Indonesia’s Cultural Highlights

2 September 2017

Indonesia’s Cultural Highlights

Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world and has over 300 ethnic groups. Its contrast of cultures is derived from a mix of Chinese, European, Indian and Malaysian influences.

Despite the influences of foreign cultures, there are still remote Indonesian regions which preserve a uniquely indigenous culture and are still practicing ethnic rituals, customs and wearing traditional clothes.

Ethnicity, Language & Religion

According to the Central Statistics Agency, Indonesia has six main ethnic groups that make up more than two third of the country’s 258 million population.

Javanese make up 40.1% of the population, Sudanese 15.5%, Batak 3.8%, Malay 3.7%, Madurese 3%, Betawi 2.9%, Minangkabau 2.7%, Buginese 2.7%, Bantenese 2%, Banjarese 1.7%, Balinese 1.7%, Acehnese 1.4%, Dayak 1.4%, Sasak 1.3%, Chinese 1.2% and other 15%.

Indonesian or Bahasa Indonesian is the statutory national language of the country. Javanese is spoken by the majority of Indonesians.

Over 87.2% of Indonesians adhere to Islam. Smaller religious groups include Christian Protestants 7%, Roman Catholics 2.9%, Hindus 1.7% and other 0.9% include Buddhists and Confucian.

Music and Dance

Ethnic groups all over Indonesia have their own form of music, dance and theatre. Traditional regional music of Indonesia compromises of strong beats and harmony with a strong influence of Indian and Malay classical music. The influence is strongly audible in the traditional popular music genre of Dangdut.

Gamelan is the most famous form of Indonesian music. It comprises of tuned percussion instruments that include metallophones, drums, gongs, spike fiddles and bamboo flutes.


Indonesia has the largest economy in Southeast Asia. The country is also a member of G-20 major economies and is classified as a newly industrialised country. It stands as the sixteenth largest economy in the world by nominal GDP and is the seven largest in GDP (PPP).

Even though the country’s economy is dependent on domestic market, government budget spending and its ownership of state-owned enterprises, 80% of the economy has been controlled by private Indonesians and foreign companies since the 1990s.

According to the World Factbook, President Joko WIDODO – elected in July 2014 – seeks to develop Indonesia’s maritime resources and pursue other infrastructure development including significantly increasing its electrical power generation capacity.

This article is part of a series highlighting the unique cultures featured in the recently concluded Limkokwing International Cultural Festival 2017.

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