In Indonesia, 3 Muslim Girls Fight for Their Right to Play Heavy Metal

They say they want to prove that they can be observant Muslims while also playing loud music and being independent.

“A hijab and metal music are different,” said Firdda Kurnia, 17, the guitarist and lead singer, referring to the traditional Muslim head scarf she and her bandmates wear. “A hijab is my identity, and metal is my music genre.”


The drummer, Eusi Siti Aisyah, center, and Widi Rahmawati, far right, who plays bass, having makeup applied before a performance in Jakarta last month. They say they want to show that observing Islam and playing heavy metal are not mutually exclusive.

Kemal Jufri for The New York Times

In finding their voices and becoming a band, they say they have endured criticism from their families, friends and neighbors, and have received hundreds of online death threats for supposedly blaspheming Islam and not acting like proper Muslim girls — in other words, submissive, they said.

One night, while riding motorcycles home from a recording studio, they were pelted with rocks wrapped in paper inscribed with profane messages.

But they have fought back, through songs about intolerance, gender equality and the rights of young people in a country where issues like forced underage marriage are still prevalent, especially in rural areas like West Java.

Their tenacity is paying off. Last month, they performed before a crowd of 2,000 senior government officials, business leaders and student groups in the capital, Jakarta, as part of a celebration of the country’s 72nd independence anniversary.

Ms. Firdda and her bandmates — the drummer, Eusi Siti Aisyah, 17, and the bassist, Widi Rahmawati, 15 — have been friends since childhood.

The daughters of rural farmers, they had never played instruments before taking a music class in middle school in 2014. They formed the band that same year.

Their music teacher, Cep Ersa Eka Susila Satia, sensed their potential and offered to manage them, saying that he “saw three rebellious students and I channeled it” into music.

Initially, the girls said their parents forbade them from performing. But they ignored the order, playing in secret, and they soon developed a local following through live shows. Videos of their performances posted to Facebook quickly went viral, expanding their fan base.


The band’s…

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