Describing themselves as “four weird brown dudes in a band,” Desi-punk band The Kominas is made up of bassist/vocalist Basim Usmani, guitarist/vocalist Sunny Ali Malik, guitarist Shahjehan Khan, and drummer Karna Ray. The group is about to embark on a their month-long “Rock Therapy” tour, aiming to not only make room for themselves outside of the white-washed world of U.S. punk music, but to create a healing space for other people of color. Prior to their August 8th show at The Cedar with Hello Psychaleppo, we spoke to them about their band’s place in music today.
Q: In your opinion, what is today’s punk scene missing?
A: This year is the 40-year mark of the birth of punk and in our experience the world of self-describing punks is as angry, white, and insular as it’s ever been.
Punk as it exists around us is not really our scene. In 2006 Punk in Boston was still dominated by angry (mostly) white men. The scene literally produced a DVD (which was a commercial success, btw) called “Boston Beatdown,” a documentary of their 15 on 1 fights.
The Punk scene in a lot of the US has been actively hostile for us, and we are thankful that there is slim overlap between our fans and those shows.
We think in bigger terms than just the U.S. punk scene has to offer us. Though globally minded punk news portals like uniteasia.org are exciting.
Q: What do you hope that listeners gain from your music?
A: In the West, the “Muslim male” is a frankenstein of fearful associations; you almost immediately think brutal patriarchy, rape, murder. You have to protest. You have to be heard. And you have to take care of yourself, and self-care is a radical concept in our communities where getting therapy is stigmatized.
Our music is by non-white folks and at the service of non-white folks and we want to give them all we can to help them survive these times.
Q: What is your response to some critics saying that your music has moved from being highly political to more nihilistic?
A: They’re mistaking nihilism with political maturity. It was hard to predict in 2008 how bad things would get in 2016. As of now, a brown boy in a Dead Kennedys shirt smoking a joint outside his High School is less countercultural than a brown girl with her head covered. In our earlier music, our lyrics worked hard to describe our mental landscape as it overlay a post-2001 American political reality. In our current state, our bodies are so thoroughly politicized that our presence alone suffices for statement.
That being said, a whole bunch of songs on our last album are political. I mean, we did write a song called “pigs are haram” lol.
Q: Are there any questions that you’re sick of answering from the press? Any you wish you were asked?
A: Don’t ask us about how punk is good for Islam. Instead, maybe ask how we’re doing and listen.
The Kominas is sponsored by Mizna. Mizna is an organization devoted to promoting Arab-American culture, providing a forum for its expression.
In 2011, Taqwacore, a film about The Kominas and other punk Islam bands, screened at Mizna’s Twin Cities Arab Film Festival. Save the date for the this year’s Arab Film Fest, September 29 to October 2, 2016 at St. Anthony Main Theatre in Minneapolis. Mizna’s festival brings the best of contemporary indie Arab cinema to the Twin Cities.