our community. The Hellhouse crew, and the broader hip hop movement of Indonesia cares more about what we can give through hip hop and naturally, that will always bring us together”.

Kate Grealy

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