Voice of Baceprot perform during a farewell event at a school in Garut, Indonesia. Photo: Reuters

Indonesia’s hijab-wearing Muslim heavy metal group VoB smashes stereotypes

The all-girl group Voice of Baceprot may have won over fans in their hometown, but many others still believe their focus should be on religion, not Metallica

With their heads covered with headscarves, the three members of the Indonesian band VoB (“Voice of Baceprot” or “Noisy Voice”) do not look like your typical heavy metal group.

Formed in 2014, the band of teenagers met at school in Indonesia’s most populous province, West Java, and use their music to combat the stereotype of Muslim women as submissive or voiceless.

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Wearing a hijab, or Islamic headscarf, should not be a barrier to the group’s pursuit of its dream of being heavy metal stars, says Firdda Kurnia, 16, who plays guitar and sings.

“I think gender equality should be supported, because I feel I am still exploring my creativity, while at the same time, not diminishing my obligations as a Muslim woman,” she adds.

Invited to perform at a recent graduation ceremony at another school, the trio quickly had fans dancing and headbanging at the front of the stage.

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“I don’t see anything wrong with it,” says one fan who attended, Teti Putriwulandari Sari. “There’s no law that bars hijab-wearing women from playing hardcore music. This also relates to human rights. If a Muslim girl has a talent to play the drums or a guitar, should she not be allowed?”

Besides covering classics by groups such as Metallica and Slipknot, the band perform their own songs on issues such as the state of education in Indonesia.

VoB’s Firdda Kurnia, Euis Siti Aisyah and Widi Rahmawati on their way to pray at a mosque in Garut, Indonesia. Photo: Reuters

Muslims make up nearly 90 per cent of the Indonesian population of 250 million, the vast majority practising a moderate form of Islam, although there are some conservative strongholds.

Not everyone in the town of Garut, where the band was formed, and which is home to several Islamic schools, feels the community is ready for them, or that their music is appropriate for performance by young Muslim women.

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“It is unusual to see a group of hijab-wearing girls playing metal music or even women shouting,” says Muhammad Sholeh, a teacher at the town’s Cipari Islamic boarding school. “But we’re talking about metal here, which is loud.”

Despite some of the town’s reservations towards the group, religious pop music is popular with many young Muslims.

Euis Siti Aisyah practises in a studio before she performs in Garut, Indonesia. Photo: Reuters

Maudya Mulyawati, a student at the school, feels the band should focus on singing Salawat, an invocation to the religion’s founder, the Prophet Mohammed.

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An official of a top clerical body says that although the group may trigger a culture clash in a conservative area, he does not feel they break with Islamic values.

Nur Khamim Djuremi, from the Islamic Art and Culture Division of Indonesia’s Ulema Council, says he simply sees “this as part of the creativity of teenagers”.