Meet Voice Of Baceprot, The All-Girl Metal Band Making Waves In Indonesia

Aug 9, 2017
Originally published on September 11, 2017 12:34 pm

The Indonesian metal group Voice of Baceprot is one noisy band. In fact, the band's name literally means "noisy" in the ethnic Sundanese language the three members speak. They all hail from a rural, conservative part of Indonesia — West Java — about five hours southeast of the capital of Jakarta. But it isn't just the band's loud music that's attracting attention: Voice of Baceprot has also entered the spotlight for breaking the mold of a typical metal band.

For starters: The band is made up entirely of teenage schoolgirls. Vocalist and guitarist Firdda Kurnia, drummer Eusi Siti Aisyah and bassist Widi Rahmawati, who formed the band in 2014, are all daughters of local farmers. They grew up poor and attend one of the many madrasas, or Muslim schools, in the area. It was there that the three were introduced to metal music by their middle school guidance counselor, Ahba Erza.

"I don't know why the girls love the metal bands," says Erza, who taught the girls the instruments and would go on to become their band manager. Before Erza, the members of Voice of Baceprot didn't even know what metal was, but the genre has now become a way of life for them. "I found myself in the metal music," says Kurnia, 17.

The band's music is inspired by the likes of metal music legends such as Slipknot, Lamb of God and Rage Against The Machine. As the band's popularity continues to grow, Voice of Baceprot is fast becoming part of a thriving underground metal scene in Indonesia, which has fans in some of the highest places: Indonesian President Joko Widodo is known for being a huge metalhead.

Voice of Baceprot performed on Indonesia's most popular television variety show in June — an important achievement for such a young band. But the milestone is lent even more significance because of who Kurnia, Aisyah and Rahmawati are. As young women, their very presence on stage is making waves throughout the conservative corners of their community and even Indonesia as a whole.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation and is also a place where pluralism and religion often rub against each other. So it may come as no surprise that Voice of Baceprot has caused some consternation among Indonesia's more religiously conservative. Not only are they women playing loud, abrasive music in public; they also perform while wearing the hijab, the head scarf traditionally worn by Muslim women.

Kurnia and Erza say the band members receive phone calls and messages all the time telling them to stop playing their music, and that they are often bullied on social media.

"They say my music is forbidden by my religion," says Kurnia, whose own parents forbade her from playing in the beginning. But as the band's popularity grew, Kurnia says, her parents became proud and supportive. Now, Kurnia says, she is emboldened and proud to be an inspiration to other women.

"I'm a different musician because I'm a woman, and I play metal music but I'm wearing hijab," she says. "Hijab is my identity, OK?"

The girls know what they've gotten themselves into, Ezra says. "They have many dreams in their brains," he says. "They have to make their dreams, but they have to brave the consequences."

Thankfully, Voice of Baceprot has supporters in Indonesia's music scene they can count on. Giring Ganesha, vocalist for the Indonesian pop band Nidji, is one of them. He met Voice of Baceprot backstage once when they were both performing on the same television show. Ganesha describes the band's performance as "jawdropping."

For three girls their age from outside the city to have such talent and skill is very surprising, Ganesha says, and it makes him happy to see them performing.

"They're embracing pop culture. They're embracing rock," he says. "They show that, 'OK, my religion is Muslim, that is my identity,' but still I know they can embrace music, embrace rock music and have fun with it."

Today, Voice of Baceprot mostly plays covers. But they have released a few of their own songs, including one about the state of education in Indonesia and another about protecting the environment, titled "The Enemy of Earth is You."

Kurnia says she hopes to play in England and Paris one day. "I hope my band will be successful," she says, "and can be the inspiration of younger generations."

But for now, the band has a more immediate goal: get an album out by the end of this year.

Web intern Karen Gwee contributed to this story.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And now some words you don't often hear together - all-girl, teenage, Indonesian metal band. NPR's Ashley Westerman has this profile.

ASHLEY WESTERMAN, BYLINE: The band's called Voice of Baceprot. Baceprot means noisy in the girls' native Sudanese language. And they are...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VOICE OF BACEPROT: (Singing in Indonesian).

FIRDDA KURNIA: I found myself in the metal music.

WESTERMAN: That's 17-year-old Firdda Kurnia, saying that she found herself in the metal music. We reached her in a small village some five hours southeast of the capital, Jakarta. It's a conservative area where she and her bandmates grew up. They formed VOB in 2014 after getting hooked on metal, thanks to their middle-school guidance counselor, Ahba Erza.

AHBA ERZA: I don't know why the girls love, love the metal bands.

WESTERMAN: But once they heard the metal bands like Slipknot, Metallica and Lamb of God, the three teens never looked back. Erza was a musician in a previous life. And he taught them how to play their instruments. And now he's their band manager. Today, VOB continues to gain popularity. Recently, they were even featured on Indonesia's most popular television variety show.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VOICE OF BACEPROT: (Singing in Indonesian).

WESTERMAN: That was sound from a video of that performance back in June. If you see it, you'll notice something else about the band. All three of them are performing wearing the hijab, a headscarf traditionally worn by Muslim women. Vocalist Firdda Kurnia is acutely aware that people have noticed.

KURNIA: I'm a different musician because I'm a woman, and I play metal music. But I'm wearing hijab. Hijab is my identity, OK?

WESTERMAN: In case you didn't hear that, she says hijab is her identity.

In the world's most populous Muslim nation where pluralism and religion often rub against each other, VOB has caused some consternation among the more religiously conservative.

KURNIA: They say my music is forbidden.

WESTERMAN: The band has received phone calls telling them to stop playing, and they're bullied on social media. Kurnia says even her parents initially forbade her to play metal music.

KURNIA: They say metal is bad for my future (laughter). But, alhamdulillah, they are supporting us now.

WESTERMAN: Alhamdulillah, meaning praise God. Her family supports her now, as do others in the music scene there.

GIRING GANESHA: For three girls at their age living in the outskirts of Jakarta and then to play that kind of music and have such talent and skill, I think is very surprising.

WESTERMAN: That's Giring Ganesha, vocalist for the Indonesian pop band Nidji. Ganesha says Indonesia has a thriving underground metal scene, with fans in some of the highest of places. President Joko Widodo is a huge metal head. Metal and religion just coexist there. Ganesha says it's just a normal thing. And to see someone wearing hijab and playing metal...

GANESHA: Is just something so beautiful for us because it embraces everything about being Muslim. You know, we don't close down. You know, we don't put walls in front of us. We embrace our own culture and still embrace our love to God.

(SOUNDBITE OF VOICE OF BACEPROT SONG, "SCHOOL REVOLUTION")

WESTERMAN: Voice of Baceprot hopes to have their first album out by the end of this year. Ashley Westerman, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF VOICE OF BACEPROT SONG, "SCHOOL REVOLUTION") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.