“They cannot perform in public. They cannot pose for album cover photographs. Even their jam sessions are secret, for fear of offending the religious authorities in this ultraconservative kingdom. But the members of Saudi Arabia’s first all-girl rock band, the Accolade, are clearly not afraid of taboos.
The band’s first single, “Pinocchio,” has become an underground hit here, with hundreds of young Saudis downloading the song from the group’s MySpace page. Now, the pioneering foursome, all of them college students, want to start playing regular gigs — inside private compounds, of course — and recording an album. “In Saudi, yes, it’s a challenge,” said the group’s lead singer, Lamia, who has piercings on her left eyebrow and beneath her bottom lip. (Like other band members, she gave only her first name.) “Maybe we’re crazy. But we wanted to do something different.”
In a country where women are not allowed to drive and rarely appear in public without their faces covered, the band is very different. The prospect of female rockers clutching guitars and belting out angry lyrics about a failed relationship — the theme of “Pinocchio” — would once have been unimaginable here. But this country’s harsh code of public morals has slowly thawed, especially in Jidda, by far the kingdom’s most cosmopolitan city. A decade ago the cane-wielding religious police terrorized women who were not dressed according to their standards. Young men with long hair were sometimes bundled off to police stations to have their heads shaved, or worse.”