Headbangers In Hijabs: Meet Muslim Teen Girl Metal Band

In Indonesia, the heavy metal band Voice of Baceprot is turning and banging heads. But critics say this is not what Muslim girls should be doing.

Rocking in the free world
Rocking in the free world
Nicole Curby

JAKARTA — Siti, Widi and Firdda are petite. But the sound of their band, Voice of Baceprot is huge. When I met them, the three girls were dressed entirely in black: from headscarves to sneakers. The tips of their fingers blue and scratched from hours spent practicing guitar.

This is their first time in a radio studio. They cling to each other. Widi is 15 and the youngest, and she giggles and shies away, hiding behind the others. Today they're getting ready to play alongside Superman is Dead, one of Indonesia's biggest bands, in front of an audience of several thousands. They're nervous.

The young band has had a rapid rise to fame. So much so that they tell me they're reading books on emotional intelligence to try and stay balanced throughout the head spinning experience. Singer Firdda Kurnia is 16 years old, and as the oldest of the three, she's become spokeswoman. She says it hasn't been a smooth ride.

Some people slander and hate us

"At first, our closest family members didn't support us," she told me. "Because maybe they didn't know what we were doing. And this music is always identified with promiscuity. But once they knew what we're doing, what our activities are like, they started to support us."

Every day after school, the girls meet and practice for three hours. And their dedication is paying off. Voice of Baceprot has fans across Indonesia and around the world, from the UK to Australia.

But it's not only fans that have noticed them. The band has plenty of loud and aggressive critics threatening them — both at home, and on social media.

"There are some people who hate and slander us," Firdda says. "They say metal is inappropriate and it's inconsistent with us wearing the hijab, because metal is considered dark music, satanic music. But through our songs, we can prove that we can play metal music without abandoning our responsibilities as Muslim women, who have to cover our bodies."

Some metal music is nihilistic and dark. That's the music that the three girls fell in love with when they first heard it. And they've learned a lot from metal bands like Slipknot, Metallica, and System of a Down, including how to use music as a means to express social commentary.

But unlike others, Voice of Baceprot is unapologetically idealistic. With intolerance on the rise in Indonesia, their message is one of hope.

They have four original songs, and Firdda told me about one of them. "It's called ‘What's the holy today,"" she said. "These days more people feel that they're right. Everyone else is wrong. A sense of egoism. It's become hard to find tolerance," she continued. "So through that song, we want to make a statement about peace and tolerance."

When they're not playing music, the three girls are finishing their final years of school. They're at a secretarial school. But they tell me that's not the future they're hoping for.

They'd prefer use their fingers playing guitar rather than from typing memos. So they're setting their sights big. "First we want to make an album that can be published in Indonesia and abroad. We also want to perform abroad in the UK, big festivals abroad, America, Australia, a lot of countries," Firdda said.

She says they're determined to keep doing what they love. And they've got a message for other women. "Do not be afraid to be different. Stay confident, look different, voice your idealism and keep your idealism."

Firdda has one more message aimed at women of her own faith. "And of course, Muslim women today are underestimated. We want to break that perception. Muslim women like us can also work and have ideals and no one can stop that."

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Air Next: How A Crypto Scam Collapsed On A Single Spelling Mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money but the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors.

Sky is the crypto limit

Laurence Boisseau

PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.

Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.

Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.

Share capital of one billion 

The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).

The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.

Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.

While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.

screenshot of the typo that revealed the Air Next scam

The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down

compta online

Raising Initial Coin Offering 

Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.

For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".

Finding culprits 

Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.

Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.

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