Indonesian all-girl Muslim metal band 'Voice of Baceprot' challenges stereotypes

"I think gender equality should be supported because I feel I am still exploring my creativity"

Firdda Kurnia, leader of the metal band Voice of Baceprot, performs during a school's farewell event in Garut, Indonesia, May 15, 2017. REUTERS/Yuddy Cahya

GARUT: Heads covered in 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 of West Java and use their music to combat the stereotype of Muslim women as submissive or voiceless.

"Wearing a hijab should not be a barrier to the group's pursuit of its dream of being heavy metal stars," said Firdda Kurnia, 16, who sings and plays the guitar.

"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 added.

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

"I don't see anything wrong with it," said one fan who attended, Teti Putriwulandari Sari. "This also relates to human rights. If a Muslim girl has [the] talent to play the drums or a guitar, should she not be allowed?" she inquired rhetorically.

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

Muslims make up nearly 90 percent of a 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, feels the community is ready for them or that their music is appropriate for performance.

"It is unusual to see a group of hijab-wearing girls playing metal music or even women shouting," said Muhammad Sholeh, a teacher at the town's Cipari Islamic boarding school, adding that religious pop music was popular with many young Muslims.

"But we're talking about metal here, which is loud."

An official of a top clerical body said that although the group might trigger a culture clash in a conservative area, he did not feel it broke any Islamic values.

"I see this as part of the creativity of teenagers," added Nur Khamim Djuremi, secretary general of the Islamic Art and Culture Division of Indonesia's Ulema Council.