The all-girl Muslim metal band in Indonesia

The all-girl Muslim metal band in Indonesia

Indonesia is the breeding ground of many unique artists but none is parallel to the hijab-wearing Muslim metal band VoB (“Voice of Baceprot” or “Noisy Voice”). The band's name literally means “noisy” in the Sundanese language the three members speak. Coming from a rural, conservative part of Indonesia - West Java - hasn't stopped VoB from being a noisy band inspired by the likes of metal music legends such as Slipknot, Lamb of God and Rage Against the Machine.

The band's noisy and transgressive music, however, what is causing a stir in West Java, but the fact that Voice of Baceprot's members are all hijab-wearing Muslim teenage schoolgirls: vocalist and guitarist Fridda Kurnia, drummer Eusi Siti Aisyah and bassist Widi Rahmawati. Born to local farmers, they grew up poor and attend one of the many madrassas, or Muslim schools, in the area. That is where they were introduced to metal music by their middle school guidance counselor, Ahba Erza. “I don't know why the girls love the metal bands,” says Erza, who didn't just teach the girls to play the instruments but is also their band manager. Ever since the music genre has become their life. “I found myself in the metal music,” said Kurnia.

Clearly, this all-teenaged-girls group is not your typical metal band. To begin with, there's no crazy hair bouncing back and forth. But like many other metal bands, they have a political voice, and this one in particular stands out for Muslim women and it combats the stereotype of them as being submissive or voiceless.

The band of teeagers started back in 2004 upon meeting at school in Indonesia's most populous province of West Java. Ever since, they've been challenging stereotypes and defending Muslim women's rights to accomplish whatever they set out to do. VoB's lead singer and guitarist, Firdda Kurnia, said that wearing a hijab, or Islamic head scarf, should not deter the group from pursuing their dream to become great heavy metal stars.

“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.

After performing at a graduation ceremony at another school, the band was well received by the students, who danced and banged their heads to the beat of their music.

“I don't see anything wrong with it,” said one fan who attended, Teti Putriwulandari Sari. “There's no law that bars hijab-wearing women from playing hardcore music. This also relates to human rights. If a Muslim girl has a talent to play the drums or a guitar, should she not be allowed?”

The band's performance included classics by groups such as Metallica and Slipknot, but they also included some of their own songs. VoB are true to the origins of metal rock music and they use their songs to voice issues such as the state of education in Indonesia. With the band's growing popularity, it is fast becoming part of a burgeoning underground metal scene in the country. They have even performed on Indonesia's most popular television variety show, a real milestone for the band, particularly because it means that young women are stirring sensations across their conservative community and their country.

But it hasn't only been open doors for the young band. With Muslims making up nearly 90 percent of a population of 250 million out of which some practice a conservative form of Islam, some Indonesians are not ready for them and some don't think their music is appropriate for performance by young Muslim women.

“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.”

A student at the school felt the band should sing“Salawat”, an invocation to the religion's founder, Prophet Muhammad, instead.

Meanwhile, Nur Khamim Djuremi, secretary general of the Islamic Art and Culture Division of Indonesia's Ulema Council, said that although the band might cause commotion in a conservative area, as far as he knew it didn't break any Islamic values. He said, “I see this as part of the creativity of teenagers.”

Indonesia inventor of strange music instruments

Indonesia inventor of strange music instruments

Doc Brown may have invented a vehicle that travels through time, and the Swiss scientist Victor Fankenstein may have topped the charts of mad scientists when he created life in the form of a horrible monster, but these pop culture mad inventors have nothing on an Indonesian artist who creates strange musical instruments out of mechanical spare parts.

Slamet Wiyono, also known as Slamet Jenggot, which means “Bearded Slamet” is a Bekasi-based architect, painter and musician who drew inspiration to create these peculiar instruments from his hobby of dismantling mechanical components. This frenzy started back in 2012 when he created his first instrument. Ever since, he has been using auto spare parts he finds on the side of the road or collects from auto repair shops to assemble his musical creations.

"The way I work is very organic. I avoid using a welding machine to combine these aluminum and steel pieces for my instrument," Slamet told The Jakarta Globe. One of his creations is a hand-cranked music box which consists of over 500 kilograms of steel and aluminum plates assembled together with metal bolts.

This instrument creates unusual yer harmonious music by activating a bass, drum, guitar, kick drum, cymbal and other instruments. The Indonesian artist views this machine as a groundbreaking invention that allows us to do something that is not humanly possible to do with the body or the mind. "I am always fascinated by the relationship between art, technology and science. To me, my work shows how these three elements can work together to create a unity," the 66-year-old inventor said. This colossal instrument also is made out of several kitchen implements, including scales, portable stoves and frying pans.

According to Slamet, his modus operandis while making this strange instruments stems from his educational background. "My work combines art design and machines. I studied architecture and I have a passion for all things automotive.”

Although this huge instrument might resemble an instrument and it might induce you to think so given Slamet's fascination for all things automotive, he claims he never intended for it come out that way, because he is also trying to create art with his musical instruments and art is subjective. He wants people to have their perception and interpretation of the instrument.

Apart from being music instruments and artistic creations, Slamet also uses his work as a escape valve to his political thoughts. He said some of the instruments manifest his disappointment with political discrimination, intolerance and greedy leaders. "People often ask why I created this monstrosity. I said, this is the way I express my fondness for art and a creative way to voice [my] anxiety about the world," Slamet said. For instance, the scale stands for all the imbalances he sees in Indonesian politics.

Although some people might not understand or like Slamet's work, there are others who truly appreciate it and have even expressed their desire to purchase some of his instruments. Unfortunately for them, however, Slamet said he would never sell his creations. "I like what I create and I have no intention to sell it. Many of my artist friends said I can make a lot of profit but this is not about money. It's about my passion," Slamet said.

Even if he sold these instruments, they would be hard to play for any seasoned musician as they do not follow a diatonic scale like conventional music instruments. "When I perform, my instrument cannot follow the guitar, drum or piano, they have to follow me. Because I did not create it to follow a conventional musical scale.”

This peculiar creator makes up for it by hosting a workshop where he teaches attendees how to create musical instruments the way he does, and also for those who are interested in kinetic art. Attendees range from university students and artists and music lovers in general who regularly join him in Bekasi.

He also holds workshops outside his house and his latest project was even accepted to be showcased in the 2018 Asian Games in Palembang. "They asked me to create 15 kinetic art installation made of aluminum and steel, just like what I did," Slamet told The Jakarta Globe.

This multifaceted artist has two studios, one for his paintings in Durent Sawit, East Jakarta, and the musical instrument workshop he has at home. Although he is popularity keeps growing, he said there are no plans to open up any more studios in the works. "I prefer to have people come to my house,” he explained. “It's always nice to have people around."

That might change in the future as the 66-year-old artist is starting get more and more recognition for his work. While he is not widely known in Jakarta, Slamet's work is widely recognised by Indonesia's art communities. So far he has performed in several musical festival and has even taken to the stage in plays.

Indonesian music culture from 1997-2001

Indonesian music culture from 1997-2001

Musician, anthropologist, ethnomusicologist, and assistant professor in the Department of Popular Culture at Bowling Green State University, Jeremy Wallach has delved into Indonesian music culture with new book, “Modern Noise, Fluid Genres: Popular Music in Indonesia 1997-2001” which he wrote in Bahasa Indonesia.

Soon after Wallach started doing fieldwork for his book, the country started to undergo a dramatic political transformation in 1998. This timely coincidence allowed him to witness a direct relationship between the underground music and the growing opposition movement that sought to challenge Soeharto's repressive regime.

Wallach interviewed Indonesian music communities - from punk to metal and dangdut - that took over the airwaves of the country from the era of the New Order transition towards the Reformation Order to document this period.

His documentation stated back in 1997 when he relocated to the Southeast Asian country to study Indonesian pop culture. Although he was first deterred by Indonesian artists' unwillingness to speak about politics, the political unrest that followed that year sparked by the resignation of president Soeharto enabled him to meet with prominent figures in the Indonesian pop culture and political scene.

During that time, Jeremy was exposed to dangdut music in its optimistic phase. He also found himself in the midst of music movements organised by students and was exposed to youngsters starting their own punk and metal craze.

The book has carefully documented that era with thorough research and in-depth insight that goes beyond the pop music scene and also digs into underground music. It also explores what happens to local music when musicians and audiences are exposed to foreign cultural influences from far and wide. Wallach dives into this question against the backdrop of the evolving world of Indonesian music after the fall of the repressive Soeharto regime, and the chaotic transition to democracy.

Wallach visited Indonesia to promote the Indonesian version of his book “Modern Noise” by having a discussion at the American cultural centre. There he told the Jakarta Post about the expansion of metal music is a global phenomenon that has brought metal music aficionados closer, turning them into a global community in an increasingly interconnected world. He said that “it's certainly a phenomenon that can't be ignored and has led to a number of significant developments. First of all, it has led to the underground scene of local communities that are connected through zines, through internet sites, through recordings being traded back and forth across national boundaries that's connected through the global networks of scenes bu also has a strong local identity and a strong regional identity. So there is a sort of global social network that this is part of. And this scene also has a strong local identity.”

When asked if he thinks metal or underground music contributed to bringing down the New Order regime, Wallach said, “The contributions, I think, are hard to quantify. But we know certain things. We know that the underground scene had set up a social infrastructure. It helped set up social networks to people that are important for maintaining communities where activism could be supported. People in campuses, we know that through zines, through the circulation of underground artifacts, various radical lefties ideologies and theories of resistance of political opposition circulation through networks brought by young people. We know that certain opposition of consciousness was fostered by angry, resisting music. We know that a lot of heavy metal is very political despite what people think. Bands like Sepultura, Talga, Testament, Rage Against the Machine or System of a Down; their music was very political. It was about political systems and people knew this, and were influenced by it. Is there a direct connection? Probably you'll never find one, but there was definitely an overlap between the heavy metal community and the activist community. They moved in the same circles. So there was a connection.”

Through his thorough research and documentation of Indonesian music scene of that period, Wallach takes the reader on a joy ride across recording studios, music stores, concert venues, university campuses, video shoots, and urban neighbourhoods. By combining local ground-level ethnographic research with insights drawn from contemporary cultural theory, Wallach proves that exposure to globally circulating music and technologies has neither extinguished nor homogenised local music-making in Indonesia. If anything, according to Wallach, it has endowed young Indonesians with creative possibilities to explore their identity in a multicultural nation undergoing earth-shaking transformations in an exponentially interconnected world.

Through his documentation and studies, he concludes that the diversion nationalism of Indonesian popular music serves as an alternative to the religious, ethnic, regional, and class-based extremism that have been a menace to unity and democracy in Indonesia.

Zay Nova Indonesian country music singer

Zay Nova Indonesian country music singer

As surprising as it sounds, Zay Nova is an Indonesian country music songwriter and performer from Bangka, who has made it in it Canada. Some of the songs he has released were co-written with American songwriter, Jan Duke. “Head Above Water” is his first independent album to be released in Canada.

Zay Nova

is an artist who has worn many hats and worked at many different jobs, ranging from radio commercial mixer and radio music director, mime actor, painter, and host of a local TV show. After working as a radio announcer for 14 years, Zay launched his music career, but he employed well those previous years, which served to write his own material as well as material for other artists.

Upon meeting St. John's teacher, Anthony Murphy, in Jakarta, Zay Nova decided to gift Newfoundland with his unique music style, which combines the sounds of Southeast Asia with American country and western music. He told CBC Canada, “I've visited Vancouver, I've visited Toronto, but my heart is here, my heart is in St. John's.”

After seeing Nova perform, Murphy contacted Nova and they both kept in touch online. The encouragement from Murphy prompted Nova to take his unique music style to the streets of St. John, which welcomed him with open arms. Canada gave Nova a opportunity to launch his country music career he wouldn't have found in Indonesia.

As he explained, Indonesian music scene is not exactly psyched about country music, and Nova wasn't ready to compromise his artistic integrity and passion for country music. "Not many radios in my country are playing country, but they mix with pop or rock or something," he told CBC.

Instead of country and western music, it's the music style dangdut what has overtaken the airwaves of Indonesia. He added: "Just like country music, we have have traditional music called dangdut, which has a lot of fans there, but country and western is not really that common in Indonesia."

Upon arriving in British Columbia, Nova joined a bunch a troubadours who travel across the continent to showcase their music. Nova has confessed he really likes his home and locals. “They're really good to me and the people of Newfoundland. Everywhere I go, why do people say ‘Hello, my dear'?”

An artist through and through, Nova is currently working on his own unique version of country music, which will be a combination of Indonesian music and the southern United States.

Although you can only listen to Nova's music by going to his Soundcloud page, he is currently involved in different projects. He was invited to play the O'Rielly's open mic downtown, and is looking forward to getting gigs at other bars once he gets his name out there.

Although he has written over 500 songs, he is starting to write them in Canada to reach a larger audience. Some of the songs he has written and recorded so far in Canada include Molson Canadian Beer, Your Head Above Water and Your Husband is a Liar.

You can also check out his YouTube channel, where he showcases some of his music. Zay Nova is currently seeking a band and, particularly, a guitarist, to accompany him during his acoustic performances.

If he cannot find a whole band, he wants to assemble his own for his performances and thus he is looking for some of the following ones, in case you live in Canada and would like to join him: an accordion, background singer, bagpipes, banjo, bass guitar, vello, clarinet, DJ, dobro, drums, electronic music, fiddle, flute, harmonica, harp, keyboard, lead guitar, mandolin, other percussion, piano, rhythm guitar, saxophone, steel guitar, trombone, trumpet, ukulele, upright bass, violin, vocalist - either alto, soprano, tenor or baritone and bass.