It was a dull day in music class that ignited a rebellion in three Indonesian teenage girls.
Poring over their school teacher’s music collection, the hijab-wearing schoolgirls from conservative West Java discovered a trove of heavy metal.
“I just fell in love with metal since that first time I heard it. It felt so rebellious,” said 16-year-old Firdda Kurnia. “I think we found ourselves in the music.”
Kurnia is vocalist and guitarist of Voice of Baceprot, the metal group she formed in 2014 with drummer Eusi Siti Aisyah and bassist Widi Rahmawati. The band is now blasting its way into the Asian music scene, causing consternation among more conservative peers and bringing the three young women death threats and hate mail.
VoB, as they are known, have achieved acclaim throughout Java and appeared on national television, reward for the dedication of the band members who every day after school diligently practised their thrash metal riffs and brainstormed original lyrics.
This week the young women skipped school to travel four hours by road to the capital Jakarta to perform live on national TV.
“Mostly I like bands from outside,” said Kurnia earnestly, as the band waited in the green room before going on set. “You know – like Slipknot, Rage Against the Machine and Lamb of God.”
The girls were dressed in black skinny jeans, matching black headscarves and thigh-length T-shirts emblazoned with the letters VoB, not only an abbreviation of the band’s name but a word that means “noisy” in their ethnic Sundanese language.
Their merchandise also boasts VoB’s tagline: “The other side of metallism”.
“Many people think metal music is satanic but we are showing that there is a different shade, a different side to the music,” said Erza Satia, 35, the music teacher who introduced the girls to heavy metal, and is now their manager.
In the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, Satia said music is a constructive, creative way for his students to avoid vices such as drugs and “free sex”, the term used to cover any pre-marital sex. Some 90 % of Indonesia’s population of 250 million is Muslim and most are decidedly moderate, but in relatively conservative West Java, the all-girl band has raised many eyebrows and a few haters.