The band is composed of three teenage girls, two of whom are just 15 years old and one of whom is 17 years old. All the girls are self-sufficient women and observant Muslims. Three average farmers’ daughters, donned in headscarves and shy smiles, walk on stage together, instruments in hand, and rock the stage. The sounds of guitar, bass, and drums fill the air as they begin to play for their eager audiences.
Before becoming friends in a middle school band class, the girls had never played any instruments. In 2014, their music teacher Cep Ersa Eka Susila Satia saw great promise in them and offered to be their manager. He says that he “saw three rebellious students and [he] channeled it.” They formed Voice of Baceprot within the same year.
When the girls first started out, all of their parents said no to the idea. This forced them to practice in secret, as this was clearly a passion project for all of them. After videos of their performances gained traction, their fan base exploded, which opened them up to new opportunities and challenges. The girls now play about five shows a week, have been featured on national television, and have continued to increase their revenue. Voice of Baceprot performs original songs in English and in Indonesian, in addition to occasionally covering some of their favorite bands such as Slipknot, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Rage Against The Machine.
Of course, with more recognition comes more critics, and in the case of Voice of Baceprot the critics can be unusually upsetting. “They said that if we produce an album, they would burn it, and some people threatened to decapitate us,” Ms. Eusi said. The girls’ school also told them that their music went against Islam.
Ms. Eusi continued, “Our school principal is a conservative Muslim, and he says music is ‘haram.’” A haram is any act that is forbidden by Islamic law.
Indonesia is one of the most populated countries in the world, with about 260 million people with diverse religious practices. Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism are all observed. However, the danger to women is not from peaceful religious practices, but rather from fringe radical islamic groups. In the last 15 years, the country has suffered several attacks from groups that align with the Islamic state and Al Qaeda.
While some take issue with Voice of Baseprot’s music, the heavy metal genre is extremely popular in Indonesia, so much so that the country’s president, Joko Widodo is a self-proclaimed fan of bands like Metallica and Megadeth. He had even planned to attend an event at which the girls performed but had to cancel last minute.
“A hijab and metal music are different,” said band member Firdda Kurnia. She is referring to the traditional Muslim headscarf that she and her bandmates wear. The guitarist and lead singer explained, “a hijab is my identity, and metal is my music genre.”
The girls and those who support them hope to spread feminist punk sounds even further throughout Indonesia. Ms. Firdda confidently said, “Some say music will give us nothing. That’s not true.” These girls will continue to break norms and rock the stage.
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