Muslim, Hindu punks spark musical movement
The Associated Press has an interesting story on Taqwacore, a movement of Muslim and Hindu punk bands among the American children of Middle Eastern and South Asian immigrants.
Datelined Wayland, Mass, the story by Russell Contreras begins:
Artwork from the Punjab state of India decorates the Ray family home. A Johann Sebastian Bach statue sits on a piano. But in the basement — cluttered with wires, old concert fliers and drawings — 25-year-old Arjun Ray is fighting distortion from his electric guitar.
For this son of Indian immigrants, trained in classical violin and raised on traditional Punjab music, getting his three Pakistani-American bandmates in sync is the goal on this cold New England evening. Their band, The Kominas, is trying to record a punk rock version of the classic Bollywood song, "Choli Ke Peeche" (Behind the Blouse).
"Yeah," said Shahjehan Khan, 26, one of the band's guitarists, "there are a lot of contradictions going on here."
Deep in the woods of this colonial town boils a kind of revolutionary movement. From the basement of this middle-class home tucked in the woods west of Boston, The Kominas have helped launched a small, but growing, South Asian and Middle Eastern punk rock movement that is attracting children of Muslim and Hindu immigrants and drawing scorn from some traditional Muslims who say their political, hard-edged music is "haraam," or forbidden.
The movement, an anti-establishment subculture borne of religiously conservative communities, is the subject of two new films and a hot topic on social-networking sites.
The artists say they are just trying to reconcile issues such as life in America, women's rights and homosexuality with Islam and old East vs. West cultural clashes.
"This is one way to deal with my identity as an Arab-American," said Marwan Kamel, the 24-year-old lead guitarist in Chicago-based Al-Thawra. "With this music, I can express this confusion."
The movement's birth is often credited to the novel "The Taqwacore," by Michael Muhammad Knight, a Rochester, N.Y.-raised writer who converted to Islam.
Knight coined the book's title from the Arabic word "Taqwa," which means piety or God-fearing, and the word hardcore. The 2003 book portrayed an imagined world of living-on-the-edge Muslim punk rockers and influenced real-life South Asians to form their own bands.