Musical modernities: Princess Siti and the particularities of post islamist pop – Dr Bart Barendregt

Free Public Lecture, Melbourne – 22 November 2012

For decades Malaysia has been known as the home of contemporary nasheed, a musical approach that addresses questions about what it is to be a modern Muslim youth in Southeast Asia and how to reconcile piety with a ‘funky but shariah’ consumerist lifestyle. The popular song You Came to Me, performed by global Muslim celebrity Sami Yusuf and Malaysian singer Siti Nurhaliza, triggered fierce debates about he limits of pious stardom. Siti Nurhaliza shot to fame and transformed herself from ‘girl next-door’ to Southeast Asia’s number one pop princess. Her story highlights the ambiguities modern Malay Muslim performers now face, caught as they are between the global entertainment industry and the transnational Islamic community.

Dr Barendregt examines how modernity is musically articulated in a Muslim Southeast Asian context and how such articulations have challenged the secular public sphere. Islamic popular music stirs controversy among both orthodox Muslims and the Malaysian entertainment industry. Muslim Malay female artists are a particular target of public debates, but they are also key agents in defining an emergent Islamic chic.

About the speaker:

Dr Barendregt is an anthropologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands. He is affiliated with the Royal Institute for Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV-KNAW) where he is coordinating a four-year project funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).

This project, Articulation of Modernity, focuses on societal change through the prism of popular music, emphasizing the appeal of modernity rather than that of the nation-state. If offers a new way of studying Southeast Asia that foregrounds the movement of people, music, ideas, and technologies among the region’s cosmopolitan centres.

Date:  Thursday 22 September 2012

Time:  6.00pm-8.00pm

Venue:  RMIT City Campus, BMIT Building 80, Level 1, Room 2, 445 Swanston Street, Melbourne

RSVP:  by email to by 15 November 2012 (the lecture is free but bookings are essential)