Tales of Southeast Asia’s Jazz Age: Filipinos, Indonesians and Popular Culture, 1920-1936
by Peter Keppy
Honourable Mention, the 2020 Bruno Nettl Prize, Society for Ethnomusicology
The exciting adventures of Filipino entertainer Luis Borromeo and the Javanese Miss Riboet, in vaudeville and Malay opera respectively, tell an important story of Southeast Asia’s 1920s Jazz Age. During a time of political turmoil, Borromeo and Riboet were leading figures in the development of a localised hybrid urban popular culture. Exemplary of the pioneering cultural brokers of the time, these two artists were among the first of the region's local pop culture celebrities. Audiences seized on this popular culture—situated somewhere between high art and banal entertainment—to engage with the modern, to channel emancipatory activities, to articulate social critique and to propagate an inclusive nationalism with a distinct cosmopolitan flavour, without being radically anti-colonial.
Leaning on cultural studies and fandom studies, popular culture is critically examined here as a social phenomenon of Southeast Asia’s emerging urban multi-ethnic middle-classes. This book opens up a critical history of a contradictory popular culture and the people and forces behind it, highlighting the profound societal transformations in early twentieth-century Southeast Asia.
“a compelling account of a fascinating period and individuals, at the dawn of modernity in the islands of Southeast Asia” – Ariel Heryanto
Fascinated with the peoples, cultures, politics and history of Southeast Asia, Peter Keppy has been studying Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines since the 1990s.
Publication Year: June 2019
288pp / 229 x 152mm 22 b/w images