Music and Spiritualism

Music is like oxygen or language. It’s everywhere. And it has a fluctuating relationship with Muslim communities, though it is often a vehicle for preaching, personal and cultural expression, and spiritual journeys. Great scholars like al-Ghazali and al-Farabi had a special interest in music. In Indonesia, there are musicians like Rhoma Irama, Bimbo, and Nasida Ria. Within the rohis (Islamic religiosity) movement, there are various kinds of nasyid–Islamic-themed instrumental songs. Even on the occasion of Ramadan, famous bands have had religious albums, such as Gigi and Ungu. Music became an oasis of spiritualism, including as a symbol and da’wah.


However, of course many Muslims reject music, especially musical instruments. We can see such an example in Khuda Kay Liye (Pakistan, 2007) or The Perfect Candidate (Saudi Arabia, 2019), which opened the 2022 Madani International Film Festival. This Saudi Arabia’s official representative film for the Academy Awards reveals the dynamics of musicians in the Middle East. Hopefully, the selected films in this program can ignite a discussion that’s more than just fiqh-oriented halal-haram but also can be read as part of a more human muslim world’s dynamics in socio-cultural, economical, and political terms. 


In the Music program, we can also see various kinds of music genres, including tarling–music from the northern coast of West Java–(in Tarling is Darling, 2017) and rap (Salam, 2022). The goal is to emphasize that the wealth of music in the “living Islam” tradition is not only about nasyid, gambus, kasidah, and religious albums from well-known bands.


Music in the daily life of Muslim cultures is inevitable. Everybody loves music, it is a part of people’s daily lives, be it in a Muslim-majority country, in a diaspora community, or even among war refugees. “Living Islam” is also seen in two films, Unkapani: The Endless Tale (Turkey, 2021), which describes the ups and downs of record company Unkapi Recorders Bazaar amid the tide of digitalization that beat cassettes and CDs, and Forbidden Strings (2019), which tells the story of Afghan immigrants’ children in Iran, who found a rock band and plan to perform in their home country despite many challenges.


Ekky Imanjaya


Music and Spiritualism

Zein Panzer (Musician)
Nyak Ina Raseuki (Composer)


Krisnadi Yuliawan (Author)


Sunday, October 9, 2022, at 2 - 3.30 pm | Galeri Cipta 1 Taman Ismail Marzuki


Ismail Fahmi Lubis | Musical Documenter | 2017 | 114 min | Indonesia | Sub: English | 18+


As a traditional music, Tarling Dangdut is very much loved as well as denounced for being obscene. The film tells a story of a Tarling Dangdut songwriter who loves being promiscuous but trying to serve an order to write religious Tarling dangdut songs. It was shot with a very intimate approach to all of its characters, using a single-shot-cinema technique. Tarling Is Darling is a musical documentary film that was treated as an entertaining feature film.


Winner Asian Vision Competition, Taiwan International Documentary Film Festival 2018
Nominee Piala Citra, Best Documentary Feature, Festival Film Indonesia 2017


*Director will be present.


Hasan Noori | Documentary | 2019 | 72 min | Afganistan, Iran, Qatar | Sub: English | 13+


Akbar, Soori, Mohammed, and Hakim, the children of Afghan parents who fled to Iran in the 1980s, have formed a rock band. Despite the danger they will face, they dream of performing in Afghanistan.


Winner, Best documentary, Royal Starr Film Festival 2021


Tayfun Belet | Drama | 2021 | 50 min | Turkey | Sub: English | All Age


They are those who do not believe that this fairy tale is over, those who cannot come back, those who remain. Those who still hope to become famous despite years of disappointment, those who have nowhere else to go.  Unkapani: The Endless Tale is the tragicomic story of people who connect their hopes of fame to a place, who do not leave the stage of the fairy tale called finished for the sake of their dreams.