The AccoLade: Saudi Women Rock Out The conservative Islamic kingdom of Saudi Arabia is hardly a place to hear about up-and-coming rock bands, let alone an all-female one. The AccoLade has gained an international following via Facebook and MySpace. The band talks about attracting attention from religious clerics, as well as how creating a somewhat anonymous identity online lets the band thrive in a strict society.
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The AccoLade: Saudi Women Rock Out

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The AccoLade: Saudi Women Rock Out

The AccoLade: Saudi Women Rock Out

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

Finally this hour, a rock band that's scoring underground hits and racking up fans around the world on MySpace and Facebook.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "PINOCCHIO")

THE ACCOLADE: (Singing) We start all over again, Just like the first day. Just like the first day. Based on lies that you're here to stay.

NORRIS: This is The AccoLade, a band from the conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and it's all female. Women's lives are restricted there, but as Kelly McEvers reports from Jeddah, The AccoLade is less concerned with fighting for freedom than trying to work within the system.

KELLY MCEVERS: During the day, they go to the all-female university here in Jeddah. It's one of the best schools in the country.

U: I study public administration.

DINA: I study fine arts.

DAREEN: Human resources, like in business.

MCEVERS: At night, they get together and jam.

DINA: My name is Dina.

DAREEN: I'm Dareen, and I'm the bassist.

AMJAD: I'm Amjad on the keyboards.

MCEVERS: Dina and Dareen are sisters. They play guitar and bass. Amjad plays the keyboards. The lead singer doesn't want to say her name on the radio. She will talk about how she and Dina came up with the idea for a band.

U: While talking on the phone one day, she was like, I play guitar. I was like, I love to sing.

DINA: I asked her to sing for me and she sang for my favorite band. She sang "She Will Be Loved."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "SHE WILL BE LOVED")

U: (Singing) And she will be loved. She will be loved.

DINA: I said, wow, you have a nice voice, girl.

MCEVERS: And so, the band started writing songs and rehearsing with the blessing of the girls' parents.

DINA: My mom just listening to us when we were practicing in my place, in my room. And she said, are you going to have a band or something? Yeah, we're going to make a band, it's just like something for fun only.

MCEVERS: The band's look is a mix of skinny jeans, Chuck Taylors, teased hair, and at least three piercings between them and lots of eyeliner, but you wouldn't see much of this in public. Outside the house or the university, the girls cover their hair and wear long black robes called abayas. They're also forbidden from mixing with boys.

But this is the coastal city of Jeddah, where it's easier to bend the rules than it is in Saudi Arabia's conservative heartland. These days, the band records in the studio of a trusted male friend. And Dina and Dareen's older brother practices with them on drums. The girls say they eventually hope to get a new drummer.

DINA: A lot of guys offered us to be a drummer, but we would like the band to be only female.

MCEVERS: Being all female means playing by the rules here in Saudi Arabia. That way, the girls say, they won't attract attention from religious clerics.

DINA: We just want to play music, play something we love. We don't look for more.

MCEVERS: That may be true, but they're still getting lots of attention. It started when the band recorded their first single and posted it on a social networking site.

DINA: We just downloaded our song in Facebook, and we got fans, Saudi fans, actually first. Then the fans become international.

U: America, Europe and India. Actually, we have fans from India. Yeah, and Turkey. Also Iran...

DINA: And that really makes us want to do more and more music.

MCEVERS: Now the band has thousands of online fans, and that's just after posting one song. Fans mostly seem fascinated by the fact that this is an all-girl band from Saudi Arabia, not with the quality of the music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "PINOCCHIO")

ACCOLADE: (Singing) Did you ever listen to your heart, It will tell you that we're falling apart. Like the wind hid in the water, Your words say nothing at all...

MCEVERS: You won't see any photos or videos of the girls on MySpace or Facebook, and they don't use their family names. That's because religious leaders here often issue fatwas after the fact. Some conservative Saudis have written to online forums here, saying the band is immoral, but the girls claim they've done nothing wrong.

DINA: There is no rule that says no play music, no play rock.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "PINOCCHIO")

ACCOLADE: (Singing) I'm confused when you always say, Don't worry baby, This time we'll get by...

MCEVERS: The band says cultivating a modest and somewhat anonymous identity online actually lets them thrive in this strict society.

U: We are lucky to have each other, you know? The generation that we're living in it, we are lucky to share a same dream.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "PINOCCHIO")

ACCOLADE: (Singing) I'm cold now, more than I have been before...

MCEVERS: That dream is to make music based on their experiences and their art.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "PINOCCHIO")

ACCOLADE: (Singing) I'm drowning, Your lies won't let me live. I'm drowning.

MCEVERS: For NPR News, I'm Kelly McEvers in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "PINOCCHIO")

ACCOLADE: (Singing) Your lies can't hurt me anymore. What hurts the most is that I loved you...

NORRIS: You can listen to more of The AccoLade at the music section of npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "PINOCCHIO")

ACCOLADE: (Singing) My Pinocchio. My baby, my Pinocchio. My baby, my Pinocchio.

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