Java’s coastal kids grab worldwide attention with ‘om telolet om’

Children and youngsters gather in front of a gas station in Ngabul, Jepara, cheering on as a inter-province bus passes honking the 'telolet' honk. (Facebook/File)

Children and youngsters gather in front of a gas station in Ngabul, Jepara, cheering on as a inter-province bus passes honking the ‘telolet’ honk. (Facebook/File)

Renowned American DJ Dillon Francis came up with the idea of making a music sample of it. A number of international artists, including The Chainsmokers and K-pop singer BamBam, turned to Twitter to ask what it really means, and United States president-elect Donald Trump was probably puzzled to find some of his Instagram posts bombarded with the phrase.

The phrase “om telolet om” became a worldwide phenomenon when internationally acclaimed DJs, including award-winning electronic house music DJ and producer Zedd and his French compatriot DJ Snake, tweeted the phrase late on Tuesday. Dutch DJ Oliver Heldens said he thought of omelette when he first read the phrase on Twitter.

As of Wednesday afternoon, “om telolet om” was the top worlwide trending topic on Twitter with 715,000 tweets. “Perhaps it could make a sampled appearance in the next festival anthem?”theonlineplatformofUSentertainment media outlet Billboard wrote on Tuesday.

It is still unclear why the “om telolet om” phenomenon has grabbed the attention of those international DJs, but it has caused nationwide merriment in Indonesia since late November, when a video of children and youngsters standing on the streets of Ngabul, a subdistrict of Jepara regency in Central Java with a population of around 12,000, went viral and garnered more than 1 million views on Facebook.

The video shows the children and youngsters waving and shouting “Om telolet om!” at passing buses. They would cheer in gusto when the buses heeded their request, which literally means “driver, honk, driver”, and would boo them if they did not produce the sound.

Since the first video was uploaded to the internet, a lot of similar videos have appeared on Youtube, capturing the gleeful activity taking place not only in Jepara, but also in other cities of Java, such as Ungaran in Central Java.

To ensure the safety of the drivers, there is one “regulation” people have to obey when they want to record the activity.

Local media reported in May that “telolet” lovers in Ungaran, grouped under a community called the Ungaran Bus Lovers (UBL), had been urged not to use camera flash- es when recording, for that could startle the bus drivers, especially at night.

In fact, the “om telolet om” shout is not a new thing in the country, especially along Java’s northern coastal highway (Pantura), where vehicles were frequently stuck for long hours during the Idul Fitri holiday because of the surge of homebound travelers.

People swarming road sides to hear the bus honk is an activity that has reportedly been going on for the past six years in cities across Java.

“When I see people waving their hands on the streets, or holding their camera phones, I know they are asking [for the sound]. Honestly, I am happy, because they pay attention on me,” said Patra, a tour bus driver, as quoted by tribunnews.com.

Patra added that horns producing the “telolet” sound were not a builtin accessory but had to be installed in a bus at a price ranging from Rp 1.5 million (US$111) to Rp 2 million.

But in Ngabul, one of the internet users uploading “om telolet om” videos said Jepara Police had banned the activity two weeks ago over safety concerns.

“There were some people who stopped the passing buses to take selfies in front of them. This is what actually prompted police to ban the fun,” Riyadh As’ari told The Jakarta Post.

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