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music

Indonesian pop

Dara Puspita, London, 1969. Photo: Handiyanto.

THE DESIRE TO HOLD ONE’S HEAD HIGH, to determine one’s own future: This is the reason so many regimes throughout the twentieth century rose and fell. But to hold one’s head high while crisply dressed all in white and wearing a black velveteen pillbox hat? This was Indonesia’s fate alone. When Kusno Sosrodihardjo, known simply as Sukarno, became the first president of Indonesia in 1945, he wanted all to see that the legacy of Dutch colonization and a brief spell under Japanese rule had done little to dampen his—and, by extension, his freshly christened nation’s—sartorial flair. “I say, let us hold our heads high bearing this cap as a symbol of Free Indonesia,” Sukarno explained to a biographer in the mid-1960s. He hoped that his neat, proper suits and trademark pitji (as his headgear was officially known) would become symbols of modern progress for his largely poor, newly

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