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Indonesia's hijab-wearing headbangers VOB trade village life for metal heaven

Indonesia's hijab-wearing headbangers VOB trade village life for metal heaven

All-female band VOB had to fight social conservatism and family pressure before becoming one of Indonesia's hottest acts AFP/BAY ISMOYO

Indonesia's hijab-wearing, headbanging VOB count some of rock music's biggest stars among their fans, but the all-female heavy metal band faced a tougher battle in winning over their parents.

The diminutive trio behind Voice of Baceprot ("Noisy Voice" in English) have spent years honing their skills at music festivals around the world's biggest Muslim majority nation after forming VOB as young teens in 2014.

With their creative covers getting the attention of famed musicians including Flea and Tom Morello, VOA now wants to collaborate with idols System of a Down AFP/BAY ISMOYO

It is a long way from the conservative town in West Java province where they grew up, shrugging off a hostile reaction from neighbours and family members to pursue their passion.

"Because of metal music, I have the courage to speak my mind and the confidence to be different," 19-year-old bassist Widi Rahmawati told AFP during a recent jam session.

"When I'm on stage, I can express myself without worrying about the norms that people expect from me".

Obeying those norms would have compelled the three women to marry right after high school.

"My parents told me that reading was useless, let alone playing music," said the band's bespectacled singer and lead guitarist Firda Marsya Kurnia, 20.

"They said that once I got married, my future husband wouldn't tell me to read books, but to cook or clean the house instead."

VOB's battle against convention has taken them from conservative town to capital Jakarta, gaining international recognition and the attention of music's biggest stars along the way AFP/BAY ISMOYO

The trio's stubborn determination eventually won over their sceptical parents and they moved to the capital Jakarta last year to hone their talents.

"Music is a place for us to gain happiness and share that with other people," Kurnia said.

"We're just grateful if the audience gets something, like a message, from our music."

"TOUGH LADIES"

The move to the big city comes after their popular 2018 single School Revolution, which took aim at Indonesia's strict education system.

Much of their songwriting these days now focuses on the role of women and environmental issues.

VOB's critiques of conservative social values resonate across borders and could win them a bigger international audience, said music expert Yuka Dian Narendra.

"The band (is) a reflection of mainstream Muslim girls in Indonesia," he added.

VOB hope to play at premier US music festival Coachella one day. (Photo: AFP/BAY ISMOYO) The hijab-wearing headbangers hope to play at premier US music festival Coachella one day AFP/BAY ISMOYO

VOB first attracted international attention when online videos of them pumping out song covers caught the eyes of Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello.

"We never expected" that kind of attention, said Kurnia. "It felt like a dream."

The band has played several online concerts since the pandemic shut down most cross-border travel, including the WOW UK Festival in England and the Global Just Recovery Gathering.

They hope their hard-driving tunes will land them a spot at top-tier US music festival Coachella one day, and the chance to collaborate with idols System of a Down.

In the meantime, VOB say they'll keep drawing inspiration from the women in their hometown, where many do back-breaking farm work.

"The women there are treated like second-class citizens," said drummer Euis Siti Aisah.

"But there are lot of tough ladies in our village."

(Source: AFP)

Source: AFP/sr

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