Indonesia in Focus
Betawi Radio Station: Jakarta, Indonesia
It may be the only radio station broadcasting in the dialect of the Betawi, but Bens radio’s listeners are not all native Jakartans.
It reflects the city as a whole: a place where social and cultural assimilation are going on and being a Betawi is celebrated on Jakarta’s anniversary, every June 22.
But, on 106.2 FM, every day is Betawi day.
“Abang (gentlemen), none (ladies), ncang (uncles), ncing (aunties), nyak (mothers), babe (fathers),” greets Imas, one of the most senior announcers of the station, which was founded in 1990 by the late musician and actor, Benyamin Suaeb.
Imas, like many Betawi, has a booming voice, which he uses without reserve.
“I am originally from Malang, East Java,” said the 28-year-old who has notched up 13 years in radio. “My tongue is shaped by my social setting.”
Not all the station’s announcers are Betawi people.
“We have a total of 13 announcers. Only a couple of them are Betawi,” said music director Budi. “Most are Sundanese or Javanese.”
Going by the slogan “the only Betawi radio … for everyone,” the station is not exclusively Betawi.
“Anyone can be an announcer here, as long as they go all out and are bold on air,” Imas said.
It is not easy though, finding radio announcers with the gift of the gab. Newcomers get three months’ training to learn the dialect.
“We use Bahasa Indonesia, but with Betawi dialect and idioms,” she said. “So that everyone understands. We basically cater to everyone’s taste.”
However, the program titles are all Betawi phrases like Temenan (make friends) or Begaye (showing off) and jingles have traditional nuances. While the first Betawi words used by other Jakartans were lu (you) and gue (I), they are banned from the vocabulary of Bens radio announcers.
“They are of a low-class dialect. We use ente (you) and ane (I), or our names, to refer to ourselves. The word busyet (an exclamation of surprise) is also prohibited,” Imas added. Although it is the only Betawi radio station, several others like Ria FM in Depok or a dangdut station in Bekasi, both in West Java, also have Betawi-dialect programs.
The two stations target listeners who speak a more informal Betawi dialect.
Several radio stations in Jakarta produce programs about Betawi culture, but only for the city’s anniversary.
Bens radio plays mostly dangdut and Indonesian pop songs for its 4.2 million listeners in Greater Jakarta. Some 20 percent of its content consists of traditional Betawi songs, including the songs of its founder Benyamin, called Bang Ben by his fans.
“He founded the station because he wanted there to be a member of the mass media that accommodated Betawi culture,” operational manager Syaiful Uyun said.
For several years before he died in 1995, Benyamin also hosted several of the station’s programs.
Benyamin himself started out as a musician. Kompor Mleduk (blown up stove) is but one of the hits among the more than 300 songs he composed. He later starred in films like Tarzan Kota (city Tarzan) and Si Doel Anak Betawi (Doel, the Betawi boy), all featuring Benyamin as a funny native Jakartan.
After he passed away, Bens radio was run by one of his sons, Biem Benyamin, a politician and the head of the Betawi council.
In the hands of Biem, the company grew into a group of ethnic radio stations.
It currently has 10 stations airing in cities in West Java, South Sumatra and South Sulawesi. And just like Bens radio, all stations use local dialects in their programs.
Anissa S. Febrina
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