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The origin of Poco-poco

August 30, 2009

I received a chain email saying that Poco-poco actually originates from the Philippines, used widely by the Christians there. The email argued that the line dance, which now has gain its popularity in Brunei as well, actually made a cross through its steps and wondered if it will be banned by some Muslim countries after the furor of yoga and its mantras. The steps take the dancer to the four directions of a room and is said to be similar to the ‘Nutbush’ or ‘The bus stop’ and other western disco dances.

From the searches that I made on ‘poco-poco’, it reveals that the very popular social dance originated from the Sulawesi about 20 years ago to accompany a new pop song at that time called ‘Poco-poco’. The lyrics described a man’s admiration of a beautiful woman of Minahasa. 

This Minahasa site quoting one Ibu Harimawan, a ballroom dance teacher said that poco-poco was made popular by the ABRI or the Indonesian army. Apart from poco-poco, two other community dances – tebe-tebe and sojojo have been popular since the 1990’s, said the site. Another Yogya’s dance teacher said the poco-poco originates from the Moluccas, specifically from Ambon. 

One Jamaican English dictionary listed ‘poco-poco’ as Jamaican answer for ‘How do you do?’ meaning ‘not too good and not too bad’. However, there appears to be a number of words associated with ‘poco’ in the dictionary which relates to a kind of wild dance under the possession of what was believed to be, of ‘ancestral spirits’.

One account recorded by Washington Post during the era of General Suharto’s rule cited that thousands of students protestors streamed into the streets demanding his ousting. The riot police found out that force could no longer cow the crowds so they cranked up the loudspeakers and put on the poco-poco and asked the students to dance. The students who were suddenly confronted with the irresistible rhythm, danced the poco-poco. Nice.

Another search resulted saying that rural farmers in the Irian Jaya danced the poco-poco style when they are harvesting the padi. The arm movement during dancing the poco-poco actually resembles hoeing, rowing or sowing.  This reminds me of Brunei’s own folksong and accompanied dance, the  Adai-adai, which tells the story of a fisherman going to the sea and leaving behind his wife for the whole day.

Now the moves for the poco-poco below. Try it and tell me if it’s anywhere similar to a cross

While facing the front:

–          walk to your right; step right, left, right and bring feet together

–          repeat to the left; step left, right, left and feet together

–          step forward with one foot….

 Better learn by watching the video below:

20 Comments leave one →
  1. Sham permalink
    September 1, 2009 9:46 am

    Thanks for your clarification. The same stupid chain letter is also being spread in Malaysia and many gullible Muslims believe. I’m a Muslim myslef and I think this equating the movements of poco-poco to a cross is silly. Even if it is, so what?…do Christians try to ‘convert’ people through poco-poco? Silly isn’t it?..and if anyone would be so easily converted to christianiy through poco-poco than that person must be nuts.

    • Eva Wanda permalink
      September 1, 2009 1:15 pm

      Err, thanks Sham. I assume you are in Malaysia. My personal additional comment – just enjoy life and stick to your faith, whatever it is.

    • ciku permalink
      April 1, 2010 1:56 pm

      Salam, an excercise likes jog/walk actually don’t even need music.. people is too much addicted to music.. and its like a music control your move … come on & wake up people

  2. Rozana permalink
    September 12, 2009 9:36 pm

    Actually it is frustrating these chain emails are sent out and amongst many others still circulating! Sometimes I investigate these things just as you do and find out it’s all a hoax. I would then reply to all, whoever the email was sent to and direct them to the website with the information telling them that they should not believe everything they receive and also hinting to them that it’s just not worth their time forwarding these kinds of messages. Not sure if they get it but I feel like I’ve done some level of contribution there!

    Sites to check out the truth behind dodgy emails (unfortunately Malay or religiious emails may not be included as part of their collection so that’s a potential area for us!):

  3. Eva Wanda permalink
    September 13, 2009 7:12 pm

    Spot on Rozana! Once there was a chain email about one Bruneian teenage girl who ran away from her house, complete with her pic. At the end of the email there was a contact number of the local authority. I called the number to check if the girl was found and Alhamdullilah, she was already safe and sound at her home – a month earlier and yet the email was still being circulated. I replied to the sender telling that the girl has been found and asked to inform others. Here, I hope my site helps; I try to find out as much as I can. Thanks for dropping by Rozana.

  4. hoax permalink
    January 28, 2011 7:02 pm

  5. dzikrina permalink
    March 30, 2011 10:53 am

    I’m Indonesian, currently the mails are spreading over the FB and haters looks like taking advantage of this to blame Indonesia.

    Why people instantly believe those things before they clarify them selves? I want to reblog this page if you allowed.

    • Eva Wanda permalink
      July 7, 2011 3:56 am

      Please do, mention my blog and come again here 🙂

  6. shafik permalink
    March 30, 2011 6:49 pm

    Thanks for your clarification.I just wished that the so called mufti putting up fatwa banning this dance and relating it Christianity would give it much thought and research .I was really puzzled as there are much bigger issues plaguing Malaysians.

  7. Ali permalink
    March 30, 2011 11:53 pm

    Thanks for your research! Just read the news that poco-poco is labelled as ‘haram’ due to ‘having Christianity elements and promotes soul worshipping’. Preposterous, I say! And the muftis say don’t argue with their decision, without disclosing where on earth they heard such ideas about poco-poco.

    Sorry for the rant!


  8. March 31, 2011 11:04 am

    Perak’s Jabatan Agama or religious authority just banned this dance…what a joke!

  9. March 31, 2011 11:07 am

    IPOH: The Perak government will adhere to the ruling made by the Perak Fatwa Committee banning the poco-poco dance, Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir said Wednesday.

    He said after the fatwa (edict) was issued, all quarters should respect it and not create any dispute on the matter.

    The mentri besar was commenting on the report published by a local daily on Perak Mufti Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria’s statement that the committee had ruled that the dance is haram for Muslims.

    Harussani was also reported as saying that the dance was haram because it had elements of Christianity and soul worshipping, and that the edict would be gazetted soon. Huh? Like what?

    On another development, Zambry said the state government also called on MMC-Gamuda Joint Venture Sdn Bhd, which is responsible for implementing the Ipoh-Padang Besar electrified double-track project, to ensure that all problems arising from the project be solved immediately.

    The mentri besar said 24 issues had been identified to have resulted from the project, including flash floods.

    “We would like to stress here that we (state government) will give our cooperation, but the developer has to cooperate in solving the arising issues,” he told reporters after chairing the state executive council weekly meeting here.

    Earlier, Zambry and members of the state executive council were briefed by MMC-Gamuda’s representatives on the development of the project.

    “Overall, we are satisfied with the implementation of the project, which is currently running smoothly and on schedule,” he said. – Bernama

  10. CORO permalink
    August 24, 2011 1:51 pm


    • Abdullah permalink
      January 6, 2014 7:59 am

      Assalamu’alaikum wrt,
      Ramai juga yang memanggil diri mereka pegawai agama di Malaysia sebenarnya kurang pendedahan, berfikiran jumud dan memang tidak teliti dalam membuat pengajian tentang apa-apa perkara, mengakibatkan kekeliruan kepada umat Islam Malaysia.

      Kita sepatutnya menolak poco-poco atas dasar hiburan yang melalaikan daripada mengingati dan mentaati Allah SWT. Kita analisa lagu itu betul-betul dan sebagai contoh, saya ambil petikan lirik lagu poco-poco yang dipopularkan Yopie Latul – “Nanga pe body” yang ertinya “oh tubuhmu, Nanga… ” Bukankah itu cukup untuk memberi kesedaran kepada masyarakat Muslim kita?

      Tidak perlu guna alasan tarian poco-poco itu tarian Kristian daripada Filipina yang bentuk tariannya seperti salib, yang jelas tidak betul and menggambarkan ulama Malaysia sebagai cetek pengetahuan luar daripada bidang dia dan kurang teliti dalam penyelidikan apa pun. Orang belum Muslim yang cerdik pandai akan menilai Islam seperti digambarkan ulama-ulama sebegini – Islam adalah agama yang kecamuk, terlalu beremosi dan tidak peka kepada kebenaran.


      • Eva Wanda permalink*
        January 30, 2014 4:47 pm

        Assalam Abdullah. Terima kasih atas komen awda. Saya setuju bahawa apa pun jenis hiburan memang melalaikan manusia. Wallahu’alam

  11. Anonymous permalink
    September 8, 2011 9:45 pm

    if Poco poco relates to christianity (probably by Spaniard), why Malaysia allowing the Rasa Sayang song which is originated from the Christian Portuguese of Malacca era. Unpopular leaders or individuals in Malaysia is taking any cheapest publicity which become new trend to gain support from stupid people.

  12. POCOPOCO permalink
    November 2, 2012 10:18 pm

    just want to clarify..
    ‘poco-poco’ is an manadonese dialect meaning “chubby” and the dance itself originated from Manado North Sulawesi.
    I’m from Manado, and i can tell you that the lyrics have nothing to do with Christian rituals whatsoever.
    It’s just a song about some guy praising the girl, who has a ‘poco-poco’ body figure, dancing so nicely..
    and manado people are very cheerful and so they love dancing!
    Maybe it’s bcause most Manado people are Christians (about 95%), so some people thought this dance is for Christian rituals or something..

  13. February 7, 2012 6:34 pm

    Hi..I am Indonesian Muslim myself and have been to eastern of Indonesia since 2001 and it is indeed the song is originally from Menado or Minahasa (the origin people). The christian in Manado and Ambon love dancing and singing and that is their culture. The song is very musical and yes it makes you want to dance (only if you like dancing) but at least good for excersise. What I cant understand how Brunei or Malaysia claimed this song/culture as theirs. Our country are very rich with cultures and arts and again there so many of ours are claimed even snatched by them..Shame really.

    Thank you anyway…

  14. Eva Wanda permalink
    April 26, 2012 7:50 pm

    Hi Teteh… Thank you for writing in. Am not sure if the Malaysians are claiming its theirs but I do know that we, Bruneians do not claim its ours. I was just saying that it is very popular in Brunei. Happy Poco-poco 🙂


  1. Origins of Poco-poco: Jamaican, Christian or just Indonesian? | Unscientific Malaysia

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