JAKARTA - At a packed festival in central Jakarta, hijab-clad sexagenarian singer Rien Djamain bursts into an upbeat track about nuclear destruction to a crowd of thousands, mostly young Indonesians.
Behind the frontwoman of the all-female Nasida Ria band are her fellow musicians, dressed in silver and black sequined dresses, backing up her velvety vocals with bongos, violins, mandolins, bamboo flutes and tambourines.
“O cursed creator of the nuclear bomb, why do you invite the day of judgement?“ she sang on the track “Bom Nuklir”.
Young concert-goers swung from side to side during the macabre ditty, shouting “mother!” at their favourite band members.
Originally formed 47 years ago as a Quran recital group, the band now numbers a dozen performers, fusing Arabic and traditional Indonesian dangdut music, which was once thought tacky and dated in cosmopolitan circles.
Their humorous Islamic pop tunes about serious themes, such as justice and human rights, have caught on with social media-obsessed young people looking for some levity in their playlists.
Riding the wave of Indonesia’s increasingly vibrant music scene, the band’s droll lyrics have gained them a certain notoriety.
Their songs are laden with similes and metaphors, comparing womanisers to “seditious bats” or describing how “monkeys like to carry rifles, humans like to show nipples”.
Twenty-three-year-old Fathul Amin said he thinks the band is “more than just cool”.
“Why? Because all of the members are women who can play more than three musical instruments,” he said.
Screen grabs of Nasida Ria’s expressive words have been widely shared as memes, forging a connection between the band and the younger generation.
“That is how youths communicate nowadays, and that is OK. More importantly, it shows that our messages through the songs are well accepted,” Djamain told AFP.
“I am grateful that despite the mostly old members, Nasida Ria is ...