Travelling songs: Heritage and popular culture in contemporary ASEAN

Linda Sunarti, Ninny Susanti Tejowasono, Hanafi Hussin, Azhar Ibrahim, Noor Fatia Lastika Sari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Music and songs are among the many intangible cultural heritages whose ownership is liable to be contested by communities and nation-states wanting to disseminate them beyond their cultural and social orbits. In Southeast Asia, music and songs expressed in performing arts and other forms of artistic tradition have been central to the cultural repertoires of the people. But popular music, like other cultural forms, has emerged and evolved during the era of nation-states, and today popular music and songs travel faster across the region than ever before. The accelerating processes of cultural exchange, appropriation and evolution demand our attention and understanding. This article identifies several popular songs that have the potential to foster a sense of belonging and solidarity among the people of ASEAN. The role of entertainment media in disseminating popular songs from one country to others in the region is discussed as an important site for the fostering of cultural commonalities. We argue that the ability to recognize cultural commonalities and to accept one another’s distinctive expressions of shared cultural forms will be instrumental to easing anxiety about and dismissing narcissistic claims to ownership of certain cultural objects. Concrete mechanisms and initiatives for forging cultural commonality are needed, and the establishment of a discursive realm is certainly an instrumental step in this direction.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2198313
JournalCogent Arts and Humanities
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • cultural diversity
  • cultural identity
  • intangible cultural heritage
  • Music
  • popular culture
  • songs


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