Icracked,
n 1996 the sidewalks of Jalan Raya Kuta1 were like lips:
broken, split open; a gaping frontier land of
which anthropology rarely spoke. Throughout the tour-
ist boom of the 1990s, these lips voiced Kuta’s edge, for
they raged with charged encounters between tourists and
street-side watch sellers, drug dealers, drivers, pimps, and
whores. Sucked to Kuta from neighboring islands, East
Java, or Lombok to seek their fortunes in this “Gateway of
Indonesia” (offi cial tourism publication-speak for “Bali”),
many of those who made a living on Kuta’s main street
slept fi ve to a room in boardinghouses on the back blocks,
but they spent the bulk of their days on the sidewalks. This
frontier land was pumped with
an angry optimism, a persistent
hope. At the southern end of
the street, punk jams chafed against the pop soundscape
emanating from the Hard Rock Cafe across the road.
Mohawks, feigned brawls, Bad Religion, metal spikes,
hefty jackboots, and leather jackets thrived.
The building where these punk jams took place was
the main hangout for members and fans of the Kuta-based
punk band Superman Is Dead. Superman Is Dead is cen-
tral to the narrative of this book, for its role in pioneering
the independent Balinese punk scene that emerged in the
late 1990s, largely inspired by the emergence of a pan-
Indonesian underground music scene around 1996. In that
year, distinctive styles of dress and posture associated with
punk and death metal subcultures became evident in the
streets of Java’s major cities: Malang, Yogyakarta, Bandung,
and Jakarta. The punk aesthetic was very textured, aggres-
sive, and sharp, and included mohawks, chains, jack-
boots, and leather accessories studded with metal spikes.
The plainer death metal style featured jeans, long hair,
and black t-shirts adorned with illegible band names.
Across Java, both styles could be seen at shopping malls
where, on Saturday nights, punk and metal enthusiasts
Introduction
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