In 2014, in a classroom in rural Indonesia, three schoolgirls fell in love with metal. During an extra-curricular arts programme at their school in Garut, West Java, Firdda Marsya Kurnia (vocals and guitar), Widi Rahmawati (bass), and Euis Siti Aisyah (drums), then aged 14, were introduced to metal by their school guidance counsellor, Ahba Erza.
Immediately, the teenagers were drawn to the “unique and beautiful” lyricism of System Of A Down, and “rebellious” spirit of bands such as Rage Against The Machine, Lamb Of God and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Before long, they had formed Voice Of Baceprot, (the word ‘Baceprot’ means ‘loud’ in Sundanese) and were making their own incendiary racket. Their 2018 single, School Revolution, is a fiery blend of elastic bass and furious RATM-indebted thrash.
Emerging as an all-female, Muslim metal band in a conservative community in West Java has posed its own challenges however. The girls have received death threats, while Ahba, who is now their manager, has received calls pressuring him to break up the band. The trio spoke to Metal Hammer about overcoming these challenges and demolishing cultural and gender norms.
What’s the scene like in Indonesia for metal and are there many women playing in bands?
Marsya [lead guitar / vocals]: “Every year the metal scene in Indonesia keeps on developing and growing. There’s a bunch of bands all genders and ages, a lot of Indonesians are familiar with metal music and there are a lot of local metal bands in Indonesia.
Euis [drummer]: “There are women that play rock and metal. It’s there, the amount is relative, but there are more and more women playing in Indonesia.”
Can you remember your first gig?
“The first performance was a school event, a farewell concert and it was the first time our parents saw us perform. They school we went to was a pretty religious Islamic school, when we performed, everyone was pretty shocked.”
Shocked in what sense?
Marsya: “[Our parents] didn’t explicitly show their support or forbid us from playing music. Deep down, we knew that they were actually proud of us. Perhaps a little bit worried. They did prohibit us from playing music after [our first show], but we carried on regardless and didn’t think too much of it. [The band practised in secret for a year after their first gig following reservations from their parents.] We never thought about packing it in or taking a step back. As time went by, we realised that the lack of support from our parents and community played a huge role in fortifying our mental strength, and the resolve that we have in proving that our music does not negatively affect our morals.”
You have faced challenges in your own country, and even death threats for playing metal. How did you deal with that?
“They were just comments made on social media. We were a bit scared at first, but we just put our heads down and focused back on our music. As the cliché goes, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. We get a lot of curse words and people saying you should stop playing. They want us to stop playing music. For the most part, people are saying that stuff because we’re women, but we’re not scared to say what’s on our mind. A lot of people don’t like that. If we were men maybe we wouldn’t get such a hard time. Music gives us such a great joy that’s why we want to continue to play. So we are focusing on our music and screw the others!”
What is your single School Revolution about?
“When students start to feel lost and so far detached from their hopes and dreams for the sake of following rigid school rules, we believe that it is simply another form of subjection. This is based on our own experience; from what we felt, the discussions that we had with Abah, and what we’ve read from many books. School was a big part of our lives at that time. It was the place where most teenagers spend their adolescence. Schools should be a just and fair space that is able to accommodate the hopes and dreams of its students.”
What are other themes and messages in your music?
Widi [bassist]: “The main message is about freedom. Independence as a woman, as a human being, and we write a lot about human values and humanity as well. What we’re trying to do is continue traditions, speak our mind and share our music with other people.”
Voice of Baceprot are part of WOW Sounds, a series of specially filmed musical performances curated for WOW Festival UK 2021 which will stream online until 21st March at thewowfoundation.com (opens in new tab).