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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: October 2015

1 - SOSROWIJAYAN AND ITS STREET WORKERS

from PART I - MUSIC AND THE STREET

Summary

In Yogyakarta's Sosrowijayan neighbourhood, ‘village-like’ kampung conventions intermingle with urban dynamism. Sosrowijayan is bordered by Marlioboro Street to the east and the city's central railway station to the north (see Map to Part One). It accommodates the majority of Yogyakarta's ‘sloppily dressed western tourists’ (Mulder 1996:180) and merges into the Flower Market (Pasar Kembang) red-light district. The nearby areas of Pajeksan and Dagen indicate the earlier courtly roles of prosecutors and woodworkers respectively (John Sullivan 1992:23); and the Flower Market's former name of Balokan (timber yard) is well known. By contrast, the history of Sosrowijayan rarely receives much attention, in everyday conversation and scholarly research alike. The neighbourhood was a single administrative district up to the time of Japanese occupation (1942-1945), but was subsequently divided in two. In 2001 the eastern tourist-oriented half consisted of ten neighbourhood units (Arta 2002).

Despite the renown of Sosrowijayan (or ‘Sosro’), a surprisingly large number of Yogyakarta residents I spoke with knew little or nothing of the area. Some who were familiar nonetheless did not know their way around its many back alleys behind Malioboro Street, and many described the area as ‘grubby’ or ‘shabby’. One man further commented that many mischievous people frequented the area. When pressed to be more specific, he described the eastern, Malio boro end as ‘an international kampung’ in a fairly neutral tone, and then denigrated the western end inhabited by a plethora of commercial sex workers who, as Patrick Guinness (1986:89-90) notes, had been in operation since before 1975 (see also Mujiyano 1985).

Economic disparities between locals and foreigners underpinned the high financial stakes for local business. A sense of the differing levels of economy is evident in the average prices of commercially purchased meals in 2001:

Meals were at least 400% more expensive in Sosrowijayan than in surrounding villages. Economic imbalances between foreigners and locals were even more striking, particularly after the onset of the economic crisis.

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Musical Worlds of Yogyakarta
  • Online ISBN: 9789814414463
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