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Jakarta, Indonesia CNN  — 

It would be easy not to pay Joko Widodo a second glance as he rides his bike down a Jakarta boulevard wearing track pants and white sneakers.

But fill that boulevard with thousands of Javanese out for the Sunday stroll, and you soon realize he is no ordinary Indonesian.

“Jokowi!” they shout – using the nickname by which the country’s new President is universally referred – reaching out to him for handshakes and selfies.

“Pagi!” – “Good morning!”

In October, he took office as President of this enormous Pacific archipelago of about 250 million people – the largest Muslim-majority country in the world.

“Indonesia is a big country. We have 17,000 islands, and it is not easy to manage that,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview Sunday, speaking a mixture of English and Bahasa Indonesia.

He has made the “blusukan” – an unannounced visit with the people – a trademark of his political brand.

“Blusukan is go to the people, go to the ground,” he told Amanpour as he walked his bike through crowds in central Jakarta.

“We check our program, we consult our program, and we must know the real situation (on) the ground.”

To the detriment of his bodyguards’ stress levels, he makes these visits at least once a week.

It is a rare sight for any world leader, let alone one who leads a country with a history of violent separatist movements.

His security team allows the President to be jostled by young and old elbowing in for a handshake.

Later at a slum that he’s transformed into new low-cost housing, an elderly woman walks right up to the President.

“She asked my number – telephone number!” he says.

“Things are getting a little too friendly,” says Amanpour with a smile.

Humble beginnings

Joko was raised in a down-and-out area of the central Java city of Surakarta, known as Solo. His father was a carpenter, and he followed in his footsteps, becoming a furniture exporter.

His rise to power was unusual – he has no history with the military or the elite, unlike the country’s former presidents. He rose to prominence through his extremely popular tenures as mayor of Solo and then governor of Jakarta.

His musical tastes, too, are unusual for a head of state. As heavy metal blared through his car’s speakers, Joko slapped his thigh in rhythm with the song and told Amanpour that some of his favorite bands include Led Zeppelin and Metallica.

Amanpour raised his upbringing as they stood overlooking the former slum.

“I know the situation; I know the condition,” he says. “Because when I was little, when I was a boy, I stayed (on) the riverbank in the slum area.”

In southeast Asia’s largest garment market, narrow hallways lined with stalls become impassable as seemingly everyone in the florescent-lit building pours in for a chance to see “Jokowi.”