Music Monday: Heavy Metal and Hijabs

I’m always grateful when a fellow blogger suggests a possible topic for one of my posts, since many days I have trouble coming up with an idea.

So a big thank you to Jeff Cann at the wonderfully eclectic blog, The Other Stuff, for the inspiration for this week’s Music Monday.

My guess is that no one has heard of Voice of Baceprot (VOB), an Indonesian all-female rock trio formed in Garut, West Java in 2014. Neither had I, until Jeff mentioned them and provided me with the link to their Wikipedia page, which is where much of the following information was found. The Red Bulletin, a publication from Red Bull, was also a useful source of background on the band.

The word baceprot means “noisy” in Sundanese and is meant to represent the band’s musical style. The band sings in both English and Sundanese.

All three girls had been learning to play musical instruments at school and were encouraged by their theatre coach to sign up for band competitions, who later went on to become their manager as well as lyricist. The band began posting covers of various songs to YouTube, and a cover of a Rage Against the Machine song in 2015 generated a good deal of views. This was followed by covers of songs from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, and Slipknot, which helped them to gain attention from both local and international media.

In 2018, VOB signed a deal with Jakarta-based booking agency Amity Asia. Not long after, they released their long-awaited debut single, “School Revolution”. The single gained the band significant traction and they received a number of invitations to perform at international music festivals.

When American rock band Guns N’ Roses played at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta in November 2018, guitarist Slash invited the trio to meet him backstage. They received further endorsements on social media from Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, as well as Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid.

In early 2021, VOB returned to the studio to work on “God, Allow Me (Please) to Play Music”, their first original single in three years. The song was released on 17 August 2021, preceded by an EP of five live tracks, titled The Other Side of Metalism (Live Session).

The band presents a seemingly contradictory image, with their heavy style of playing, in contrast to their modest Islamic attire, including the hijab, worn by all three members. This has caused them to receive criticism from some conservative Muslims in their hometown of Garut, and the trio claims they have zero friends.

“In my village, if someone sees me, they turn their back like this,” says Marsya (full name Firdda Marsya Kurnia), the 20-year-old lead singer and guitarist. She turns so only the black folds of her hijab are visible, before spinning back with a bright grin. “It’s true!”

“Yes,” adds drummer Sitti (Euis Siti Aisyah), also 20, “but some people who were mean at school message us when they want something.” Bassist Widi (Rahmawati), the band elder at 21, shakes her head disapprovingly. Although they don’t have any friends, VOB have plenty of followers – 163,000 and rising on their collective Instagram, and more than 30k each individually.

While metal music is massive in Indonesia (even the country’s 60-year-old president, Joko Widodo, describes himself as a metalhead), many in VOB’s community believe music is haram (forbidden by Islamic law), so they didn’t react well when the trio ventured into metal. Marsya was hit on the head by a rock wrapped in a note that read: ‘Stop making the devil’s music’. She was also purposely hit by a motorcyclist, and her mother’s shop window was smashed in. Once, a religious leader pulled the main power supply just before VOB went on stage, and their manager has received threatening phone calls pressuring her to break up the band.

Some local bands didn’t appreciate the three young women coming along and stealing the show. They talked smack behind their backs and claimed VOB were paying to perform at festivals. Now, VOB have their full support.

VOB’s tracks address issues such as religious tolerance, climate change, misogyny, and war, and Nadia Yustina, their current manager, admits she sometimes feels guilty about the responsibility on their shoulders. “It’s up to them to show the world what Islam means in Indonesia,” she says, “and to show the youth of Indonesia they can do whatever they set their minds to.”

As the Red Bulletin article notes: “VOB aren’t messing around: these young women have sacrificed everything to make their dreams a reality.”

I wish them the best.

*image from Voice of Baceprot

36 thoughts on “Music Monday: Heavy Metal and Hijabs

  1. May not be my style of music, but I am impressed with them standing up for what they want to do. For being brave enough to step out. I will let Brad know about them, his range of music is broader than mine.Especially when it comes to rock.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It feels like I ended up on Pat’s page instead of yours.😊

    I’m still revising my first novel for the umpteenth time 😎, but I’m also working on a new one featuring a friendship between two middle school boys. One of the kids is English/American, and the other is Muslim/American. Part of the tricky part of their friendship is that the English/American dad has racist tendencies.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve come to grips with what a long process this is just to get to the finish line. I’m still learning a ton about writing and how the publishing process works. It’s no wonder so many choose the self-publishing route. Oh well, I’m retired and have time for all of this nonsense.😊

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  3. amazing, all that they’ve had to endure, and continue to, in the name of practicing their art. thanks of sharing their story, and I wish these brave and talented women the best moving ahead. I hope they are an inspiration to others.

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  4. I had actually heard of them, as someone shared them for a Song Lyric Sunday post recently. Their stand is admirable. Unfortunately, to my ears their music is awful!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It was only recently! I listened to the track that was shared in that post, and had to be cognisant of not using bad words on other people’s blogs when I commented. So, will an emoji do? 💩

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      2. I think the emoji is just fine; I’m surprised it hasn’t been used more often when commenting on my blog posts! Maybe I should send you a mixed tape of all of their music …

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  5. Indonesia is a very interesting country. Its national motto translates as “unity from diversity” figuratively, or literally “many, yet one.” It is the fourth most populous country and the most populous Muslim country. It seems to have avoided much of the extremist side of Islam. This band tries to expand the envelope of tolerance and freedom of expression in that country. Good luck to them.

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