Tag: music

Indonesian all-girl metal band breaks the mould

Performing in the scorching sun wearing long-sleeved shirts and Muslim headscarves, members of the all-female Indonesian alternative metal band Voice of Baceprot were unfazed by the stifling heat.

“Are you ready? You guys are looking good!” band frontwoman Firdda Kurnia shouted to a crowd of mostly teenagers gathered in front of a shopping mall in Garut district, West Java province, before launching into her opening guitar riff.

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Voice of Baceprot from left to right: Firdda, Euis, Widi

Guitarist and singer Firdda, drummer Euis Siti Aisyah and bassist Widi Rahmawati – fresh-faced high school girls who make up the Voice of Baceprot, or VoB – say they want to inspire fellow teenagers and smash stereotypes held by many in the West about covered Muslim women.

“We want to show that girls who wear hijab aren’t oppressed,” 17-year-old Firdda said after the band finished playing.

“We want to show that even though we play metal, we are not abandoning our identity and obligations as Muslims,” said Firdda.

All-female bands are nothing new in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, but they usually dress like their Western counterparts.

Dara Puspita, a pioneering three-piece all-female rock band in the 1960s, was under pressure from then-president Sukarno, who saw Western music as a bad influence.

Indonesia has always been home to a thriving metal subculture, said cultural observer Hikmat Darmawan, noting that President Joko Widodo is an avid heavy metal fan.

“Rock music was an outlet for young Indonesians’ rebellion against the country’s past autocratic regimes,” he said, referring to the rules of former presidents Sukarno and Suharto.

Born to devout Muslim families and growing up poor in Garut, a small town in largely conservative West Java province about a four-hour drive from Jakarta, the VoB girls never dreamed of becoming musicians and did not learn to play musical instruments until they were teenagers.

They were introduced to the guitar and drums a few years ago as part of an extracurricular programme while they were attending an Islamic junior high school, or madrassa.

“We started out playing an acoustic guitar and broken drums from the school’s marching band,” said Euis, the drummer.

“There were no electronic instruments,” she added. “The school then bought a set of drums but I cried because I couldn’t use it.”

There was initial resistance to their choice of musical genre from family, teachers and neighbours, whose conservative views associated rock music with moral decadence, drugs and promiscuity.

“They would say that that metal is not for Muslim girls and that it’s Satanic music,” Firdda said.

“Our neighbours frowned when they saw us carrying the guitars. But that didn’t bother us because we enjoy what we do,” she said.

But attitudes are changing, with their parents no longer opposed to their career choice.

“They are now saying they are proud of us,” Firdda said.

The band, whose name means “noisy,” sings about social and environmental issues, such as in their single “The Enemy of the Earth is You,” and refrains from peppering their songs with religious messages.

“We are a band whose members are Muslims, but we are not an Islamic metal band,” Firdda said.

Firdda described the band’s genre as “nu metal” and said that its music is influenced by an eclectic mix of artists including Dream Theater, Lamb of God, Linkin Park, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Eminem.

The band has been invited to play on local television and is attracting a legion of fans in Indonesia and beyond, Firdda said.

After the band’s recent performance in Garut, local fans mobbed the girls behind the stage and asked to take selfies with them.

“We have fans in places across the country and overseas, including in Israel,” said Firdda, with a laugh.

The trio has won praise not only for breaking the mould of a typical metal band but also for their musical prowess.

“They have good skills and the fact that they wear hijab is a plus,” said Ade Nasruddin, a metal fan who attended the band’s live performance in Garut.

“The bass player is especially very good,” he said.

The band has also won plaudits from overseas viewers.

“There is nothing as truly cool, punk rock and rebellious, as a girl in a hijab with a guitar and microphone challenging the authority. Deep respect from a thinking American,” a YouTube user named Patrick Hayes wrote on one of the band’s videos.

The band is set to release an independent album later this year, to be distributed online. Some of the songs will be in English.

“We want people outside Indonesia to listen to our music. We have never been abroad but maybe someday we can perform overseas,” Firdda said.

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Indonesian showbiz magnet for Eurasians

Jakarta – Marissa Nasution insists that being a Eurasian is not the main reason she has become a TV personality and actress.

“The most important thing is talent and personality,” said Marissa, who was born in Germany to a German father and an Indonesian mother.

Talent aside, people of mixed Indonesian-European parentage have for years been singled out for jobs in show business because of their perceived good looks. That has turned people like Marissa, Cinta Laura Kiehl, Julie Estelle Gasnier, Dewi Sandra Killick and Rianti Cartwright into household names.

“The idea that all Eurasian children will become celebrities is

currently very firmly entrenched in Indonesia,” said Rosalind Hewett, a scholar in Indonesian history at the Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific.

“And it’s a common thing to suggest to mixed couples for their future children,” said Hewett, who herself is married to an Indonesian.

Cinta Laura, who is also of mixed German-Indonesian parentage, barely spoke Indonesian when she started in local show business nine years ago.

She still retains her thick foreign accent and penchant for
mixing English and Indonesian, which has made her an object of fascination and jokes among Indonesians.

“People often forget that I was not raised in Indonesia,” said Kiehl, 21, who was born to a German father and an Indonesian mother. “Trust me, my Indonesian has greatly improved since I first began my career at 12.”

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European-Indonesians, especially those of Dutch heritage, have not always been this popular in Indonesia.

Between 1945-47, after Indonesia declared independence from the Netherlands, Eurasians were attacked and killed on the streets on suspicions of loyalty to the Dutch, who were returning to regain control of the country, Hewett said.

Historians estimate the death toll at about 3,500.

“In 1945, after the Japanese surrender, some Eurasians openly welcomed the return of colonial rule, because in many ways the system had favoured them and given them opportunities, and also because many were loyal to the Netherlands,” she said.

Cinta Laura’s career took off after she starred in a 2007 television soap opera called Cinderella: Is Love Only a Dream? Three years later, she recorded her first studio album, which sold 1 million copies.

“It was definitely very difficult to adjust initially,” she said. “I was raised very much the German way in which punctuality, efficiency and discipline are seen as necessary to be successful.

“The industry in Indonesia is still developing and a problem that still persists today is that both actors and crew members are often late for work,” she said.

Cinta Laura said many Indonesians are “obsessed with light skin, tall
stature,” and called the phenomenon “unfortunate.”

“It’s quite sad that many Indonesians don’t realize the rare beauty of their own,” she said.

“Though having more Western looks is an advantage, I think having a certain talent, skill and charisma is also very important.”

Cinta Laura graduated with honours from Columbia University last year in the United States, where she now lives to pursue a career in
Hollywood.

Her famous, widely quoted remarks that highlight her trademark
language-mixing include: “Not all beautiful people bisa menjadi famous” (Not all beautiful people can be famous).

“I think it is safe to assume that by general consensus, Indonesians think Cinta Laura’s language sounds entertainingly annoying,” lawyer Tiza Mafira wrote in an opinion piece in the Jakarta Globe.

“At first it was funny, then weird, then sickening. But ultimately, like traffic, celebrity infotainment and completely incomprehensible K-Pop lyrics, we develop a certain fondness for it,” she wrote.

Veteran screenwriter Arswendo Atmowiloto said the preference for Western looks is not unique to Indonesia, and that Eurasians have regularly featured in local films since the 1950s.

“But it seems that now we’re taking it a bit too far,” he said.

“Obviously some of those actors can’t even act and they don’t speak like Indonesians,” he said.

Marissa said she picked as an MTV video jockey before trying her hand at acting because of her English proficiency.

Cinta Laura said she was not bothered by jokes about her accent and her habit of mixing between Indonesian and English.

“It’s actually boosted my popularity, so all I can say is thank you to the haters and lovers. You got me a lot of fees,” she said with a laugh.