Friday, October 02, 2009

Taqwacore 3: Basim Checks In!

Basim Usmani of The Kominas, photo by James Moreau-Drew; not to be used without permission

Hey, folks, remember Taqwacore: The Birth Of Punk Islam, that movie I was ranting about and did two interviews on, that plays the VIFF October 3rd and 5th? (One with director Omar Majeed, Kominas bandmember Shahjehan, and Secret Trial Five's Sena Hussain, here; and one with Michael Muhammad Knight, here). Well, Kominas singer Basim has checked in. I've emailed him some fresh questions, and gotten some fresh answers! Go see Taqwacore!

Allan: How did you get into punk rock and metal?

Basim: I moved from Lahore to Boston in 1998, as a freshmen in high school. It was weird, cuz for the kids in Lahore, the best bands have been Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath for the past twenty years. When I came up in the Lahore band scene as a fanboy, my favorite band of all time was Black Sabbath. So much so that in 9th grade in America I was doing book reports on Ozzy Osbourne and Slayer.

I was NOT popular, haha. People said I talked like Apu from the Simpsons, or asked if I was related to Saddam. But one day before school, this girl in all black and pale, bordering transperent skin motioned me to the center of the quad, and took me under her wing.

She made me mixtapes of Bauhaus, Cockney Rejects, even Desmond Dekker and early Clash. I made another friend with this kid we all looked up to in highschool named Alex Hartman. This kid was covered in patches, reading ANTICIMEX, and Assuck (which I kept mispronouncing as Ass Suck). His band, which was consequently my first concert attended in America, was called CLASS ACTION. The band discharged crust over the speakers, and I managed to get behind the mic. The liberty spiked singer let me scream my guts out, and I just went off on nuclear holocaust. I was in Lahore during the nuclear tests, sectarian violence, and guess what? I was still bored and fucking angsty. So it was all natural.

Then those kids graduated, since they were three years my senior and I was left with my Bauhaus tapes. I got into Christian Death, T.S.O.L, 45 Grave, West Coast deathrock, and began carrying a can of aquanet in my backpack.
Basim Usmani of The Kominas, photo by James Moreau-Drew; not to be used without permission

Allan: How does your family feel about you being a singer in a punk band? Did you ever personally feel a conflict between your love of music and your religion?

Basim: Hey man, my religion is barely Islam. It's funny, I'm on some heretical trip. I moved back to Pakistan in 2007, and worked as a journalist there until I was 2009. I became severely godless. My friends were brothel addicts, hash addicts. The band was actually living in an old brothel for a time, complete with nasty straw beds in small small rooms with no bathrooms. At work I would cover bomb blasts and crime. I have no cultural chauvanism. In fact, I think borders, flags, pulpits, are all repulsive to me. Stick your hair up, don't stick up flags.

My family doesn't like the fact that I leave empty bottles in the house, then I hear an earful. But personally, I see a lot of similarities between the Islam I was drawn too, and the music I'm into.

The great Punjabi sufi poet, Bulleh Shah, said "Ishq shara da vera ai" as in, Love is the enemy of the law. That's my Islam.

Allan: Can you explain why for conservative Muslims popular music is "haram?"

Basim: It's considered Haram for cultural reasons. Musicians are considered equivalent to prostitutes for not just South Asian Muslims, but also by South Asian Hindus, Jains, Christians, you name it. Other Muslims think it's haraam by association, because people like to get nice and pissed at concerts. And dictatorships? They stand in stark opposition to all music.

Allan: What's a favourite Kominas' song (what's it about?).

Basim: "Par Desi," because it has a Bhangra beat, and it's about going to see the old UK band Blitz in Boston, and getting jumped by some vaguely racist, political fence-walking Skinheads. The boneheads knocked me out with a punch behind the head, and stomped my shoulder out of its socket. When I came too, I scampered off to my daddy's car and drove home. I got pulled over on the way home, and ticketed by a police man for having no side view mirror. The adrenaline fooled me into thinking it was okay to steer my wheel and reach for my registration, but my distrust of police kept my mouth shut about the beating. And you know what song was playing before I got knocked the fuck out? A cover of the 4skins ALL COPS ARE BASTARDS.

Allan: How did you discover Michael's book? Were you in a band at the time? How did the book affect your music?

Basim: I was in a deathrock band, a goth/punk band called Malice in Leatherland.
Some of our fans were desi (South Asian), and they kept talking about this book. So I emailed him, and then he sent me a book. Rest is history.

The book helped make me brave enough to write about what I wanted to write about without worrying if others will necesarily 'get it'. I write presently for myself.

Allan: What's your favourite part of the movie?

Basim: The doc? The show on the rooftop of Lahore, because that was a highlight of my life man. Seeing all these true blooded Punjabis moshing to Punjabi punk rock reminded me why I moved back. And the punks go marching on...

Allan: What do you hope the effect of the movie will be?

Basim: More kids start bands. More people buy me cider.

Allan: How do I make bhang lassi?

Basim: Grind leaves of bhang down with three glasses of goat milk, half a cup of butter, and strain it through a dupatta (the scarf Pakistani and Indian women wear with Shalwar kameezes). Proceed to down, and play with matches.


Basim Usmani of The Kominas, photo by James Moreau-Drew; not to be used without permission


...And that's the interview! Once again, Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam is a must-see movie this VIFF and plays October 3rd and 5th! See you there!

1 comment:

James NMD said...

It's good you finally got your answer to how to make Bhang Lassi!