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The Osing-Osing: East Java, Indonesia

Username By Wombat | April 7th, 2006 | Comments 4 Comments »

The Osing are one of the minority ethnic groups still surviving in East Java. This group is spread over several areas in and around Banyuwangi, a city 300 kilometers east of Surabaya. They live in seclusion amid the modernisation as ID Nugroho found.

At a distance, the tone of traditional music was could be clearly heard on a clear evening in the ethnic Osing people’s hamlet of Kemiren near Banyuwangi, East Java.

The sounds were in near perfect harmony with an Osing language song.

“The barong (mask) dance is beginning, let’s go and watch it,” said Karti, 50, a local food stall waitress, said in the Osing tongue.

A family living at the foot of the Ijen mountain range presented the barong performance at several weddings. Hundreds of people from Kemiren and nearby Kinjo and Boyolali villages thronged to the festive home located amid paddy fields to enjoy Osing-style dances and vocal arts offered by the Trisno Budoyo troupe.

The Osing are one of the minority ethnic groups still surviving in East Java. This group is spread over several areas in and around Banyuwangi, a city 300 kilometers east of Surabaya.


Banyuwangi regency has three officially recognized ethnic groups: the Osing, Javanese and Madurese. Osing people are mainly found in Kemiren village, West Banyuwangi, 7 kilometers from the city center, totaling 2,400 out of its 1.4-million population, and in Aliyan village, 14 kilometers from the city hub, constituting almost half of its 4,800 population.

The people speak in the Osing dialect of Javanese, which is said to have been directly descended from the royal family of Blambangan, a small kingdom in East Java around the 18th century.

Established by King Wiraraja, Blambangan was part of the Majapahit empire. After the fall of Majapahit, Blambangan became an arena of struggle for its conquest by small monarchies in Bali, Pasuruan and Islamic Mataram.

The power struggle was not yet over when Blambangan, famous for its fertile land (Blambangan being derived from the word balumbung or lumbung meaning a granary), turned into a target of Dutch colonizers through their VOC (Dutch East Indies Company). This ensnared position made the people of Blambangan resistant to external forces, so that they sided with none of them, an attitude locally termed osing or using (independent).

The VOC’s unrelenting attempts to control Blambangan faced opposition from Blambangan’s community leader, Mas Rempeg, believed to be a reincarnation of Prince Agung Willis of Blambangan. Though Mas Rempeg’s rebellion was finally put down by the VOC, the war caused the deaths of VOC officers Lieut. Van Shaar, Major Gobies and Lieut. Kornet Tienne.

The big battle in 1771-1772 forced the population of Blambangan to take refuge on mountain slopes and cross to Bali, many of whom still live in those areas.

Curiously, the murky past of Blambangan continued to be experienced by Osing descendants and the Banyuwangi area in general. In 1965, for instance, a lot of people in this easternmost city of East Java just across a narrow strait from Bali, were killed following accusations that they were communist sympathizers. One popular communist song at that time, Genjer-genjer (a vegetable), was written by a Banyuwangi citizen.

More tragedy struck in 1998, when a rumor spread about the prevalence of black magic in the area. People in Banyuwangi, many of whom supposedly possess supernatural powers, became a target of murder. Some 150 citizens accused of using black magic for evil purposes were hacked to death by an unidentified group of people dressed up like ninja warriors. “The incidents have made the Osing people increasingly alienated,” Hasnan Singodimayan,75, an Osing community leader explained.

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4 Responses to “The Osing-Osing: East Java, Indonesia”

Jennifer Boland | April 7th, 2006 at 7:17 pm | comment link
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Hello Barrie. Tremendous article and a group of people I had never heard of before. Shewt, I am learning so much about Java from you!.

Trevor | April 7th, 2006 at 8:02 pm | comment link
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Strange place Banyuwangi. I stayed there for a couple of days after trekking through the national park.

wahidan | April 11th, 2006 at 6:45 pm | comment link
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I’m originally born banyuwangi also called “lare osing” or “laros”, able spoken “osing language”
I’m really so proud after I know my region filled into blog. If you going there, dont forget to visit Ijen creater (the most beautiul creater), purwo forest (still pure and virgin forest), plengkung (the best beach for surfing). just try search on

slamet jerman | November 12th, 2006 at 6:22 pm | comment link
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As a Laros (lare Osing) i’m very proud to this article, because from this article people will know about Banyuwangi and it’s tradition.But i’m gonna give suggest to this article’s publisher that the osing language isn’t only mainly found in Kemiren And Alian village but osing is use in other village such as Tamansuruh,Jambesari,Oleh sari etc.

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