Are there any Muslim metal bands - Dialogue with the Islamic World

Indonesian women's metal band breaks with all stereotypes


Female, Muslim and screaming: three young women from Indonesia want to achieve international fame with their metal band Voice of Baceprot - and in doing so break some western stereotypes that exist about women wearing headscarves. From Ahmad Pathoni

The three young women appear on stage, unimpressed by the stifling heat and scorching sun. When performing, they wear long-sleeved shirts and the Muslim hijab, a headscarf that covers their hair, neck and chest.

"Are you ready? You look good, people! ”Shouts the 17-year-old singer Firdda Kurnia to the crowd of mostly young fans who have gathered in front of the stage in front of a shopping center in Garut. They want to see the women's metal band Voice of Baceprot (VoB).

The three girls grew up here, around a four-hour drive southeast of the capital Jakarta, in the small town. The province of West Java is largely poor and conservative. Until they reached teenage years, Firdda and her two friends, drummer Euis Siti Aisyah and bassist Widi Rahmawati, had never dreamed of becoming musicians or learning an instrument.

A few years ago they came to music through their school. “We started to play with the acoustic guitar and the battered drums from our marching band,” recalls Euis Siti Aisyah.

Indonesia in Southeast Asia has a population of 250 million and is the most populous Muslim country in the world. The vast majority practice a tolerant Islam. As they continued to pursue their passion for music, the three young women quickly encountered resistance from their families, teachers and neighbors. Rock music is associated with moral decline, drugs and sexual permissiveness, especially in conservative West Java.

"For many, metal is not music for Muslim women, but devil music," says Firdda. She describes her music as Nu Metal, which is influenced by artists like Dream Theater, Eminem and Linkin Park. "We want to show that we do not give up our identity and duties as Muslims, even if we play metal," says the singer. For the band it is therefore not a contradiction in terms to shout their songs out loud and at the same time wear a hijab that confirms their faith.

It was worth going on: In the meantime, VoB has been invited to a performance by a local television station. And the number of fans in Indonesia and beyond the island nation is growing steadily; YouTube has a number of videos with hundreds of thousands of views each.

Their adolescent admirers are the greatest motivation for the three students: "We want to show them that girls who wear a hijab do not have to be oppressed." Nevertheless, the band does not see itself as an Islamic metal band, emphasizes singer Firdda. Only the members are Muslim.

Women's bands are not new in Indonesia, but the musicians' clothes are usually based on Western fashion. The mismatched style has also led to conflict in the past, says Indonesian writer and culture observer Hikmat Darmawan. "For many young Indonesians, rock music was a means of rebellion against the autocratic regime." With this, Darmawan is alluding to the laws of the former authoritarian presidents Sukarno and Suharto.

Dara Puspita became famous as the first Indonesian women rock band in the 1960s. At the time, she was pressured by President Sukarno on the grounds that Western music was a bad influence. Nonetheless, Indonesia has always been home to a thriving metal subculture, says Darmawan. Even the current President Joko Widodo is an avid heavy metal fan.

The band plans to produce an album this year and distribute it online. With some English songs, the musicians hope to become better known abroad. Then they could fulfill a great dream: travel abroad for the first time in their lives and give a concert there. (dpa)

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