Numpang Gandeng: Indonesian Underground Music Scene in Taiwan

Video Essay by Muhammad Irfan

Abstract: This video essay examines the underground music community among Indonesian migrant workers in Taiwan. I believe this underground music not only provides leisure for workers who enjoy this genre during their free time, but it also helps them integrate with the local scene and empowers them. Contrarily, their similar taste in music allows them to be recognized by the Taiwanese not merely as “migrant workers who can play music”, but more as part of the underground music community itself. The video is titled “Numpang Gandeng”. “Numpang” is an Indonesian term for temporarily staying in someone else’s house or vehicle, while “Gandeng” has two meanings. In Sundanese, a local dialect in West Java, it means noise, but in Indonesian/Javanese, it signifies “hand in hand”. Therefore, the title could be translated as “Making Noise in Another’s House” or “Hand in Hand in Another’s House”.”. I think this title and its meaning effectively convey the Indonesian migrants’ sentiments towards their underground music, which they play in a foreign land, Taiwan.

Keywords: Indonesian Migrant Workers, Underground Music, Subculture, Punk

Header image “Southern Riot” by Muhammad Irfan

Music serves as an emotional release for Indonesian migrant workers in Taiwan, helping them alleviate stress from their daily work routines, whether at or in factories. The music ecosystem among Indonesian migrant workers in Taiwan has been established for at least 20 years and continues to develop. They are not just consumers of this music; they are also the creators. Now, they not only have their own bands but also their own festivals, live venues, and even nightclubs.

Dangdut is a genre of music often played by Indonesian migrants. Besides that, they also play traditional music like Tarling or modern pop/rock . However, as a local music form, it only connects Indonesians in Taiwan and doesn’t include the Taiwanese. This makes their music scene largely Indonesian-centric, and it’s even more narrow within the Indonesian migrant worker community in Taiwan, excluding students or white-collar workers. The Taiwan government occasionally invites them to music events, but these are still primarily intended for an Indonesian audience. Essentially, this music scene circulates exclusively among Indonesians in Taiwan.

A different situation is observed with Indonesian migrant worker bands in Taiwan who play underground music, specifically punk and metal. Based on my observations of these Indonesian punk and metal bands from the migrant worker community in Taiwan, their music gives them a chance to blend into the local underground music scene due to their shared interests. They get opportunities to perform at the same festivals as locals and share their work with local underground music audiences. They can even participate in demonstrations and voice their demands through their songs.


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