Rhoma Irama’s Leadership as an Identity of Soneta

by Rivaldi Ihsan, Ethnomusicologist and Lecturer in Music at Sumbawa University of Technology (Instagram: rivaldiihsan, E-mail:

Music literature in Indonesia in recent years has become increasingly popular among artists, culturalists, researchers and music writers. This is due to the awareness of observers, researchers, writers, musicians, artists, and culturists to care for and preserve local musical culture, which is stated in the ratification of Law Number 5 of 2017 concerning the Promotion of Culture of the Republic of Indonesia. This cultural promotion law also functions as the protection, development, utilization, and guidance of national culture.

In fact, before the birth of the cultural promotion law, which is a central government program whose derivatives will be implemented by local governments, there were many artists, musicians, researchers, and art writers who had carried out the promotion of Indonesian culture both in terms of musical performance art works and musical literature works.

Sometimes these works become piles of archives that occupy art campus libraries without continuation. However, in its current development, many of the works of art themselves have begun to be published on each of the respective social media accounts owned by artists or culturalists, such as YouTube channel accounts.

YouTube channels have become very popular among Indonesian composers, arrangers, traditional musicians, and modern musicians, both young and old. They are also competing to create a YouTube channel account, in order to get a stage in the virtual music world now. Where YouTube channels are used to discuss music history, musical careers, music creation concepts, musicians’ welfare, fanatical music fans, and even about the personal life of a musician.

In this paper, the author is interested in discussing the YouTube channel account “Bisikan Rhoma” (fun talk with Rhoma Irama) which is combined by Ryan Kampua who is a journalist. Rhoma’s channel is interesting to discuss and then write back analytically how the process of creative ideas for music creation and leadership of a Rhoma Irama who is a senior maestro of Indonesian dangdut music. As well as what strategies Rhoma Irama used to maintain the existence of the Malay orchestra group or Soneta group that he led.

Rhoma also said: to maintain the existence of a music group, qualified and professional leadership is needed for the work that is occupied. This can also be seen and proven how Rhoma Irama organizes all the needs of music personnel, both in terms of the concept of musical arrangements, performance concepts, even to the artistic concept of the stage along with Soneta group costumes.

Leadership Rhoma Irama in Soneta Group
Rhoma Irama was born December 11, 1946 in Tasikmalaya, West Java. His father named Raden Burdah Anggawirya is a former guerrilla commander fighter who is adept at playing music and singing Cianjuran and mother named R.A Tuti Juariah is also good at singing. Both parents are very fond of music, so the fondness of both parents also makes Rhoma Irama pursue even to plunge into the world of music (Tony Van Java, 2014: 1).

“Since the age of 11, Rhoma Irama has pursued music by becoming a singer and songwriter. Then, he also proved it by founding a band called Gayhand in 1963. Shortly thereafter, he moved and joined Orkes Chandra Leka, until finally he formed his own band group called Soneta group which was established on October 13, 1973 until now” ( Currently, Rhoma is 74 years old, he is still actively making music, composing songs, practicing, and performing with his OM Soneta group friends. This shows that he is a leadership figure who is still consistent in the world of the Indonesian music industry.

Even today, we can still enjoy Rhoma Irama’s musical performances that always grace our television or social media accounts, whether it’s about performances or interviews about dangdut music, such as those on the king of dangdut’s YouTube channel account. The name of the channel is Bisikan Rhoma, theme #3: 50 Years of Soneta Changing the Indonesian Music Landscape”.

The channel’s casual discussions are relaxed, so anyone who watches the channel will get to know the history of the development of Indonesian dangdut from time to time. The peak of dangdut in Indonesia in the 70’s coincided with the peak of rock music at that time. Rhoma’s consistency in the dangdut music industry can be proven to this day, that he is a “one man one show”. He is a writer, composer, and arranger of 1000 songs with 103 albums.

Rhoma said that the leadership talent within him was not born out of thin air, it came through a process that he had felt since childhood, when hanging out with his friends. All of that is a gift given by Allah SWT to have talent. Leadership or leadership is actually already in every human being, for example in everyday life in the social world, I have often been a leader since childhood or sometimes chosen by friends, then where the talent can also be felt and applied in music with Soneta group friends until now, they are also comfortable making music with me, “said Rhoma.

The main capital of leadership built by Rhoma Irama in the Soneta group is; first, a musician must have musical skills and soul the art, such as understanding and knowing that good music and songs are required to have argumentative, enjoyable music and lyrics so that they are easy to memorize, then between lyrics, notation, beat, and harmonization must be united in the recording kitchen. In addition, a leader must also understand the function of the musical instruments he uses, how to play beautiful drums and keyboards so as to produce a sound that is also pleasant to hear in the ear.

Secondly, a leader must have a clear vision and mission of the direction of the music group to form the characteristics of the music group. In addition, the knowledge of music must be broad, so that the music group can survive until its existence can be counted on for decades to come. In addition, discipline in terms of practice and musical performances is the main benchmark, and by not forgetting the values of humanity, namely; help, love, solidarity, and mutual cooperation for the progress of the music group.

Third, the distribution of incentives must be fair, not equal, because each individual who joins Soneta has a different role and contribution. For example, in music there are five roles, namely; 1, managers, 2, songwriters, 3. singers, 4, musicians, and music arrangers certainly have different incentives according to the level of weight of their respective performance. With the fair distribution of incentives applied by Rhoma Irama, all music personnel will be able to feel prosperous.

Songs as Moral Messages of Life
Rhoma said that “music is not just for fun, music is part of my soul, I am very afraid if I make a song that I can not practice in everyday life, afraid of the threat of God’s wrath to people who can only speak, but do not practice or do in the practice of everyday social life,” said Rhoma.

From the interview excerpt above, we can see how Rhoma is not only a dangdut singer, but he is also a Muslim figure who obeys the teachings of Islamic law in his daily life. He also said this during an interview on his channel. That all Soneta personnel are required to perform fardhu prayers in congregation during the training process or before and after music performances, where the Imam of the prayer is Rhoma Irama himself.

Rhoma said that in 1973, Rhoma Irama and Soneta group were committed and consistent with their dangdut music until today, without touching or enjoying alcohol, drugs, and other sinful acts that are prohibited by Islamic teachings. The da’wah message song can be found in the lyrics of the songs judi and mirasantika. In addition, there are also song lyrics that give advice to dangdut music lovers such as begadang, gali lobang tutup lobang, dara muda, and keramat.

Furthermore, the process of creating Rhoma Irama’s song lyrics is usually through what is felt and experienced both directly and indirectly through personal experiences or social life experiences that exist around him. “For songs there are those that we experience, adopting from other people’s experience stories to realize into a song, and there are also songs that are imaginary, usually songs that we can really experience are much stronger fill than adopted songs or imagination, the touch power of the song will certainly affect the background of a song,” said Rhoma.

In the exclusive interview, host Roy Kampua also asked Bens Leo, an Indonesian music observer, who said: Rhoma Irama is a “one man one show” figure in the Indonesian music industry, where Rhoma is a producer, composer, songwriter, music director, stage manager, and even the only Indonesian dangdut group that uses choreography directly created by Rhoma,” said Bens Leo.

In line with several Soneta musicians, such as Chovif, a drummer who has been with the group for 42 years, said: Bang Haji Rhoma is not only a musician, he is also a teacher who guides and directs his musicians to be better in terms of music and religion.

Likewise, Puji, a Soneta background singer, said: I was once scolded by Pak Haji until I cried wanting to leave Soneta, it turns out that he taught me about discipline, assertiveness, authority, besides that he is also a humorous figure.

Through the above explanation, it can be concluded that Rhoma Irama is one of the influential music leadership figures in the world of Indonesian popular music. Where leadership is proven by the existence of Soneta which still survives today. Rhoma Irama’s leadership model can be a reference for young musicians today. Where good leadership is, is to have a vision and mission achievement, have musical skills and have a soul of art, broad knowledge of music, and have a commitment, consistent in the world of music, and have human values.


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