Envisioning Southeast Asia

LESSON 6: Popular music in Southeast Asia: Between global and local cultures

This lesson focuses on the evolution of popular music in Southeast Asia over time, from traditional to modern forms and how consumption of popular music, embodied in mass pop culture show such as the Idol series, have affected regional, national and individual identities.

Subject History / Social Studies
Popular music in Southeast Asia: Between global and local cultures
Key idea Pop culture has creatively blended global and local cultural features. It constitutes a channel to promote a regional community among young generations by  displaying commonly recognizable features while respecting local identities
Key concepts Local culture and global culture
Pop (popular) culture
Idol competitions
Level Lower secondary
No. of periods / lessons 2 periods (1 period is approximately 50 minutes)
Facilities needed A/V equipment and Internet access to play the video clips (or hard copy with similar content)
Sources and handouts for distribution
Prerequisite knowledge Students should have some basic familiarity with pop music and popular culture.

Learning objectives
By the end of the lesson, the students will be able to:

  1. Understand the early history of mass pop culture in Southeast Asia.
  2. Be able to identify key examples of contemporary pop music in Southeast Asia.
  1. Practice listening, watching, and note-taking skills.
  2. Put into practice online research, discussion and writing skills.
  1. Appreciate the debates about local versus global culture.
  2. Critically discuss the significance of various regional forms of pop culture.
  3. Cooperate in groups to complete the tasks assigned.


Download the lesson plan for details on the talks and  activities suggested below.

Period 1

1. Hook activity

Students watch a clip from 1920’s Indonesia singer and discuss the local versus the global elements in the recording.
Clip: Miss Ribout Ka Doewa, Krontjong Dardanella

2. Teacher talk: The keroncong music genre in Indonesia

This lecture presents the history of the Indonesian keroncong early in the XX century – as a precursor to the recent Idol competitions -, and shows how the music industry has mixed local and global influences.

3.  Objective of the lesson

The teachers details that the lesson will examine two types of recent pop culture: Idol competitions and K-pop.

4. Teacher talk:  Idol competitions across Southeast Asia

This lecture introduces the birth of Idol competitions in Western countries and their recent development in Southeast Asia.

5.  Discussion

Students compare the global and local dimensions of the Idol programmes’ content.

6. Group work: Idol competitions

Students watch clips of Idol competition in Indonesia, Myanmar and Viet Nam. In small groups they identify the global vs local elements of the competitions and compare them.

7. Reflection

Students reflect on what defines and characterizes Idol competitions and on why these competitions became so popular in Southeast Asia.

8. Suggestions for home extension activity

Students develop their personal reflection as a homework.

Period 2

9: Teacher talk on K-pop

The teacher notes that American and Western pop culture are not the only
influences of Southeast Asian pop culture.  East Asia also has a big influence, as seen through well-known phenomena such as J-Pop and K-Pop.

10: Group work

In small groups of 4, students read articles on the Korean wave and collaborate to fill in a worksheet.

11. Teacher talk: Examples of K-pop groups

The teacher presents background information on 2 famous K-pop groups.

12. Group work: Analyzing music clips

Students watch 2 videos of K-Pop artists, Baby V.O.X and Rain, and reflect on the global and local elements in the videos.

Note: The video clips shows beach scenes (video 1) and people kissing (video 2).  Teacher should use discretion as to whether it is appropriate to show these parts of the clip.

13. Conclusion

The teacher highlights that in the past and nowadays, pop culture is the product of multiple influences, both global and local.  It can play a role in bridging different cultures.

14. Suggested home extension activities

  • Students plan (outline of a video) or tape (actual performance recorded on a smartphone) a video that represents their national culture and national pop culture.
  • Students write a news report or a review of an Idol competition or a K-Pop album, focusing on how popular it would be with local audiences.
  • Students create an advertisement poster for an Idol competition, a K-Pop concert, or a pop album from either a local or international artist.