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Indigenous Tiktok

Languages of the world : Dancing to Javanese Indigenous language on TikTok

TikTok is a popular social networking program that lets users make, watch, and share filmed videos. Users can record short films  as well as upload videos, photographs, and more. Users can also lip sync and make hilarious or entertaining films using a variety of music and conversational options provided by the app.

At the same time, TikTok is a diverse platform with a diverse range of content, including dance, music, education, comedy, sports, makeup, and even daily life. Young people can use this platform to develop their abilities, such as showcasing their voice, and some are even more talented, with the capacity to write lyrics and music, compose their own songs, and then post it on the TikTok platform for everyone to enjoy.

TikTok has a large user base. According to the 2021 overview, the number of users might be as high as 1 billion. TikTok’s global viewership is roughly 50 % under the age of 34, with 32.5 % between the ages of 10 and 19. 41 % of TikTok users are between the ages of 16 and 24. We can tell from the data that a large number of young individuals use this platform.

Indigenous language music in TikTok

As with any other popular western music, music using the indigenous language could also be popular in any TikTok circles. Here is one of them, a remix of the song Mendung Tanpo Udan.

Many are dancing to this hyped-up, party music. Some dance with lots of movements, there are many variations of how to “dance” in a TikTok video. People are enjoying the music not necessarily by singing it but rather by following the flow and beat of the music.

It brings the question, whether these people really listen to and understand the lyrics? At first, it seems great that the TikTok creators and audience are using the Javanese song Mendung Tanpo Udan, as it may promotes the language. Javanese is a language that is mostly used in the Eastern parts of the Java Island, Indonesia. The language is not recognized by the Indonesian government as an official language, but it has about 98 million native speakers.

Incoherency between actual meaning v. delivered meaning of the song

But if people are enjoying the music already, is it really necessary to understand the lyrics, context, and the intentions of the artists? Or simply the usa and popularity of the song suffices to promote the artist, the language and the culture it may bring?

Understanding the language and culture through music would be a bonus point. At first, it would be great to become interested in the language. The youth especially may benefit from being connected to the language even if not formally instructed in schools, they are exposed to it through informal interactions and through popular culture.

However, it is also sad that the intended meaning of the music may be lost. For example Mendung Tanpo Udan by Ndarboy Genk is originally a sad song, singing about the harsh breakup of a long-term relationship. Perhaps in reality this could represents how, while some people may be “aware” of indigenous languages, they may not necessarily be “educated” about it.

Ndarboy Genk - Mendung Tanpo Udan



The authors :

Adiba Nurul Izzah is a third-year student at Universitas Gadjah Mada, Yogyakarta, Indonesia with a major in International Relations and a concentration in Global Politics and Security. She speaks Indonesian and English and is learning to speak French and Sundanese. She wrote this article while on a student exchange to Sciences Po in Reims, France.

Yirou Cheah is a third year student at the Universiti Malaya. Her main course is French language and linguistics. She is currently an exchange student to Sciences Po in Reims, France.


This article is a result of a collaborative project between #AuxSons and Alejandro Abbud Torres Torija, lecturer at Sciences Po Paris Campus Reims, and regular contributor to #AuxSons. As part of the class “Languages of the world”, international students from Sciences Po Paris Campus Reims prepared articles reflecting these themes. 

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