On a light-flooded stage at the Trans Musicales festival in Rennes, France, Voice of Baceprot singer Firda Marsya Kurnia wryly asked the audience, “Do you want to hear some fun facts?”
Since 2015, the all-female Muslim trio have cemented their pioneering grip on rock metal, a genre renowned for male-dominated, white, and Western headliners, as well as themes and symbolism that reject — or at least challenge. in question – religious doctrine.
During their first-ever European tour, Kurnia told the audience that reporters kept asking the band why they wore their hijab and if they were forced to. “It makes me feel like I’m coming here for a fashion show,” Kurnia said to resounding boos.
Hailing the veil as a “sign of peace, love and beauty”, the 21-year-old singer added, “And if you ask me what we do if someone asks about our hijab, it’s what we do.”
Undaunted, she pointed behind her to drummer Euis Siti Aisyah, also 21, who played a brief set with the vigor of Keith Moon. Bassist Widi Rahmawati, 20, followed a riff with quick but effortless grace.
A defiant Kurnia continued, “And if you ask me again, ‘Are you sure of your choice?’ and what we do with our hijab is actually what we do with our hijab.” She walked away from the microphone to the roars of the crowd, as Aisyah counted out the band in their next song.
The viral TikTok, seen at least 2.6 million times, stops there.
The group argues that too many press interviews have ignored their artistry in relentlessly distinguishing their Muslim origins.
Rahmawati said Newsweek these “boring” questions made the group “uncomfortable” because “it looks like we’re famous just because we wear the hijab”.
“And rock,” Kurnia added.
The band sees no conflict between their devout Muslim identity and their rockstar status. Quite the opposite, in fact.
“From the beginning, we actually believed that musical instruments are just tools and music is just a platform to express ourselves,” Kurnia said. Newsweek. “However, we feel that our spiritual life and our faith are strengthened by the music.”
“Music is really about personal faith,” Aisyah said. “And our faith was in rock music. Every time we listen to rock music, we get an adrenaline rush that we can feel, but it’s hard to explain.”
The women of VoB were first catapulted to prominence as children in Singajaya, a rural village in Garut Regency in West Java.
During early performances at local festivals, the three girls’ colossal stage presence radiated the bewildered confidence and fluid dexterity of seasoned rockstars.
Even as a teenager, Voice of Baceprot’s musical prowess, fueled by a steady diet of personal heroes and YouTube video tutorials, seemed centuries-old. Kurnia sings with an impressive range of gritty depth and high tones, matched only by her simultaneous guitar playing.
Rahmawati’s supple wrists and deft fingers betray the strong inspiration she drew from Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea. And as Aisyah hits her drum set cleanly, she seems to have ascended into a world of her own, at home flanked by cymbals.
Just like many acclaimed rock bands, Voice of Baceprot was born out of a tale of classmates turned bandmates. Drummer Aisyah and vocalist Kurnia had been friends since elementary school, eventually meeting bassist Rahmawati in middle school.
The three were originally cast alongside 15 students for a musical drama led by teacher Abah Ezra, who would later become VoB’s mentor. But since most of the children did not get permission from their parents, the class was reduced to seven students. And then they were three.
Ezra taught the girls basic instrumental skills, talents they honed via YouTube. The group’s early influences include System of a Down, Linkin Park and Rage Against The Machine.
Aisyah cited South African YouTube drummer Cobus Potgieter as a personal inspiration, having learned the “slide” technique from him. This trick allows a drummer to achieve a double-pedal sound with a single pedal, which proved to be an asset given the band’s early lack of adequate musical equipment.
Rahmawati first learned to play bass on an acoustic guitar, at one point breaking a string while trying to slap the instrument.
The group’s success has since inspired an increase in orders for musical equipment for Garut schools. “We are very happy about this because we believe that the current generation should have access to musical instruments,” Rahmawati said. Newsweek.
“Yeah, better than us,” Kurnia added.
The band’s path to fame was not without obstacles. According to Rahmawati, the girls’ parents were initially reluctant. VoB has also been the subject of criticism and threats. Kurnia said he once received a series of threatening letters.
One of them said: “You are beautiful but you will not live long.” Another, which Kurnia said contained “hateful words”, was left after a burglary at her mother’s shop.
But as Voice of Baceprot grew, opposing voices were gradually drowned out by exponentially growing supporters. What started out as scattered handfuls of metal enthusiasts soon turned into massive ecstatic crowds.
Following their 2018 single “School Revolution” the group released “God Allow Me (Please) To Play Music” in August.
The lyrics address God while repeating statements such as “I am not a criminal”, “I am not a corrupter” and “I am not the enemy” – an unequivocal message to their religious critics the most fervent.
On March 8, which marked International Women’s Day, the group released their latest single “[NOT] PUBLIC PROPERTY”, a hymn advocating the autonomy of bodies.
Only a few years after their emergence, VoB saw the rock legends they admired join their growing fanbase. The band received acclaim from Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine, Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Living Color guitarist Vernon Reid.
In August 2022, the band will play Wacken Open Air in Germany, arguably the biggest international heavy metal festival in the world. “We are very excited,” Aisyah said. “Because it’s been one of our biggest dreams for a long time.”
“A group with principles”
As people, VoB’s band members seem almost perpetually in sync, whether they frequently speak in unison or absorb the world around them as a musical unit.
One of the many VoB experiences shared was the tone of surprise – that three veiled Muslim women could be talented and committed metal artists – that followed them through their now well-established careers.
“We don’t want to be seen only as the Muslim hijabi rock trio,” Rahmawati said. “Since the creation of VoB, we want to be known as a group with principles and we want to make great musical works.”
On par with the confrontational nature of metal, the tenets of VoB were not subtly communicated. In another widely viewed TikTok video, a solemn Kurnia took time out from a concert at Atelier des Môles in Montbéliard, France, for a candid talk about sexual violence.
Talk to NewsweekKurnia said the issue of sexual abuse resonated with the group because “the patriarchal culture and the influence of power relations” in Indonesia’s legal system make it “difficult” for survivors to seek justice.
“So we just want to help victims get what they need, and also raise awareness that anyone can be a victim or even a predator,” she said.
Despite the difficulties encountered at its beginnings, the group comes from a country deeply fond of rock music. Indonesia has a vibrant heavy metal scene, with top bands such as Burgerkill, who also perform at Wacken, Deadsquad and Hellcrust.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, known for his love of metal, reportedly once paid 11 million rupiah ($763) for a rare Metallica album. During Voice of Baceprot’s European tour, the Indonesian ambassadors in Belgium and the Netherlands happily tossed out metal horn gestures during photo shoots with the band.
“Rock music or metal music in Indonesia is not just about playing music as loud or as fast as possible, but also has a message to bring people together despite our differences,” Kurnia said. Newsweek.
“So even if they have a title of president or ambassador, or some other important person, when we’re talking about music, we can sit together.”
Throughout Voice of Baceprot’s rise to metal prestige, the world has heard the band’s thunderous fans and chorus of critics. But the trio especially enjoy listening to young Indonesian girls, who “often share their personal stories” with them via social media.
“Maybe it’s because they know we’re active in voicing women’s empowerment issues. We’re also happy to hear their stories that they’re becoming aware [of] their rights,” Kurnia said.
“As women, we also have the same opportunity as men to become whatever we want to be, and our path should not be limited just because we are women.”