Indonesian hijab-wearing rock trio Voice Of Baceprot (VOB) released a music video for their groundbreaking single “God, Allow Me (Please) to Play Music” 4 October. It coincides with the International Day of the Girl, which is celebrated annually 11 October and is organized by international non-profit organization Women of the World (WOW) Foundation.
Initially released 17 August, the theme to “God, Allow Me (Please) to Play Music” dovetails with the spirit behind the celebration: to achieve freedom of expression and aspiration for young women around the world without gender and racial discrimination – for young women to make life decisions without intolerance.
“From our personal standpoint, gender equality is when both women and men are given their rights as human beings to live, a proper education, harbour aspirations, and be given the freedom to fight for those aspirations”, says Marsya, the vocalist/guitarist of VOB.
“The lyrics to ‘God, Allow Me (Please) to Play Music’ are so powerful with the main chorus speaking to us all about the struggle of being different and rising up, overcoming stereotypes, defying stigmas, and challenging false claims. Moreover, the lyrics inspire us to persevere in the fight against intimidation, to drive away past fears, and embrace freedom of expression”, tells Bona Palma, the director of the music video.
After several delays due to public activity restrictions (PPKM) because of an increase in COVID-19 cases, production of the music video was successfully carried out 16 September inside a warehouse in Sunter, North Jakarta. Visual concept behind the music video was inspired by the symbolic meaning of the Samsara Circle.
“The circle of life describes the never-ending cycles of values, challenges, stigmas, and stereotypes that the band members have experienced just because they are unique and different”, remarks Palma.
The music video also features several young female activists who are affiliated with the WOW Foundation including UK poets Zahra Ahmad and Rakaya Fetuga, UK punk band Breakup Haircut’s vocalist/guitarist Ishani Jasmin, and WOW’s cultural producer Shereen Pereira. They appear carrying signboards to voice out their concerns and aspirations. One of Indonesia’s foremost female rappers Yacko made an appearance, as well, along with outspoken feminist activist/singer Kartika Jahja.
Besides the music video, VOB’s involvement in the celebrations of the International Day of the Girl will come off in the form of a virtual performance specially arranged for the event. More than 40 young female activists aged 11-19 years will be taking part in the gathering around the world.
“Girl bands like VOB have a long heritage in creating music that challenges genres and break gender norms. They represent a new generation of young people who continue to oppose gender disparity and racism in the music industry!” states a representative from WOW Foundation.
Chaoszine had the chance to catch up with Voice Of Baceprot to discuss the band’s formation, how does it feel to play rock/metal music as females, and what does the future hold for the band. Read the interview below:
Hello Firdda Marsya Kurnia, Widi Rahmawati, and Euis Sitti Aisyah. How is it going for you and the band at the moment?
All: Hello there! We are doing well, thank you very much. Hope you are well, too. Things are getting better over here [in terms of the pandemic], and we are currently back in the studio to record new material.
Obviously, you come from a country where rock/metal music is not that accepted as a style of music. How did you first learn about rock/metal music?
Marsya Kurnia: First of all, we’d like to clarify that Indonesia isn’t a Muslim country like many people believe. Yes, Islam may make up a large proportion of the population but Indonesia is still a democratic country that acknowledges and tolerates other religions. And like every other democratic country, we still have our pros and cons in terms of music. Although the majority of the population is quite open to all sorts of music – including metal – some parts of the country are quite the opposite such as back home in our village in West Java near Garut, where heavy music is not appreciated, especially when it’s performed by women like us.
Widi Rahmawati: We discovered metal thanks to Abah [a Sundanese honorific meaning “sir” or “mister” in English] Erza, our counseling teacher at school. We often borrowed his laptop back then, and one time we stumbled upon his playlist. It was filled with metal songs. One particular song that we listened to was System Of A Down’s “Toxicity”. We immediately fell in love with its heavy and – at the time – unusual sound. Despite our limited musical skills at that point, we decided to perform it at a school event.
You come from Indonesia, which isn’t internationally known from its rock music. Where did you get inspiration to form a rock band together? Were you in school together, or how did everything start?
Sitti Aisyah: On the contrary, Indonesia is actually renowned for being home to a large amount of top-notch rock and metal bands in the Southeast Asian region. And the country is also regarded as one of the biggest metal/rock markets in the continent. Despite originating from a part of the country where rock/metal music is uncommon, we’re still able to see rock/metal bands play on TV, YouTube, and other platforms. So when Abah Erza asked us to form a band for a production by our school theater community, where we had the chance to play musical instruments, we channeled the bands that we’ve seen for inspiration. It just felt right from the beginning for us to form an actual band.
Can you name bands that have been your biggest influence to date?
Sitti Aisyah: It would be System Of A Down. We love their music, lyrics, and consistency in music. They’re always expressing their desire to make a change for a better future, touching upon humanitarian and environmental issues, tolerance, and many other topics that are in harmony with what we are concerned and always speak about. Besides Abah, System Of A Down are also one of the main reasons why we became so determined to take and learn music more seriously and to maintain our consistency.
You wear hijab while playing music. Have you experienced difficulties because of the music style you play? Some people consider metal music as “devil’s music”…
Widi Rahmawati: Yes, we’ve had to face many challenges along the way. Not only because metal music is considered heretical, but also due to its strong patriarchal culture. But we just try to stay consistent and prove that music isn’t going to change who we are. Now we are very grateful that many people have started to support us.
Does it make things even more difficult that you are all girls in the band?
Marsya Kurnia: Unfortunately, yes. Since we first started out, we’ve experienced discrimination and intolerance on more than a few occasions just because we’re women. Even to this day, there are some who still can’t see us past our appearance instead of for our music or capabilities. But then again, isn’t it the same for every other profession, where everything is more difficult for women?
Is music more accepted among men in your country?
Marsya Kurnia: Not really. Living in a democratic country, we’ve yet to see the connection between our rights to enjoy music and gender. Everyone has the same right to choose the type of music that they want and don’t want to listen to without gender dichotomy, like how it is in your country. The only differentiating factor involved is simply our varying taste in music.
Your band caught attention when your cover “Testify” [Rage Against The Machine] went viral on YouTube, and you even got a shout out from the band’s guitarist Tom Morello. How important it has been to you that the rock/metal scene tries to support you as much as they can in your mission to make music more acceptable within your own country?
Marsya Kurnia: We experienced many difficulties in the past because people – including our own parents – didn’t know much about metal. They only knew from what other people said about it, which stoked the misperception of the genre leading to them calling metal as “the devil’s music”. We’ve also faced discrimination and intolerance in the past because we’re women who are trying to make our way in the rock scene. So for us the support that we’ve been getting from internationally acclaimed musicians like Tom Morello and Flea is very important in terms of boosting our morale and showing people that we’re on the right path with what we’ve been doing.
You have released a lot of different covers on YouTube. How do you choose the songs you want to make covers of? Do you have some new covers in the works?
Sitti Aisyah: We’d usually choose them based on what we like about the song, be it the lyrics or the dynamics of the music. However, we prefer to maximize our abilities for our own songs now. For us the biggest achievement being a musician is that we are able to write our own songs.
When Guns N’ Roses played in Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta in 2018 Slash invited you to meet him backstage. What kind of an experience was it for you? Have they [Slash, Guns N’ Roses] been a big influence to the band?
Widi Rahmawati: Unfortunately we weren’t able to meet him because he got stuck in a terrible traffic jam while on our way to the venue. The event organizer decided that we didn’t have enough time to see him. But we are still grateful to have watched their show. They are also one of the bands that have inspired us. We dream of writing songs as good as theirs; songs that are widely known and sung along to all the time.
What kind of plans do you have for the band in the future? Do you see yourself releasing an album full of your own music?
Sitti Aisyah: We plan to produce as many songs as possible. And then one day, hopefully, we’d be able to put them out as a full album and then take it on a world tour. Please pray for us…
Thank you for your time, keep on rocking as hard as you already have. Is there something that you want to say to all the rock and metal music fans out there who have not yet checked you out?
All: We can’t wait to meet even more metalheads out there. But before that, we hope that you can check out our songs first including “School Revolution” and our latest single “God, Allow Me (Please) to Play Music” available on all your favorite digital streaming platforms. Stay healthy and have a great day.