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Jailhouse rock; Indonesian inmates perform concert behind bars

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BALI: In a prison courtyard on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, the eight inmates that make up the band “Children of Iron Bars” rock the audience with their anti-drug hits.

Known as “Antrabez” in Indonesian, the band was formed behind the bars of Kerobokan Prison in July, bringing together six men and two women serving sentences of three months to four years for drugs.

“People out there can say that we’re the garbage of society,” said the band’s founding member and guitarist Oktav Sicilia, 35, who is serving three years for marijuana possession.

“But sometimes, garbage is useful – when we recycle garbage, sometimes we create a better product.”

The prison’s rehabilitation program, mandated under Indonesian law for people caught with small quantities of drugs, provides the band with their instruments.

Authorities hope their success will showcase the benefits of such programs in a country with strict penalties for drug-related crimes, including the death penalty.

Finding time to practice as inmates in a mixed gender group is difficult, Sicilia said, with the band sometimes performing without all members.

During a concert at the jail on Saturday, the band performed for fellow inmates, prison guards and media without their bassist.

But despite the struggles, the band continues to push forward, looking to raise enough funds to release their album “Time To Change”.

They recently released two music videos, one titled “Be Grateful For Your Experiences” featuring a black and white montage of prison life.

The video’s director, Erick Est, said he was contacted by the head of Kerobokan Prison, Slamet Prihantara, to help the group.

“When I first studied their songs, they were really nice, very touching and all about their real stories,” he said.

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