Waking up the neighbors: Indonesia's Ramadan alarm clocks

Youths sing and bang on improvised drums as they walk around their neighborhood to wake up residents for Sahoor before the start of the fasting day in Jakarta, Indonesia. - AFP

JAKARTA - Most of Jakarta is fast asleep at 2 a.m. but for Fajar Ramadin and his pint-sized comrades it's time to wake up the neighborhood.

The motley group of children yell and bang on tambourines and drums as they roam the quiet streets of Indonesia's capital on a mission to stir sleeping residents for the predawn Sahoor meal.

"Sahoor! Sahoor! Please wake up sir, madam!" hollers the 20-strong group of kids, aged seven to 15.

It's music to the ears of dozens of other children who stream out of their houses to join in, adding the thump of empty paint cans and water jugs to the ensemble.

"This tradition has been around for a long time - every kid is happy to do it," said 13-year-old Ramadin.

"I like it because this not only entertains people, but also helps them wake up for the predawn meal."

Their entertainment value is probably a matter of debate but complaining would be futile.

"They are indeed noisy, but it helps me wake up on time," offers local resident Rosimah, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

"We are used to it - happens every year," she added.

Smartphone alarms and digital clocks have seen this wake-up tradition gradually decline over the years.

But it is still found across the sprawling Indonesian archipelago - especially in smaller communities - which is home to about 260 million people. Nearly 90 percent are Muslim.

Most of the Jakarta group's members are known as local troublemakers so conscripting them into religious service is a win-win situation for the neighborhood - and the mosque.

"Many of these kids have dropped out of school. Some never even went to school. They are unemployed and became street children who cause trouble," said Alvanali Panji Prasetyo, an Islamic teacher and group leader.

"Thanks to God, the kids are starting to change their attitude after joining the group." - AFP