One Country Just Elected the World's First Metalhead President

One Country Just Elected the World's First Metalhead President
Source: AP
Source: AP

After a long, bitter election and a hotly contested recount, Indonesia elected the world's first metalhead president on Wednesday. His name is Joko Widodo, he is the former Jakarta governor and he loves Napalm Death

"I listen to loud metal songs, from Metallica to Led Zeppelin, to Napalm Death … because rock is my passion," Widodo told the Indonesian news outlet AFP before attending a Metallica show in Jakarta last year. Widodo reportedly watched that show from the pit, headbanging, moshing and sweating with the rest of the fans instead of cording himself off in the VIP section, as most politicians would have done.


Image Credit: Getty

It's exactly that kind of attitude that's made President Widodo so popular in Indonesia, the world's third-largest democracy. Indonesian political analyst Maswadi Rauf actually believes that this easy-going, down-to-earth personality won him the election. "Almost all of our leaders are very formal," said Rauf in an interview with GlobalPost. "They act like leaders, dress like leaders, speak like leaders, but not Jokowi [Joko Widodo's local nickname]. Jokowi is just like ordinary people. The way he talks, the way he dresses … People see him as one of them."


Image Credit: Getty

This is a huge step in improving the global profile of metal music. Numerous presidents have offered their musical tastes as a way of connecting with voters, but none have done so with such a controversial style as metal. Obama's self-proclaimed taste for rap got a lot of conservative pundits pretty nervous. In response, his official campaign playlists included almost entirely indie and old soul. Metal is similarly stigmatized, but Jocodo hasn't sanitized his tastes at all.

In fact, he's made some strong political stands around heavy metal. Indonesia actually has a thriving metal scene. It's largely straightedge, to fit with Muslim ideology (Indonesia boasts the world's largest Muslim population), but many of the bands, such as Burgerkill, Godless Symptoms and Tengkorak, have started to receive some global attention, especially in the U.K. Widodo has said in the past that the Indonesian government should offer more support to popular culture and heavy metal in particular. It's a politically savvy strategy: A study sponsored by the Atlantic's CityLab has found that areas with high concentrations of metal bands and fans tend to have more economic stability and better social welfare programs than elsewhere.


His tastes, then, fit perfectly with his politics. He ran on the promise of "a decisive break with Indonesia's authoritarian past and better social welfare for the poor." Perhaps Widodo's election could mean the start of a new Indonesia — one dedicated to socioeconomic equality, unity and brutal heavy metal.

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Tom Barnes

Tom Barnes is a senior staff writer at Mic focused on music, activism and the intersection between the two. He's based in New York and can be reached at tom@mic.com.

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