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Vol. 12 No. 1 (2023): Music Making and Music Research in the Asia-Pacific Region in Times of COVID-19

Islamic Music and Qur’anic Arts in the Time of the Corona Pandemic: Collaborative Research and Virtual Ethnography “in” Indonesia

  • Muhammad As‘ad
  • Dadi Darmadi
  • Anne K. Rasmussen


This contribution describes collaborative research designed and implemented by a team of three scholar-teachers: two of us in Indonesia and one in Virginia. After a year in quarantine, each of us was challenged by the inability to continue our own ethnographic research projects on religious culture in Indonesia and the limitations on international collaboration effected by the corona pandemic. Using zoom meetings for planning and ‘virtual ethnography’ as a method of data collection, our collaborative research investigates the challenges presented by the pandemic among practitioners of Islamic music and Qur’anic arts, and educators in Indonesia’s Islamic universities. Three focused group discussions (FGD) in April and May 2021 brought together diverse voices on the effects of the corona pandemic on Islamic music, Qur’anic arts, and the social rituals where they normally occur. Open-ended questions allowed FGD participants to share their perspectives on the effects of the past year’s quarantine protocol on the social, cultural, economic, artistic, and ritual aspects of daily life in Indonesia, and the various innovations and best practices that have developed during these challenging times. In addition to collecting qualitative data from community individuals, our FGDs also allowed various scholars and practitioners to converse with one another. The geographic and institutional breadth of our research team is extended by the variety of invited participants in our FGDs. They are artists, religious leaders, and academics from the areas of Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Surakarta, Semarang, Malang, Bandung, Medan, Padang, Banda Aceh, and Manado. Through this series of conversations and with innovative, collaborative research methods we are rethinking the parameters of ethnography at the intersection of society, culture, religion, gender, and the arts in Indonesia in the time of the corona pandemic.